returning to the ice

Behind the glass wall.

Yesterday I went speedskating for the first time in over four years, this time with the Northern California Speedskating Association. I wore my long-track skates with huge ankle supports (the mark of a noob) and fell on my knees twice within two minutes. I forgot how sore the lower back gets after several laps, and I forgot how to turn left without tripping over myself when crossing my legs. At least I can still go straight.

My plan was to keep a low profile and fail privately, but Margaret skates up to me and says, “Hey, you’re new here!!”

Call it an exercise in humility: getting schooled by kids less than half my age. There wasn’t much hiding I could do inside a borrowed ice hockey rink anyway.

~

Speedskating is still considered a bit of a fringe sport in the United States. Will it ever reach the mainstream in my lifetime? I’d be thrilled if it did.

I’m the only person in their early 20s at practice for now. Odd, because I thought going fast on ice would be a great outlet for all the other anxious twenty-somethings in the Bay Area. Most of the club members present are either half my age or 50 years and older — and still trying to beat the national and state records for their age group.

(and they have a good shot at it, too)

D.G. Wills & Montaigne

Shortly before leaving San Diego, I decided to have a “treat yo self” kind of afternoon. That meant:

  1. having a cappuccino at the Pannikin in downtown La Jolla with all the cute umbrellas hanging around, and then
  2. walking next door to the D.G. Wills bookstore.

Inside the D.G. Wills bookstore. I’m looking out from the literature section.

The owner is D.G. Wills (or Dennis if you’re on a first name basis). The first time I met him he was watching a football game on an old analog TV with an antenna. I forget who played who, but it must have been important. He has something to say for just about any book I decide to get, which makes me wonder about how much reading he’s done over his lifetime. This time it was The Complete Essays of Montaigne, translated by Donald Frame.

“Thirty-seven years ago I challenged myself to read an essay from Montaigne each day. Then the phone rang.”

He didn’t challenge me to read an essay from Montaigne a day, but I’m going to pretend he did. 107 essays total sounds like a lot, but with titles like “Of Friendship”, “Of Smells”, and “Let Business Wait Till Tomorrow”, what’s not to look forward to?

 

All I know about Montaigne is that he's a French nobleman who fell off his horse during the 1500s, nearly died, and then took on a more irreverent approach to philosophy, writing, and life. He's been dead for centuries, *and* his thoughts on everyday matters are fun to read.

Can the same be said for this blog? uhhh maybe if I have grandkids or something.

 

the neighborhood fruit stand

I was on my way to Colleen’s and speaking with my brother on the phone when I passed by Liliane’s fruit stand. She was selling fruit from her family garden outside the garage. “We’ve got a sweet deal — six pieces of fruit for one dollar!” How could I say no to her big toothy grin? I told her I’d be back after my phone call, but she still followed me on her scooter for several hundred feet.

I kept my word and bought two persimmons, three tangerines, and one lemon. That included Thomas the Tangerine, and Tommy the Lemon. (“Sorry they’re kinda green, my brother colored them”)

Tommy the Lemon. Thomas The tangerine has a similar expression.

~

Just before Thanksgiving some other kids opened a snow cone stand, even though winter is approaching. Colleen and I went in anyway.

She says she tries to stop by these kinds of makeshift stands whenever she can. Lemonade, fruit, snow cones, anything. It’s a fun way to support the neighborhood children, and they’re generally excited to have any patron.

I think that’s a good principle to live by, so I’m going to adopt it, too.

 

a song to pair your morning coffee with

Peet’s Coffee has four pre-approved playlists to choose from. They’re randomized sets on Pandora Internet Radio: usually classical music, light rock, or jazz standards — anything considered easy listening and proper for a relaxed coffeehouse atmosphere. One month is plenty to become familiar with the list, but now that it’s my fourth month working here, the songs are turning into earworms. Maybe I’ll start getting visits from my ancestors when the Christmas songs make their entrance.

Today at 6 AM on a Sunday: The Smith’s “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”.

Here’s the first verse.

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now

I was looking for a job and then I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

Maybe you’ve heard their other songs, “Girlfriend in a Coma” and “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”.

~

Does a melancholy mood increase productivity? I’ve done homework to this song, and now I’m making lattes, cappuccinos, and coconut-whip mochas to it, too.

to each their own

Moments ago a middle-aged man asked to have his picture taken at this very location.

Baseball cap, sunglasses, Hawaiian button-up shirt and shorts. You’d think he’d be a tourist on a tropical island, but no, he’s deep in the suburbs of San Jose.

I wonder what memories this place holds for him. To me, this is just a view of the road I take to go to the grocery store, or the sidewalk I use to go to the coffee shop. A means of getting to a destination and not the destination itself.

(the same way people may think of Bakersfield in California or Navan in county Meath)

peeking at the solar eclipse

The last total solar eclipse in the United States was in 1979; Mom says people would cut out holes in tissue boxes to watch without blinding themselves. Today I mostly saw modified cereal boxes and special cardboard glasses with tech company logos.

Today is also the grand opening day for the Peet’s Coffee I work at, so off I went handing out free coffee samples to all the people watching around the city hall and public library. The timing couldn’t have been better. I was worried I’d be stuck indoors while working the morning shift. (See: F.O.M.O.)

The solar eclipse put people in a generous mood. Just making friendly eye contact with someone was enough to compel them to lend me their special “eclipse” glasses. I’d give them the coffee tray to hold for ten seconds while I stared at the sun, and then I’d be back to handing out more samples until the next kind stranger offered to share their cardboard creations. Where I live you can only see a partial eclipse, but I’m happy with that.

At Mountain View City Hall. The guy on the left is using a cereal box to view a reflection of the eclipse. (Family-sized Frosted Flakes, I think).

Good to see an entire community congregating outside to witness something beautiful in the world. (Score one for human curiosity). The last time I saw this was for the public release of Pokémon Go last summer.

thoughts on 5-year high school reunions

I sat in the parking lot for a good fifteen minutes before walking inside the bar. Why the hesitation? I didn’t even have a bad high school experience — no toilet bowl swirlies in the restroom or getting dunked in the trash can like some other people have told me. Maybe it’s because I get embarrassed when I think of my high school self, and stalling in the parking lot was my last-ditch attempt to bury the past. I’d like to think I’ve changed for the better since my teenage years, but there’s a fear that parts of me haven’t.

I forced myself to go anyway and told my old friends I didn’t know how to behave at such an occasion. Would we be doomed to an evening of what-are-you-up-to-nowadays?. I felt relieved when they said they felt the same way.

The evening went well though (the free alcoholic drink + appetizers didn’t hurt), and I got the chance to reconnect with some old pals I haven’t seen in years. That alone makes all the social anxiety and awkwardness worth it.

~

It’s only been five years since high school, so most people look the same as they used to. Some people got married (we’re all around 22-23 years old). Others were placing bets on who would be the first in the class to have kids.

~

Before the reunion, I studied the faces and names of my classmates in an old yearbook. I’d hate to forget somebody else’s name, especially when the other person still remembers yours. Turns out it didn’t matter because everybody was wearing name tags, but the extra care in preparation is a good principle to hold.