Hello, summer

I had a great birthday. Thanks so much to everyone who reached out to say hello and Happy Birthday – it means a lot.

We’re in the midst of a classic July heat wave for Socal. Daily temps above 90F and very little breeze to cool things down in the evenings. The only positive is that the pool is finally warm enough for me to venture in. K swims in it as early as April, in temperatures I would never consider. She’s tough; I like my warm water.

I’ve mostly recovered from the gloom and doom feelings of a week ago. Nothing’s changed other than my re-found ability to ignore the calamities and just think about a better future.

Emily has sent a lot of great pictures of the family and kids (example above). They’re very photogenic, wouldn’t you say?

I’m already starting to think about another trip(s) east in September or October. I’d like to:

  • See the kids and other family again
  • Play golf in NOLA with my buddy Jon at his annual member-guest tournament
  • See the fall colors in eastern forests

The BIG question is drive or fly. I can imagine that enough might change/improve by then to fly. Would sure be a lot faster. Just daydreaming, FedX should start a new service where they actually ship a person to a destination. Sedate you, package you up in a virus-proof pod with filtered airflow for 4-5 hours and voila – you’re there. Could call it SleepShip™️. I might do it, but K will have nightmares even thinking about it.

What’s next?

Cory Doctorow is an interesting person. Creative, out-of-box thinker and constructive instigator. His take on what’s next for our poor world after COVID-19 is…interesting and alarming. My favorite quote from his essay:

“Look: when the pandemic crisis is over, 30% of the world will either be unemployed or working for governments.

This isn’t after an Artificial General Intelligence Singularity in the distant future.

It’s next year.”

That seems about right to me, and it’s a sobering thought. Either we find a way to employ that 30% of our citizens or our nation falls/fractures. You can see the cracks forming right now.

Another gem from Cory as he opines that the real crisis we face is global warming/climate change, and the pandemic is just background noise:

“Keynes once proposed that we could jump-start an economy by paying half the unemployed people to dig holes and the other half to fill them in.

No one’s really tried that experiment, but we did just spend 150 years subsidizing our ancestors to dig hydrocarbons out of the ground. Now we’ll spend 200-300 years subsidizing our descendants to put them back in there.”

I definitely think he’s right about that. The hydrocarbon economy is ending.

A less esoteric way to think about this is that post-COVID it will be time for another WPA-like government-funded employment program, echoing the Great Depression. Build/repair infrastructure, replace hydrocarbon power with renewables, move away from factory farming of meats…there are a lot of things we need to do that involve loads of human labor. I could get behind that vision of a post-COVID future.


Pity party

Midstream 2020 is turning out to be a tough time to stay positive. The news is unrelenting and bad.

  • Scientists in Spain published a study that indicates that herd immunity may not be possible with COVID-19. So there’s one less way out of the pandemic.
  • Trump has gone full-on despot, not even trying to hide his more repulsive tendencies on race and culture. And 40% of Americans will still vote for him.
  • I think there’s a big day of reckoning coming in Q3 for financial markets. The US government’s propping up of citizen and corporate income can’t go on forever, and is scheduled to end in Q3. Many jobs and companies just aren’t coming back. Unemployment numbers will rise again quickly and families’ inability to withstand another 6+ months without income will become yet another crisis. I think the second half of the year is going to be a financial shitshow.
  • We’ve pretty much lost the pandemic battle in America. The huge, 50,000 case per day spike we’re seeing now is due to stupidity around Memorial Day and the start of summer. Right about the time that starts dropping we’ll get an equally large spike in cases due to the same stupidity demonstrated during July 4th. IF (and it’s a huge if) people started behaving rationally we could get some control of the disease and be on a downward trend by October. But that’s not likely to happen, meaning we’ll need to stay in semi-quarantine for all of 2020. And perhaps longer.
  • I don’t see any way that air travel becomes really safe this year. So if I’m going to see my KY family again in 2020, it means another cross-country drive. Gonna have to get mentally tough for that.
  • I don’t see any way that college basketball can be played this year. I know, this is small potatoes compared to the world’s real problems, but I love me some KY basketball. I look forward to it every year. It’s just one more thing to mourn a little.
  • And….my health is really shaky. I can’t decide or know if my constant tiredness is just (a) old age and not enough exercise (increasingly bad knee joint), or (b) an aftereffect of the long unidentified sickness I had during February and March. All I know is a year ago I could walk 18 holes and carry my clubs. Now I’d have trouble walking three holes, clubs or not.
    • Update on health – turns out the knee replacement surgery I had scheduled for April 2020 will now not take place this year. Kaiser is 6-7 months behind on their ortho surgeries, so I’m just going to have to live with significant knee pain for the foreseeable future. I know, not a disaster relative to other ills of the world, but just one more damn thing to deal with. As I think Will Rogers said (I can’t confirm the quote) , “The only minor medical problem is someone else’s”.

