On Getting Old

I am finally coming to grips that I am no longer a young man. I am no longer in a targeted demographic and not only have the leaves fallen from the trees in the seasons of my life, the first cold blush of winter is fast approaching.

Last week a dear friend whom I’ve known since we were both in our early 30s turned 60. I sent him a birthday greeting inscribed:

Turning 30: We couldn’t wait. We were now adults.
Turning 40: We laughed it off by exchanging nose hair clippers as gifts.
Turning 50: We rationalized it. 50 is still middle age, right?
But damn Skippy, 60 is OLD!

And with us both being part of that generation that was decimated by AIDS in the 1990s, I hastened to add, “But all that really matters is that you’re still here and I am so happy because of that!”

My dad always told me that the 30s were the best years of one’s life and that I should live them to the fullest. Unfortunately I squandered the greater portion of that decade pining over a man who would never give me what I wanted and trying desperately to fill the void that left behind, but when I look back I’d have to say that yes, in spite of that I still worked those years for all they were worth. [oink]

But it wasn’t until my 40s—and the cancer diagnosis halfway through that decade—that I finally became comfortable in my own skin. Instead of constantly beating myself up over not ever losing those 20 pounds so I would feel confident enough to wear a tank top to the Pride Parade, it was far easier (and more satisfying) to just accept who I was, love it, and move on.

And with apologies to my dad, I would have to say that my 50s—despite the career ups and downs—has been if not the best, then at least the most…satisfying so far.

Now I’m not even remotely close to having one foot in the grave yet, but if I am to be completely honest with myself—based solely on the lifespans of the men in my family—and barring anything unforeseen (accident, incurable terminal illness, being sent to a Nazi Death Camp or Nuclear annihilation stemming from an ill-timed Presidential tweet), I probably have about another 25-30 years ahead of me.

And I’m okay with that. Being this age affords me the luxury of no longer suffering fools gladly and allows me to speak my mind perhaps more often than I probably ought to and still get away with it. Of course it also has drawbacks, almost all of them physical. I can’t go bounding up and down stairs the way I used to. Getting up off the floor has become a major proposition. And the knees. OMG, the knees. But considering the other myriad health issues I’ve dealt with over the course of my life, this stuff is small potatoes.

And I love small potatoes!


Poppies…Poppies Will Put Them To Sleep!

We made a little road trip down south today in hopes of catching the poppy fields at Picacho Peak in full bloom. Because of all the rain we had this winter, we were expecting to see a thick carpet of yellow and orange creeping up the hills, but what was actually in bloom was kind of disappointing considering we supposedly arrived at the peak of the season (as verified by the Park Rangers). But it was still much better than the past few years we’ve gone.

Gratuitous Wes Chatham

Are you watching The Expanse on SyFy? If you’re a fan of “hard” sci-fi and you aren’t, you probably should be. To me it feels a lot like the network’s own Battlestar Galactica, and like BSG, Season One got off to a slow start. There’s a lot of universe-building going on, and if you’re unfamiliar with the source material like I was, it takes some time to get up to speed as characters are introduced and storylines established. Season Two, however, has really taken off and it’s become one of my “must not miss” shows this year.

And if that weren’t enough, hunky Wes Chatham gets plenty of screen time.

Yeah, yeah…I know the boxing shots aren’t from this particular show, but don’t hate.

Nightmare Scenario

I probably shouldn’t have watched one of my all-time favorite thrillers, The Hunt for Red October, before going to bed last night, but Alec Baldwin was undoubtedly at the height of his yumminess when the film came out in 1990 and I just simply couldn’t surf past. (Since Alec and I are the same age—something I hadn’t realized until I just double-checked the release date—I suppose I was at the height of my yumminess at the same time too. Sigh.)

Oh Alec…that chest hair [swoon]!

