The Birthday Present

The Birthday GiftThis was the big one – the entry into ‘the club,’ the big 6-0! Gulp – there, I’ve said it. Age was never a big deal for me. 20, 30, 40 even 50 – none of those “big O’s” phased me. However, there is something about turning 60, and admitting it, that gave me great pause. I think this great pause is more than the actual turn of a calendar page. It has to do with the first-ever-in-my life limiting physical issue. This is something I am not used to and something I do not like one bit.

Rewind to last year. As a 40 year running enthusiast, my body began the inevitable process of knee deterioration. All last winter I skirted disaster as I walked cross-campus during the snowiest winter in many moons, on sidewalks that remained snow-covered because the plows couldn’t keep up. The twinges I’d been having (and ignoring) for a couple of years suddenly made their presence known in a cacophonous chorus of pain in minor key. It kept getting worse and an MRI in late May showed a torn meniscus – an easy fix and then back on the trail again – -the running trail, so said the doc.


Three months after surgery to repair it, my knee is worse than before. It resembles a cantaloupe and depending on the day, is excruciatingly painful. What really lays me in lavender is that it rules!! If I go to the gym, just doing low-impact stuff – I pay. If I mow the lawn – I pay. If I take the doggies for a walk around the block – I pay!! I am going bankrupt.

A week ago, almost to the day, was ‘it.’ D-day. V-day! The day of the big 6-0. What, you ask, does that have to do with my knee? Just this. My wonderful man-friend and quasi fiancé handed me a gift that was very long and strange looking. I wrestled with the wrap and lo and behold, out emerged … A CANE!!! And an antique one at that.

I am a bit ambivalent about this gift. I love the sentiment and caring that envelopes it. I hate the vision of hobbling around as a stereo-typical senior citizen. I love its construction of sturdy oak. I hate that it is now a necessary accompaniment on some days, especially those when I must hobble about campus.

I feel like creating and wearing a placard that says “Former runner” as a way to legitimize my limp and mitigate any associated pity. After all, a sports injury is more respectable than a joint disintegrating due to old age?


Old is gold. And a body with aches and pains is a body well-lived.

Analyzing Garbage



I was on my daily bike ride today and as usual for a Monday, I noticed people’s trash on the curb for garbage pick-up day. I’ve thought about this for some time, but the calm of a holiday afternoon coupled with a dew point of 67 degrees has relegated me to a dark place under a fan – good place to write.

Here’s what I have thought: Garbage speaks piles (no pun intended) about its ‘people.’ Take for example the family who dumps their garbage sans bags or garbage can onto their front yard in true landfill style. On the opposite end is the neatly stacked, perfectly balanced and everything-in-the-recycle-bin-is- scrubbed and clean. Then  of course is everything in between.

My musings while biking have led me to imagine correlations between the people and their garbage. Here is what I have deduced thus far.





Entire contents of home/apartment spewed in an angry-looking heap covering entire front lawn



Eviction, divorce, roommate thrown out  


We’re talking some serious anger!

Partial contents of home thrown by curb somewhat slovenly


Sloppy spring cleaning

Depressed, seriously laid-back, careless, lazy

‘Normal’ amount of garbage at curb, some in garbage can in bags, some in just bags, larger things not in containers


‘Normal’ situation; garbage is low priority

Basically well-adjusted, somewhat lazy

Pristine presentation: the ‘perfect’ garbage

I would not dare step foot in this household

We’re talking some serious OCD

Please do ponder a bit about your garbage observations. I would love your ideas and comments


Loco Squirrel Season

My soon-to-be-daughter-in-law (my what a lot of dashes) almost hit a squirrel this morning on her way to work. As the crazed little critter darted out, then froze in place, she came to a traumatizing (for her) halt, only to see the creature then dart in front of a car coming the opposite direction. That car also stopped. Said squirrel took off with, as she said, a rather ‘Fuck you’ attitude while she frantically tried to pull herself – and the inside of her car – together.

I have had this exact, and I mean EXACT, thing happen – squirrel darts, stops, stares, I honk. It then runs into the path of an oncoming car that screeches, stops, and lands in ditch. Ouch. Same squirrel? The ‘tude was there, but this was much further on down the road, and much as I hate to say it, squirrel number 1 was not destined to live long if he kept up those antics.

This is crazy-squirrel time, and I’m sure there’s a very scientific reason why, but notice as you’re driving (or biking or walking), the significant increase in the number of squirrel bodies lining the road. It’s fall. My guess is they are in manic mode to get all their nuts buried before winter.

