Tag Archives: Summer

Pandemic, Protests, Panic Attacks

Three people I know have had panic attacks lately. They all thought they were having heart attacks.

I may be next.  No, not really.  But I do feel the stress.  A number of people have said, “Being locked down isn’t that different from my life before.” They live in comfortable homes, have access to limitless entertainment, and have the means to get whatever they need delivered to their door.  They haven’t been impacted financially.  They don’t live near the protests.

“It’s psychological,” a friend said yesterday as we were socializing on his deck.  “I’m playing pickle ball in a Covid-19 ‘pod’ of six guys. I’m an introvert anyway.  I’m retired, so staying home shouldn’t bother me.  I Skype with my mom, but I won’t be visiting her any time soon.”

His mother, in India.  Her short-term memory is gone, but her face lights up when she sees her son.  He was visiting every two months.  It’s a grueling trip with long flights and ground transport. I thought he would be relieved to have an excuse not to go, but no.  He’s a good son.

“In the UK, they talked about BAME people dying at much higher rates from Covid.” I said. BAME is black, Asian, and minority ethnic.  And by Asian they mean Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian.

My friends looked a bit thrown.  Should I not have said anything?  “They don’t know what the causes are.  It’s doctors dying, not just poor people.”

“So it might be genetic,” my friend said.

“Or something to do with darker skin blocking Vitamin D absorption, which supports immunity?  Or that Asian families tend to live in multigenerational housing in densely populated areas?”

“It’ll probably turn out to be a complex set of factors,” he said.

I am still doing contract work from home.  My duplex is comfortable and the weather has been great so I can get out and walk at a distance from a friend or ride my bike.

I am going to have my granddaughters and nephews once a week (separately).  I want them to have a wonderful summer.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t as long as we can be outside or in the car with windows rolled down.

I took the girls on an unintentional tour of Minneapolis due to a detour.  Every storefront is boarded up or charred.  On the plus side, there is a lot of great street art.  I explained what had happened in very simple terms.  The nine-year old said, “But that’s not right. That’s like what we learned in school last year, about Martin Luther King.”  I thought it went over the head of the four year old, but days later she said, out of nowhere, “Cops killed a guy.”

I’ve decided to move.  Again.

My neighborhood was dodgy before Covid and the unrest caused by the murder of George Floyd.  Many houses have been bought by investors and filled with registered sex offenders, including one kitty corner from me which must have 5-6 guys in it.  It must be very lucrative.

Then there’s the noise—in spring, the punks tear up and down the streets in their extremely loud hot rods.  You would think my neighbors who lived through the Vietnam War wouldn’t be fond of fireworks, but you would be wrong.  Several nights a week, the BOOOM, Booom, Boom goes on until one or two in the morning.  I’m not talking firecrackers; I’m talking industrial grade fireworks.

Then Covid came, and an area with lots of people in low-wage jobs became an area with lots of people with no jobs.  The uprisings began.  I’ve seen numerous cars without license plates, this one was abandoned at the end of my alley for days, even after I called it in to the police.

There was the incident of the cops with assault rifles surrounding my house.  Finally, two nights ago, I woke to the sound of a dozen gun shots.  Sirens and a high speed chase ensued, then a CRASH in front of my house, then the police shouting through megaphones, “Come out with your hands up!”

Seriously? This does not align with my brand.

I’ve got a lead on a condo-sitting gig near the Mississippi in St. Paul. Fingers crossed.

Summer Summary

From time to time, I’ve taken a break from chronicling my travels in far-off destinations to write about small adventures close to home.  I can’t travel abroad 365 days a year, so I try to find new places and things to do in my own backyard.

This summer was no different.  The highlight, of course, we my son’s wedding. I’ve already shared my amateur photos from the day, but here’s one more, of me and my cousin and nieces lining up to show off our green eyes.  It was funny at the time.

This year, spring lost its luster because of my aunt’s illness.  Soon after her death, I walked around the little lake near my house, Beaver Lake, and did something I never do.  I sat down on a bench and actually looked at the lake, the tree branches loaded with buds, and the sky as spring clouds drifted across and changed the colors on the water.  I listened to the jays, robins, wood peckers, loons, and cardinals.  I didn’t have any great insights into the meaning of life or loss but I felt comforted to know that the wheel turns and the world wakes up every year.

I returned to the same spot a few more times as spring progressed into summer.

I met a friend for a walk at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.  We never did walk.  We got a pitcher of beer and sat at a table for a couple hours, people watched, and talked politics.

On my last visit to my aunt’s house, I took a long walk along the St. Croix River.  It looked to be shaping up as a great year for mushrooms and fungi, with many rainy nights and steamy days.

Molly and I hung out on her deck and laughed at her cat playing secret agent in the tall grass.