Sorry. I got distracted. Anyhow…

With our Executive branch of government currently in—to put it politely, total disarray—led by an imbecile who thinks he knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone or anything other than the voices in his own head, what’s to prevent the nightmare scenario postulated in the film (Russians parking a submarine off the eastern coast of the United States and nuking DC) from actually happening? Even if the military/CIA/FBI are aware of it and attempt to brief Cheetolini, who’s to say he won’t dismiss it as “fake news”—especially considering his tongue is so far up Putin’s ass they’re French kissing? Launch a nuke on DC and you’ve taken out the Federal Government, rendering any sort of immediate, coordinated response impossible. What would prevent Russian troops from then simply walking onto US soil and taking over à la Red Dawn?

I would hope that the government has a plan in place in the event of such a calamity, but who knows? This is the sort of shit that keeps me awake at 4 am.

Quote of the Day

For all who excused Mr. Trump’s rhetoric in the campaign as just talk, the reckoning has come. I hope it isn’t true, but I fear Mr. Trump is nearing or perhaps already beyond any hope of redemption. And now the question is will enough pressure be turned to all those who enable his antics with their tacit encouragement. There has been a wall of unbending support from virtually every Republican in Congress, and even some Democrats. Among many people, this will be seen as anything approaching acceptable. And mind you, talk is cheap. No one needs to hear how you don’t agree with the President. What are you going to do about it? Do you maintain that an Administration that seeks to subvert the protections of our Constitution is fit to rule unchecked? Or fit to rule at all?” ~ Dan Rather

Dream Houses

Having spent half my working life in the architectural profession, it should come to no surprise to anyone that I’ve designed my fair share of personal “dream houses.” Dozens. What might be surprising to learn is that I’ve never actually been a home owner.

I guess it stems from the very real refusal to settle down when I was younger. I loved the ability to pack up and move every six months if the desire struck me, and as much as I would’ve loved to have actually designed and built a home of my own, it was just never in the cards.

I was living in San Francisco when I finally started to get that urge to settle, and while I wasn’t making bad money, there was still no way I was ever going to be able to get a down payment together in the amount needed to buy a place. Moving out of The City wasn’t an option; as my friend Kent was fond of saying, “Why would anyone want to live just outside the pearly gates?” I’d rather continue to rent in San Francisco itself than own in Pittsburg.

And that financial situation hasn’t changed simply because we’re now back in Arizona. But that doesn’t mean a boy can’t dream.

Some of my dreams rarely progressed beyond basic sketches:

This particular one was inspired by an advert for the American Plywood Council (or something similar) in one of my dad’s architectural magazines when I was a wee young thing. The magazine is long gone but the image was forever imprinted into my memory.

This one—a small beach house—grew out of a triplex apartment development I had the pleasure of working on shortly after I moved to Tucson in 1980.

I can’t tell you how many house plans I’ve actually designed for myself since the architectural bug first bit in middle school. As my skill level increased, if my ideas got beyond the basic sketch stage, they burned with such intensity that I had to at least start a set of construction documents—if only a handful of those projects actually ever came to fruition with a complete, ready-for-a-bidding set of drawings.

Some of my first truly personal (i.e. not copied from another designer, a local builder or a magazine) designs were a series of desert houses originally inspired by Obi Wan Kenobi’s bungalow in Star Wars and the lower floor of the tri-level house my family lived in during my high school and college years.

Buried four feet into the ground with massive concrete walls to keep out the heat, this design motif resonated with me for years, eventually coming up with several variations…

At one point I even went so far with this theme as to design an entire apartment complex (small scale floor plans and exteriors only, I’m not that driven) on the then-vacant land on the southeast corner of Grant Road and Wilmot Avenue in Tucson—but I never really developed a good way of integrating multiple bedrooms into this particular ouvre—which obviously limited its appeal.

My move to San Francisco in 1986 inspired a new design aesthetic. I loved the Victorian row houses with their multicolored gingerbread trim, but I was equally impressed by the modern, contemporary variations on the theme that many local architects were utilizing.

This 3-story house was the vehicle by which I actually taught myself AutoCAD. I became so engrossed that I was literally moving objects in my dreams by calling out their cartesian coordinates!