So yeah, I’m a little negative right now. Intellectually I know I have much to be thankful for, but emotionally there’s a lot to take in. I’ll chalk this whiny little essay up to getting it out of my system and just move on to a more productive mindset.



Back to the daily grind

I worked hard on my novel during April and May, taking advantage of the early days of quarantine. I spent most of June on my trip to KY and back, therefore got almost no writing done. My focus and energy were elsewhere, deservedly. But now that I’m back in Socal and the need to stay cloistered away is still present, it’s time to get back to writing and complete the second draft of Lost Hope. I have characters to  flesh out, scene descriptions to improve, dead ends to cut out (I *hate* having to reduce the wordcount, but if a section doesn’t advance the story, it needs to go), and structure to add/improve.

Getting the first draft done was a big achievement. I think the second draft will be a little tougher, as I have to fix all the rookie mistakes I’ve made. But I’m looking forward to producing a draft that I wouldn’t mind showing to others. My newfound friend and veteran author David Putnam  sent some kind words my way via Goodreads that has helped get me re-energized to do the work. Looking ahead at my schedule there’s no reason I can’t have the second draft done by the end of July. Wish me luck.

Back in Socal

(Slightly off-center photo above taken proudly by grandson Hudson, using my trusty Fuji mirrorless camera.)

After another marathon three day drive, this time westward, I’m back in Socal. Those driving days are really something – each day has a rhythm that I now understand and can work through. The first three hours are easy. By the end of the second three hours I’m tired and sleepy, and need something to distract me – a phone call, loud(er) music, a great extended NPR story – something. The third 3-4 hours are just an exercise in willpower and staying focused on the goal. It really helps me to have a definite goal/destination/reservation, because otherwise about seven hours in I’d say fuck it, I’m ready to stop. And I would. But my ten hours/day plan worked, I’m happy to say. I’m thankful I only had to do it three days running – each day I was a little more worn out.

I have mixed feelings about this journey. Not either destination, but the drive itself. On one hand hundreds (thousands?) of people do it all the time, aka truckers. So it’s not exactly a monumental human achievement. On the other hand, I’m not young any more and I’m proud that I had the willpower to make the trip. It feels good to have done it, and the journey and the impetus (grandkids) are things I will always remember.

Since returning home, the only notable thing that’s happened is a large leak in our water system. The day after I arrived we noticed water pushing up through the blacktop near the guest house. Not good. After a couple of days of worry and troubleshooting, it looks like that is nothing more than a big root that cracked a two inch PVC irrigation line. It’s getting fixed as I write.

Here are some one-liner thoughts as I mull over memories of the drive west:

  • The simple description of a three-zone country is so accurate. The green zone east of the Mississippi, the Great Plains, and then the western desert. Throw in a mountain or two, and that’s pretty much it.
  • My radar detector was helpful in keeping my anxiety down, but probably not that helpful in actually avoiding tickets. I tended to drive at the speed limit plus 9-10 mph, figuring I wouldn’t get pulled over for that.
  • The BMW’s nav system was super helpful. I now know pretty much all its nuances, and I got a lot of benefit from it both on the open road and in Louisville.
  • T-Mobile’s coverage across the Great Plains is awful. I had long periods with no coverage on a major interstate highway. So much for the “best network”.
  • Costco’s packaged hard boiled, peeled eggs are a great road snack. Same for their dried beef snacks.
  • Who in the hell is Kruangbin? I heard a lot of their music on the road, particularly teamed up with Leon Bridges. I could listen to Texas Sun all day.
  • I also decided I like Tame Impala a lot.
  • The last driving leg into Socal was a real shocker. After 2000 miles of fairly open road, the traffic as I approached Riverside at midday was horrific. Our little part of Socal is peaceful and green, but not far from home – it’s pretty grim. Crowded, hot and desolate.

