Where’d I Go?!

56th birthday selfie, March 2022

Well, it’s been quite a while since I last wrote. Seven months, to be exact. I’ve had several topics burn holes in my brain over that time — so much so that I jotted notes on bar napkins, my phone, this laptop…everywhere it seems, except, the Moleskine notebook I’ve kept in my car for a decade-plus for just such a purpose — but I simply never knuckled down and actually WROTE the damned things. I blame no one but myself and offer no excuse but my own laziness.

And I’m not really feeling it right now, either. But I NEED to get my ass back in gear so I’m forcing myself to just write — or rather, to just type — and get. this. shit. down. I have no illusions or aspirations to quality and there will be no great insights (not that there ever are). This is purely a DO-something exercise. So without further interruption…

As with so many others during these crazy, pandemic-tinged days, it’s been weird. So allow me to recap what’s been going on since I last posted, back in early September 2021. At the time, I had just started a new job with the Brand Safety Institute and I was living aboard Further at a marina in Annapolis. Here we go:

The big news in recent months, as is the case with so many in the world these days, has been medical. But nothing major, thank goodness.

Indian River Inlet, Delaware on a sunny September Saturday. Who knew what would result…

Ten days after my last post I roadtripped it over to the Delaware coast, about a two-hour drive from Annapolis. Tropical storm I-forget-the-name was working its way into the southern New England shore and sending waves back this way. I went to a beach that I’d heard had decent surfing but when I got there, it was all just shore pound: waves breaking right on the beach. There was definite swell, though, and I didn’t feel like wandering around on a sunny Saturday looking, so I settled in on the beach and spent the day alternately body surfing and reading. All in all, I had a great day, and it was wonderful being back in the ocean again.

Three days later, though, I started having some pain in my right shoulder. It was the same kind of impingement syndrome I’d had back in spring of 2017; I’d slammed while skiing in February and, true to form, didn’t bother seeing anyone until the pain got unbearable. I did physical therapy for a while and…voila! Everything was better.

This was the same thing: a constant, dull ache in my shoulder, feelings like something inside was catching when I’d move a certain way and, every now and then, excruciating pain that felt like someone was jabbing a knife into my shoulder. As with 2017, it took a while but I finally got off my ass and went to physical therapy. Over the course of several weeks, Doc Jamie and the crew at Rehab2Perform got my shoulder working again. I also saw an ortho and got exactly what I expected from our illustrious American medical system: an X-ray and an MRI and a doctor who said, basically, “Well, I can’t see much. There’s some arthritis here, some tendonitis there and a tiny little tear here. Keep doing PT. That’ll be a thousand bucks, please.”

Dead and Company with great friends at the Hollywood Bowl, 30 October. Then next day watched the Patriots beat the Chargers at the new Sofi Stadium (which is amazing). GREAT weekend!

Through it all I kept playing hockey which I’m sure didn’t help. But the truth is: I didn’t really feel the shoulder WHILE I was playing. Every now and then I’d extend my arm a certain way and OW! But by and large, my brain was off while I played and so I felt nothing — and that escape was invaluable. Yeah, my shoulder ached like a sonofabitch afterwards but it was worth it for the serenity and joy of playing the game I love.

That shoulder injury continues to this day, though in much reduced form. The instances of extreme pain are gone, as is the constant dull ache. I still get occasional twinges but I’d say my shoulder is now about 85 to 90 percent normal. So…I’ll survive.

Hockey itself gave me another injury that also persists to this day. During a regular Friday-morning game about five weeks ago, I was skating out of my team’s end when one of my defensemen tried to pass the puck to a teammate. The puck struck me right on the bulb of the left ankle and I went down like I’d been shot. That’s a play that happens a hundred times in a season but for some reason, this time I really felt it. I kept playing and the pain went away…mostly. I still felt like I had a bone bruise for a couple of weeks, but then the pain really came on. Unlike the shoulder pain, this was hard to miss as I skated. And then I twice caught an edge and rolled my left ankle, exacerbating things — to the point where just walking hurt.

Naptown apartment Christmas 2021

So it was that about three weeks after the injury occurred, not only were things not getting better, they were, in fact, getting worse. I cranked up the icing of my ankle, started taking pain killers and, knock on wood, things finally seem to be stabilizing a bit, although when I first get out of bed in the morning and walk to the bathroom, my ankle is pretty sore. Oh well. The trend is positive and I certainly don’t want to go through the bullshit I went through with the ortho and my shoulder (and what, really, could he do differently about my ankle?), so I’ll just keep plugging along.

Which brings me to the final and biggest malady I’ve faced in recent times, and if you accuse me of burying the lede, well, you’re right.

Last Saturday afternoon, after a walk in Quiet Waters Park here in Annapolis, I got home and felt unusually tired. I took a short nap and upon waking up felt really shitty for about 20 minutes. Headache, a dry cough and really, really tired. I thought to myself, “I wonder…” and decided to try one of the at-home Covid tests I’d purchased back around the new year.

Boom! A positive test. That was a bummer because I was planning to join some hockey buddies that evening to watch the NCAA hockey championship game but once I got that test result I pulled the plug. The thing is, at the same time I was thinking, “I wonder…” I was also thinking, “Don’t do it because if it comes back positive you’ll have to shut everything down.” But, stupid me. Or maybe: considerate me. Maybe even: vigilant me. Too late. I tested positive.

Group selfie (thanks, Dave!) outside the St. James Theatre in NYC

What’s a pisser is that I got fully vaccinated back in April and May of 2021, and then got a booster in December. I’ve also continued to wear a mask when I’ve gone out to the store though, it must be noted, I obviously have not been masking up to play hockey. The person with whom I was walking in Quiet Waters tested negative; the friends with whom I saw David Byrne’s “American Utopia” in New York City the weekend before both tested negative; no one I skate with has said anything about having Covid recently (though I know at least one player has never been vaccinated).