In the mid 90s, I returned to my desert house design, armed with a new aesthetic gleaned from living in a 1920s-era Victorian for several years. The massively thick concrete walls remained, but the barrel vault roofs were gone and much more wood was incorporated along with an almost steampunk feel for the interior details.

I don’t remember what prompted me to do it, but a couple years after I tired of that exercise and had started contemplating leaving San Francisco and returning to Tucson, I pulled out a plan for a small house I once dreamt of building in in the northeast part of the city, at some undetermined point along the Catalina Highway before it actually started up into the mountains. I’d completed a lot of work on this plan already before moving to San Francisco—back when I was still doing overlay drafting with ink on mylar, but since I was now comfortable working in the virtual realm of AutoCAD, I decided it was time to transpose it into bits and bytes.

As you can tell, I tend toward smaller houses. Even this multi-structure design isn’t really that big. And this one’s builder-ready. Not only did I do the usual floor plan and exterior elevations that I do with all my projects, this was one of those instances when I did it all: foundation, roof framing, electrical, mechanical, and interior elevations. It was designed for a lot that gently sloped away from the street with an unobstructed view of the Catalina and Rincon Mountains. Sadly, while the land in that area was mostly untouched when I first envisioned this house in 1985, it isn’t any longer. My last visit to Tucson confirmed my fear that the area is now completely built-up and there are no more unobstructed views of anything except your next door neighbor.

And that brings us to my latest bit of mental masturbation:

This is the house we’re currently renting—with several changes. It’s the first time I’ve created a dream house based on a remodel, and I’m liking how it’s progressing. It started out as an innocent “what if” between Ben and I, but now it’s developed a life of its own and has morphed into a full-scale architectural exercise. As I’ve written before, it’s been an interesting excursion into the deep recesses of memory, pulling obscure AutoCAD commands from the dusty crevices of my head and continually surprising myself that I still know how to do this stuff. It’s also become my go-to “happy place” when I’m laying in bed awake and trying to fall back asleep at 4 in the morning…

Unintended Consequences

I sent off links to this here blog thingie (and my other active social media accounts) to a couple friends I’ve at least superficially reconnected with after years of silence, and out of curiosity I started looking through the past few years of posts just to see where my head’s been at.

Other than seeing how so very little has changed with the batshit craziness the republicans have been spouting since—well, forever, the most glaring aspect of looking over all these old posts is seeing what’s missing.

YouTube videos that have been taken down for whatever reason are one thing, but because I am an idiot and deleted my Flickr account about six months ago, all of the personal photos I’ve posted over the years that were linked directly to my account (in order to conserve hosting space on the server) are now gone.

I suppose I could go back and find all the broken links and upload the the images directly, but honestly, who has time to go through 4500 entries and figure out exactly what’s missing? Not this guy, that’s for sure! Hell, I don’t even have time to go back and locate all the references to YouTube videos that are no longer available in order to delete them!

Continuing To Dream

Hey, it keeps me off social media (for the most part) and my blood pressure down (for the most part).

Made some small changes here and there. Had to do a lot of “repair” work as I call it when I realized that I’d drawn all the new interior walls the same thickness as the existing—which was a big error since new lumber is actually a different size than old lumber. (Old 2×4 studs were actually 2″ by 4″. New lumber is 1.5″ x 3.5″.) I also made the new master bedroom a big larger, trying to make it work with standard block coursing. Not entirely possible in all areas, but at least I got rid of the weird fractional dimensions. Not a big deal since I’m intending to stucco the entire exterior when I get to that point…

In addition to all the miscellaneous corrections and enlarging the bedroom, I got the pergola patio cover drawn as well as expanding the master bath a bit to accommodate a bench in the shower (Ben’s request).

Reacquainting myself with AutoCAD has been…interesting. Obscure commands are coming unbidden out of memory (half muscle memory, no doubt), surprising me with their reappearance. At the same time, how some other things work have either changed since the days when I was doing this stuff full time, are different in the Mac version than they are in the Windows version, or my memory has failed in their proper operation altogether. Some of Column A, some of Column B, and a bit of Column C I suspect.