That’s about it. Happy 4th of July weekend to everyone!


Last night in Kentucky

Tomorrow I start the long drive back to Socal. Louisville to OK City, then to Gallup NM, and then to Fallbrook on Day 3. Another road trip, another three days to keep the wheels between the lines and think about things. It was anticipation all the way here; returning thoughts will be more retrospective and as I cross into the great Southwest, definitely anticipation about getting home.

It’s been great – I got tons of time with Em, Greg, Hudson and Jesse, which was the whole point. I probably spent more time with them than if I were living here full time – that’s natural, knowing that we had a limited time together. But it was sure better than just a weekend. Qualitatively and quantitatively better.


I got lucky with the AirBnB, this was a really good setup. Love the location – I didn’t realize how central the Frankfort Avenue area is to everything.

Here are some of the better pictures I took on the trip, culled from hundreds taken.

Sunrise in Oklahoma, 6am.


A beautiful trail at Creasy Mahan Nature Preserve.


A tired but loving Mom.


Great Blue Heron at Taylorsville Lake.


The water boys at the lake.


Me and Jesse.


Hudson feeding horses at an historic community farm whose name I will have to find.


And there were some great memories that I unfortunately didn’t get pictures of:

  • Golf with Greg and cousins Donnie and Chris at Hunting Creek.
  • Dinner at Le Relais with Mike.
  • All the great scenery on the drive east.
  • A nice impromptu lunch with cousins Chris and Marcie at a restaurant on the Ohio River.
  • Seeing Jesse’s weird little baby smiles.
  • The amazing, powerful thunderstorms that regularly blow through here. I miss these so much in Socal.

Next post…either in route or at home. Three time zones, 2100 miles and a world away.



Kentucky update, 6/22

Random musings after two weeks in Louisville.

I’ve been here almost two weeks and the weather was unseasonably mild most of that time. It was great, but real KY summer weather showed up 2-3 days ago: 95 degrees F and humid. Now that I think of it, the hot weather pretty much showed up promptly on the summer solstice, June 20th. Figures. Long, hot days…classic Kentucky summer. When I was young I could run, practice football, play basketball, do hard labor at the lumberyard in this heat and not really feel it. Now if I try to just walk a half mile in this heat I’m gasping. Not good.

One big unknown in my lack of fitness is whether I’ve actually had COVID-19 or not. I spent quite a bit of sleepless time last night thinking about it, and I’ve got myself convinced that I did in fact have it. A mild case, correlating to my O blood type. The symptoms were there – a cough that lasted 3 weeks, a sore throat, extreme fatigue, and then later coughing up phlegm as I recovered. I still don’t have the lung capacity or ability to exert myself that I did in January. So I’m self-classifying myself as one of the recovered. I’ll still socially distance and wear masks around others indoors (I’m convinced, but not reckless/stupid).

I’ve now driven to Ashland and back twice to visit my Dad (who’s doing fine, picture below with Phyllis in their isolation chamber), and the drive is beautiful but tedious. Green, green, green…so much green. Basically it’s a drive through 200 miles of forest with just an occasional pasture or river. The green satisfies a deep need in me, but six hours of it at a time (round trip)…that’s the tedious part.


Had a great Father’s Day with Emily and the grandkids (picture below). Spent lots of time with them (that’s pretty much the point of this trip), and Emily took me to a wine bar I’ve wanted to visit: Cuvee Wine Table. Great place, and we had lots of 2 ounce tasters of wines from all over. My favorite was a 2012 Gran Reserva Rioja.


The new season of Yellowstone started on Father’s Day. Absolutely love that show, and it’s Costner’s best role ever. I plan to go back and watch all the episodes from the first two seasons – it’s that good.