Then there was Japan, and then I was back.  I visited my favorite paths along the Mississippi, starting at Hidden Falls Park.   I don’t know why this photo looks like my lens was smeared with Vaseline, or if coyotes are a new thing here, or how they know there is only one.

I spent a rainy afternoon and evening at Irish Fair, an annual event in St. Paul that always has great music.  This year was no exception; there were bagpipers in kilts, of course, but the headliners, the Screaming Orphans, got the crowd whipped into a frenzy.

I hosted a Japanese food-making party for Keiko, my nephews, and my brother.  Almost everything turned out oishi (delicious).

In late July I returned to the St. Croix and canoed with some people I knew from the fabulous mid-Century modern high rise apartment building I lived in for six years.

For once in my life it didn’t start raining as soon as I stepped into a canoe.  I was paired with a woman from Nebraska who had never canoed.  She didn’t follow instructions and had no upper body strength, but she was so nice that I didn’t mind that I basically paddled the canoe myself the whole way.

We stopped for a long picnic lunch on an island.  Afterwards, as if I hadn’t gotten enough of a workout, I did a two-hour hike through the Minnesota side of Interstate Park, which is a park that straddles the Minnesota and Wisconsin banks of the St. Croix River.

A friend and I rented kayaks and paddled around Pickerel Lake; this is not my photo, in case that’s not obvious.

I took some long bike rides, went berry foraging, and sat in my backyard and appreciated the hydrangeas that had been a highlight of Japan and were also profuse in St Paul this year.  I even tried my hand at flower arranging.

As ever, summer closes with two blockbuster events.  First, the Minnesota State Fair.  This is a small selection of seed art.  Winters are long on the prairie.

The poor horses.  Of course they bite and kick, cooped up like that.

Bulls on Parade: not just a song by Rage Against the Machine.

“Eggzibit”—get it?

Then, Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin, paid for by my aunt.  It helped to have a super cute super baby there.

Summer Summary

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  It’s as good a time as any to re-start writing.  I’ll join some friends at synagogue this morning, then have a free day.  The weather is always beautiful on Rosh Hashanah, so I’ll spend as much time outside as possible, doing as little as possible, which is really hard for me.

It’s been three years since my son was released from prison.  I saw him yesterday and reminded him, “When I called you the day before I picked you up, I asked if there was some food you’d like me to bring along for you.  And without hesitation you said, ‘an avocado…or any fresh fruit or vegetable, really.’”

He laughed, remembering this. I had brought an avocado, and some oranges, and he wolfed them down.  Then he had asked to stop at a MacDonald’s, and to buy a lottery ticket. I wasn’t happy about either of those but I bit my tongue. I did a lot of that in the months that followed, as we lived together in my tiny, dark flat over the winter. A couple times I lost my temper and screamed at some inanimate object.  Vince would draw himself up to his full height, look at the floor, walk to his bedroom that doubled as a laundry room, and shut the door.  It was a very long winter.

Vince now has four years of sobriety.  He’s got a job at a country club with good pay and benefits like health insurance—for the first time in 20 years.  He bought a house this spring.  He has a girlfriend with two young children, and he is thriving at playing a father role.

It’s complicated.  I love kids and I am cautiously forming attachments to these two cuties.

It’s been a great summer. As I’ve written over and over, I’m a big advocate of seeking adventure at home. Sure, I would love to travel nonstop, but that’s not in the budget.

This was Pola-Czesky Days, the annual festival in the tiny town where Vince lives. Small town parades consist of marching bands and floats featuring veterans, civic groups, politicians, and other towns’ princesses.

There was also a tractor pull, which I didn’t understand.  It was basically just tractors roaring down the street over and over, making a lot of noise and belching out fumes.

As a life-long city person, this type of thing is more exotic to me than London or New York.  I loved the classic cars.

Other summer doings: I won tickets to a St. Paul Saints minor league baseball game. They were playing Winnipeg.  I don’t know why the Saints mascot is a pig, but hey, never pass up a photo opp with a mascot.

I went to Irish Festival, which always has great music and strange performances involving little girls wearing curly wigs, Irish dogs, and men in kilts hurling things and playing bagpipes.  Then were the Christians at the gate.  I already knew I was in trouble so their Good News wasn’t news to me.

I went to Wannigan Days in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, the highlight of which was human foosball. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo so you will just have to use your imagination.

There was a memorable happy hour at Lake Monster Brewery sponsored by Jewish Community Action, with which I am still doing my very small part on their campaigns to reduce mass incarceration and injustice against immigrants.

Inspired by the Great British Baking Show, for my nephew’s birthday I made a cake with layers of sponge and crème patisserie covered with whipped cream and fruit.  It slid sideways in the car on the way to the party but it still tasted good.

I hung out in the backyard of my apartment, which is wild and secluded.  I have come to love where I live, but then I love anywhere in summer.

My summer summary will have to be continued, as will an update on my Australia trip, which starts in two weeks.