And so the adventure continues…

“Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?’

From Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald:

Dear Mr. So-Called President:

So let me explain to you how this works.

You were elected as chief executive of the United States. I won’t belabor the fact that you won with a minority of the popular vote and a little help from your friends, FBI Director James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The bottom line is, you were elected.

And this does entitle you to certain things. You get your own airplane. You get free public housing. You get greeted with snappy salutes. And a band plays when you walk into the room.

But there is one thing to which your election does not entitle you. It does not entitle you to do whatever pops into your furry orange head without being called on it or, should it run afoul of the Constitution, without being blocked.

You and other members of the Fourth Reich seem to be having difficulty understanding this. Reports from Politico and elsewhere describe you as shocked that judges and lawmakers can delay or even stop you from doing things. Three weeks ago, your chief strategist, Steve Bannon, infamously declared that news media should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”

Just last Sunday, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller declared on CBS’ “Face The Nation” that “our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

What you do “will not be questioned?” Lord, have mercy. That’s the kind of statement that, in another time and place, would have been greeted with an out-thrust palm and a hearty “Sieg heil!” Here in this time and place, however, it demands a different response:

Just who the hell do you think you are?

Meaning you and all the other trolls you have brought clambering up from under their bridges. Maybe you didn’t notice, but this is the United States of America. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Nation of laws, not of individuals? First Amendment? Freedom of the press? Any of that ringing a bell?

Let’s be brutally clear here. If you were a smart guy with unimpeachable integrity and a good heart who was enacting wise policies for the betterment of all humankind, you’d still be subject to sharp scrutiny from news media, oversight from Congress, restraint by the judiciary — and public opinion.

And you, of course, are none of those things. I know you fetishize strength. I know your pal Vladimir would never stand still for reporters and judges yapping at him.

I know, too, that you’re accustomed to being emperor of your own fiefdom. Must be nice. Your name on the wall, the paychecks, the side of the building. You tell people to make something happen, and it does. You yell at a problem, and it goes away. Nobody talks back. I can see how it would be hard to give that up.

But you did. You see, you’re no longer an emperor, Mr. So-Called President. You’re now what is called a “public servant” — in effect, an employee with 324 million bosses. And let me tell you something about those bosses. They’re unruly and loud, long accustomed to speaking their minds without fear or fetter. And they believe power must always answer to the people. That’s at the core of their identity.

Yet you and your coterie of cartoon autocrats think you’re going to cow them into silence and compliance by ordering them to shut up and obey? Well, as a freeborn American, I can answer that in two syllables flat.

Hell no.

My Memory Isn’t Totally Gone

I ran across this picture the other day and it took me back to high school…

I believe it was during our junior year that Richard got his own truck. Shortly thereafter, along with Steve and Joe, the four of us started leaving campus for lunch and hitting the McDonald’s that was about three miles away. (Such things were allowed at the time without parental permission—the horror!—but not having a car limited the off-campus dining options to the Diary Queen Brazier down the street.)

At the time, my folks were giving me five dollars a week for lunch. This covered eating in the school cafeteria and maybe a couple trips to the Dairy Queen without a problem, but once we started eating at McD’s every single day (Richard loved it) and McDonald’s raised the cost of a Big Mac from 55 to 65 cents, I started running short of funds.

I finally convinced them into bumping me up to $7.50 a week, which then covered our daily excursions.

Now $7.50 might buy you one meal at McDonalds…

I’m Going To Miss…

…seeing pictures like this.

Saturn’s moon Dione

After Cassini plunges into Saturn in September this year, ending a decades-long mission that successful beyond measure, NASA—nor other space agency that I know of—has any concrete plans to return to Saturn. Or Uranus. Or Neptune. Or Pluto. I’m just thankful to have been alive when these wonders were initially revealed.