I thought of one other KY name for a creek: “ford”. I’ll add that to the original list.

Fishing, golfing, napping and noshing

Big day today.

Took grandson Hudson fishing again, but this time for real. He enjoyed it, Greg and I loved it. We didn’t catch anything except a lot of great memories. My fishing buddies are in the picture above and below.


After fishing, stopped by Wild Eggs for a simple brunch. Their food is always good, but I remember the portions being bigger.

Ran some errands for Em, then took a retirement nap. I do love those retirement naps – having poor nighttime sleep habits is easier to deal with when you can settle in for a 2pm nap.

Next I spent a while trying to find my golf swing at the Senenca Park Golf Course, which has a nice driving range. Apparently this course is played more than any other in KY – very popular and convenient. Another great product of the Louisville metro parks system, which I now believe is the best in the nation.

Good thing I only went to the range – within three swings my back tweaked and every swing thereafter was…painful. And awkward. Between the bad knee, bad shoulder and now the back, I’m ready to turn this carcass in for a new one. “Gettin’ old ain’t for sissies” – Jim Moore, said many times.

Finished the day with a quick stop at Louvino, one of my favorite Louisville restaurants. It’s not the same; they’re operating with a reduced menu and a skeleton crew. Just had an hors d’ouvre and a glass of Carmenere. Sat at an outside table on the sidewalk and watched the Bardstown Road traffic and oddballs go by. Amazing how many people decide to burn rubber at the stoplights on Bardstown. I mean, the traffic is bad, but accelerating hard for 150 feet doesn’t help you much. It’s entertaining, though.

It helped that this is another atypical cool, breezy, low humidity day in Louisville. I brought the San Diego weather with me, I suppose. You’re welcome.

First fishing trip

Spent a fine morning today at Louisville’s amazing Parklands, this time at the Boone Bottoms Trail along Floyd’s Fork. Grandson Hudson had a great time with his new fishing rod (above). Once he got bored with faux-fishing, he happily threw every rock he could lift into the water.

The river itself was beautiful. There’s something about these KY streams that I find comforting. Peaceful and calming.


The Fuji camera and long lens worked just fine in these light conditions. I managed to get a picture of a black and blue dragonfly, something I had never seen before.


A simple day, a great little family outing.


Always darkest just before the dawn

Headline picture above is of the nice sunrise I was gifted as I left Tulsa at 6am.

Had a discussion / almost argument with my daughter today about the Democrat’s rallying cry of “defund the police”. She pretty much likes the slogan at face value. I respect her opinion, but I don’t understand it or agree with it. In my opinion, that is a terrible, election-losing slogan. It’s a slogan that is so easy to turn back against the Demos, and effectively – much like Hilary’s unfortunate quote about “a basket of deplorables”. That quote cost her a LOT of votes in 2016. The Demos have again proven to be completely clueless about memes and the power of slogans, and the Repubs just the opposite. They have some messaging geniuses in their camp. We have…zealots.

No one in their right mind wants to eliminate the police. But that’s exactly how the opposition will spin that slogan. Cop culture certainly needs to change, but human nature is eternal – there will always be bad people, criminals, that we need police to deal with. So let’s not give the Repubs a wedge to drive between moderate Americans and a vote for sanity (i.e, Biden). Win the election and then make the necessary changes.

In other news my AirBnB host added a new table, chairs and umbrella to the little backyard deck attached to the house. It’s great – that’s where this post is being written. This ABnB is pretty much the best ever, and I’ll detail that in my review. It’s nice to get lucky like this on a long stay.

In other other news, staying keto is pretty much impossible on this trip. I give up. Pizza, exotic sandwiches, bakeries everywhere…it’s enough to make a carnivore surrender. And…pimento cheese. Every little grocery carries a unique style of pimento cheese and I have no defense. Must try them all. And you have to have crackers or bread to spread the pimento cheese upon. I always wondered why people in the south have a weight problem, and this is pretty much it. Pimento cheese.

Finally…Emily got a bunch of family pictures from a pro photographer today. Here’s an example. Pretty sweet.

The Monsma Family