So I don’t know how or where I got Covid. In fact, I sometimes wonder if maybe I’ve had it all winter and just not known. There were a couple of hockey games this winter where I felt really exhausted, more so than usual, but I wrote that off to being 56-years-old and chasing a bunch of 20-somethings around. And no one else in the locker room came down with the damned virus so it wasn’t like there was an outbreak about which to be concerned. Hell, maybe the test I’ve done have all been false positives, though that seems mathematically unlikely. But since I continue to test positive I’ve essentially locked myself down: I skipped all hockey this week, I’ve not gone out for food and I’ve avoided all contact with other people. But to reiterate: I feel better than I would if I’d had a common cold. I have an occasional cough, I cough up a smurf or two upon waking first thing in the morning, but there’s been no fever, no headache, no change in my senses of smell or taste, no bodily aches and pains, no nothing. If not for the tests I’d be living my life as I normally do. Apart from that 20-minute period last Saturday I have felt perfectly fine and perfectly normal.

So again I say: oh well. I will continue to test and as soon as I get a couple of negative tests I’ll go back to normal living. And if the positive tests persist, I may go to the county testing facility and get a PCR test.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?!

Oh, how I’ve missed Pipe’s Cafe in Cardiff-by-the-Sea

I kid. Let me be perfectly clear: I’m not bemoaning these injuries one bit. Shit happens. I live an active life and wouldn’t have it any other way. And compared to 99.9 percent of the world, I am the picture of health. Yeah, I’m fat as hell, my eyes are going and my hair (oh, my hair!) is thinning, but a friend just had quadruple-bypass surgery and Bruce freakin’ Willis is retiring due to medical issues. I got it easy and pretty damned good. I was just highlighting what have been the biggest issues I’ve faced in the past seven months.

Because on the flip side, there’s a ton of really awesome stuff going on. To wit:

* Further has had all the standing rigging — the mast, the rod/wire that holds it up, the stuff on the mast, etc. — repaired, replaced, refinished and painted. It looks awesome and will get put back on the boat (they’re mostly done but are waiting for a few parts because, well, that’s the nature of the marine industry in Annapolis) in a couple of weeks. Cross your fingers…
* Further also has nice, new lithium-ion batteries which, once the new arch that holds not just the one existing solar panel but also a new, second solar panel along with the existing wind turbine, is installed, will mean a LOT more electrical power on board…which means less need to be in a marina or run the engine
* And Further also boasts new, current electronic navigation that replaces the obsolete (and barely functioning) stuff that was in the nav station
* Oh, and I pulled out the aft head (toilet, for you landlubbers, in a process that was, umm, odiferous) and will be putting in the composting head I bought back in the fall

La Jolla Sunset: Not a bad way to do a corporate retreat

But all the good news is not just boat-related. The new job is going well. Our six-man crew gathered in La Jolla in late January to sort things out for the coming year and we have a solid future in a key part of the world economy. I’m excited about what lies ahead.

On top of that, I tacked on three days before and three days after our summit to spend some personal time in my old stomping ground of North County San Diego and had a ball. The weather was amazing, even by San Diego standards, and we even had a solid swell while I was there (though my shoulder injury and the fact that I hadn’t surfed since March 2021 made for challenging surfing on my part). I really do enjoy that part of the world and miss living there, but the reality is housing there is ludicrously expensive and I also forgot just how many people there are in the area: in the water, on the beach, in the stores and restaurants, on the roadways. It’s a zoo! No surprise, really. I mean: who wouldn’t want to live in paradise. But escaping the hordes is too difficult for me to ever live there again, I suspect. And that’s all right. I had a great run in San Diego and cherish my time there.

January sunset at my old stomping grounds: Seaside Reef in Solana Beach

As for where I’ve been living THIS year: When the new job came down the pike, I decided I would either live aboard and rent some office space or move ashore and get an apartment from which to work. I chose the latter since the thought of living aboard in a cold climate once again was not very enticing. That decision also turned out to be the right one when I decided to have all the work done on Further, requiring her to be pulled from the water for the winter.

The apartment is in a complex so it’s pretty sterile, but it’s also just what I needed: there’s a nice kitchen, a shower I don’t have to share with a bunch of other liveaboards, my own washer and dryer, and the coup de grace: a small loft area that has served as my office.

In early October I flew up to New England, rented a U-Haul and brought down my bed, my desk, kitchen stuff, clothes and so forth — all of which had been in the house at Plum Island. I supplemented that with a few things from Ikea and had a nice, cozy place for the winter. That we had really no winter here in Annapolis (other than one snowstorm right after New Year’s Day) meant things were pretty cushy. In fact, my apartment is on the fourth floor and faces south; it gets so much sunshine that I had to run a fan by my desk for much of the winter and only turned on the heat three or four times the entire season.

All things considered it’s been a pretty good winter. I’ve had a ball playing hockey (despite my injuries), I’ve gotten rolling on my new job and Further is well along in her refit. The few bumps along the road have been relatively minor and I really can’t complain. I lead a charmed life and for that I am eternally grateful.

Salud! Here’s to making 2022 better than the past two $%#%# years

So. That’s a couple-thousand words to get you caught up. If you’re still awake, thanks for indulging me as I seek to get my writing chops going again. Today’s goal was just to get the physical muscle memory going. In the coming days I hope to get the psychological and emotional stuff going too. I hope you’ll stay tuned.