Okay, so now to come clean – I have always heard that you should hit an animal to avoid hurting or killing a human being. I’m afraid I don’t see myself as qualified to determine what life form is more valuable or deserving than another – especially not in this day and age.

ISIS anyone?

Summer Peace and quiet (Not)

It’s not often I do this anymore, but today I was feeling thoroughly sorry for myself, so I took my snotty, stuffy self and set out to ‘the chair’ in the backyard to sit in the sun. Book in hand, down I plopped relishing the relative silence of the suburbs on a Sunday afternoon.

Yep – you got it. The late summer serenade of cicadas and crickets was soon drowned out by the booming voice of our kitty-corner neighbor, his wife’s high-pitched shrills, and joy of joys,  his brother with bratty 11-ish bruiser of a son in tow.

“Uncle Dave! Watch me, watch me!” Kaboom!

And so it began. Or should I say, ended. With that cannonball splash I knew my moments in the sweet sun were numbered, but not until I was witness to this discourse between father of brat and uncle of same.

“So you’re headed to Virginia for vacation? Cool beans. Gonna stop in Williamsburg?”

“Nope.” Said dad of brat. “The kids would be bored. There are no rides.”

I knew it anyway, but it was thusly confirmed that these are people I do not want to know.

I hate amusement park rides.

U.S. Power Grid: A Study in Vulnerability

IMG_0281The power grid. These monoliths have long fascinated me and now a major grid line actually runs through our neighborhood. Great, hulking, carriers of civilization’s life blood. Do you remember reading an article earlier this year about vandalism on a power station California? I remember reading it, but not the details. Still, the story – and the fear – has stuck with me. So, I decided to do a little research and this is what I discovered.

Turns out the time was April, 2013, but an article reporting about the true seriousness of this attack did not appear until almost a year later. The February 2014 article  in the Wall Street Journal finally brought the issue to the public eye. Indeed, at the time, the California  incident was quickly erased from public eye and seemingly blamed on some innocuous vandals – a no biggie kind of thing. In fact, it was a biggie kind of thing. This ‘attack’ was, according to Jon Wellinghoff, then chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S.


The California episode exposes the vulnerability of the grid as well as the potential for another incident – a serious incident, or should I say, a more serious one.  An article discussing a recently released report about the fragility of the system stated:

“The entire US power grid could be shut down for more than a month if just nine of the over 55,000 electric substations placed throughout the nation were sabotaged by terrorists or other criminals…”

Other experts say that the “over-a-month” time period is more likely over 18 months. Maybe more.

Our power infrastructure is vulnerable to more than physical attacks. Enter the possibility (likelihood?) of cyber strikes.  The world is filled with brilliant people who have the technological expertise as well as the will, and motivation, to destroy.  In discussing the a potential for a cyber-attack, Gerry Cauley, president of the North American Electric Reliability Corp. said:

I am most concerned about coordinated physical and cyber attacks intended to disable elements of the power grid or deny electricity to specific targets, such as government or business centers, military installations, or other infrastructures.”

These comments were made when Cauley addressed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee back in April.IMG_0283Jon

Just think about the ramifications if the grid went down. No lights. No computers. No banking. No money. No refrigeration. No gas. Need I continue? Based on the recent catastrophe of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it can happen anywhere, in a fraction of an instant.

My point here is that though we have already learned to be on high-alert since 9/11, that alert needs to be sharpened.

The Woods Before Spring

Technically it is spring, but with temperatures stuck in the 40s and 50s and rain bordering on snow still putting a damper on lusty month of May days, it is a time I will dub, “Before Spring.” As such, nature is in a major lull. Sure, daffodils and crocuses, hearty little souls that they are, are popping up and waving bravely in gusts and downpours and the grass grows wildly, begging for its first cut of the season.

IMG_0153ABut in between the rain and wind,  I make my way into the woods, new camera in hand, to capture what I find ‘before spring’ beautiful.  For some odd reason, I am into the twisting, clawing of the vines that snake their way throughout these woods, clutching hold of everything in their way. I find them beautiful, artful, in the unique, somewhat grotesque ways they grab hold of their prey.

There is also the ‘old stuff’:  rusted archetypes of cars, barrels, and whatever else was tossed in years past. In principle, I am appalled that someone dared to mar, ‘my’ woods; on the other hand, I find this pile of old junk oddly beautiful, lying in harmony with the still stark ‘woods before spring’. Soon, though,  the junk will be secreted by the lushness of the woods in its full spring regalia!IMG_0152

Isn’t it strange how the nakedness of the woods before spring parallels the bare truths of our own lives?