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As I’ve mentioned before, two things that we don’t really like about Montana are the parking, and the plowing.

Here’s both, all in one photo. The sign behind the super long crew cab work truck says “Compact Car Parking Only” ๐Ÿ™‚

compact

What I didn’t cat in this picture is that just to the viewer’s right is another full size pickup truck; and while it looks like there’s probably enough room there to PARK, there isn’t enough room to park AND open one’s doors ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, since they’ve done such a poor job of plowing, the truck is another two feet or so further from the curb than it ought to be.

Welcome to Montana!

I’m sticking to my theory that both the plowing and the parking are the result of the state being so empty; since we don’t have many taxpayers, but we have so many miles of road, and so much winter, it’s hard for the state to cover the cost of so much plowing.

And since the state has been so empty for so long, the folks here in towns like Whitefish, Kalispell and Bozeman – towns that are indeed growing, and also see lots of tourist traffic –ย  haven’t yet gotten used to the idea that you just can’t stop your truck wherever you happen to be when you get tired of driving, and mosey on into the Murdoch’s ranch store for a few hours.

Well, actually, I suppose you CAN do that. Folks still do, apparently ๐Ÿ™‚

I was watching a Netflix movie a few weeks ago – “Polar” – in which a retired assassin moved to Montana. And it really, really looked like Montana. But, as it happens, the scenes shot for “Montana” were actually in Ontario, near Toronto – but they were augmented with CGI mountains in the background ๐Ÿ™‚

The Montana town scenes were appropriately slow and empty; but I didย  notice that folks were parked much better than Montanans park. I reckon the idea of a comic-book assassin being hunted and killed so that his company can avoid paying his eight million dollar retirement buyout is much more believable than Montana’s parking customs ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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BE IT KNOWN BY THESE PRESENTS

Fitty

….that, having existed one WAGER,

BETWEEN one Ian Hersey, herein to be known as the Party of the First Part, and one Jim Puckett, hereinafter referred to as the Party of the Second Part,

THE WAGER BEING, that, from the time of the WAGER being made, forward until eternity,

THAT whichever of the parties involved that does indeed, first, MOVE, REMOVE, or CHANGE PERMANENT RESIDENCES – prior to such a move, removal, or residence change by the other party –

SHALL owe unto the other of the parties involved the sum, or total, of FIDDY DOLLARS,

WITH THE Move, Remove, or Change Residence to be defined in the following ways:

  • For the Party of the First Part, hereinafter known as the Hairless Ecto, the “move” shall be determined by an actual physical transplanting of the local, and thereby owned, HellSpawn, known forthwith as “the kitties”, to a different physical address, away from the area known as “Suburban Warbucks” of the Park of Menlo, in the State of Political Correctness
  • For the Party of the Second Part, thuswise to be referred to as “The Long Suffering”, the “removal” shall be place in temporal terms as “to spend more than half of his year residing in a single, different physical location other than Heaven on Earth, afterwards to be called in this communication “Whitefish”;

LET IT BE ACKNOWLEDGED BY ALL that, in early March of the Year of Our Lord 2019, the kitties, also to be known as the “boxpoopers”, were, and as of now, are, physically removed from the Land of Sunshine and Taxes to…to yet another Land of Sunshine and Taxes, but one some thousands of miles away from the first Land of Sunshine and Taxes

AND LET THE RECORD STATE that the Long Suffering, to be named forthwith “The Patient One” has, and as of this writing still is, resident and occupying the same plot of ground, concrete, wood and drywall as he was before the “boxpoopers”, to be later specified as the “Plane Yowlers”, were transported from Suntaxland to Suntaxland the Second –

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED AND NOT TO BE CONTESTED that the Hairless Ecto, subsequently pseudonymed “Beach Boy”, has, by these actions, made forfeit the WAGER,

THAT the Beach Boy OWES AND SHALL PAY

TO The Patient One

THE AMOUNT OF Fiddy Dollars ($50.00) in United States Currency

AND THAT this payment shall be made upon the next actual, present, physical contact between the parties

UNLESS either of the parties DIES, or becomes otherwise incapable or unable of making payment (in the first part) or receiving such (in the second part)

WHEREUPON such recompense shall happen between their HEIRS and ASSIGNS.

SUBSCRIBED TO AND SWORN BEFORE ME THIS FOURTEENTH OF MARCH, 2019
Notary

This morning, for some reason, “Flowers for Algernon” came to mind.

FlowersForAlgernon

If you haven’t read it, then – why?

Okay, not fair – maybe you’ve never heard of it. It’s a very well written short story (or is it a novella?) – about a retarded man (yes, I talk like that. I also use the masculine to denote the indefinite) who has an unspecified “operation” that turns him into – well, for lack of a better term, a super-genius.

SPOILER WARNING

The procedure was first tried on experimental animals, the most successful of which was a lab rat named – Algernon.

We watch his rise to dizzying heights of intellect and learning – but, just as he is outshining everybody, Algernon takes a turn for the worse; the rat slowly loses faculties, and eventually dies – and by the time this happens, our protagonist has started to see his own abilities disintegrating, as well.

This morning, as I was moving around like Uncle Joe at the Junction*, and painfully aware of my declining physical fitness, I was thinking about how “Flowers for Algernon” is a short metaphor for life, itself – we start out pretty slowly, and then – if given the right impetus – we find ourselves able to do things that we never imagined, in our youth; mentally and physically.

But about the time that we reach our personal zeniths, we realize that things have already started to fade – and we know that we’re going to continue to lose abilities and awareness, and that there is nothing at all that we can do to stop it.

So, that was this morning – Flowers for Algernon, in that context, was just another morality play – another way of saying the same thing, yet again. All of the ego’s tales end the same way.

But this afternoon, I’m taking it much more personally.

Just fixed a couple of bugs. I thought I’d done pretty well at it. But then the review comments started coming in, and I became aware – yet again – that my brain not only doesn’t work as well as it once did; it doesn’t work as well as the brains of those around me.

I am below average.

As a youth, I was called somewhat of a prodigy; the expected accomplishments never materialized, but then, what can you do with a brain that’s saddled by alcoholism, ADD, and laziness?

But still, I managed from time to time to shine.

However, the shine is gone; I’m not only dumb, but I’m walking around with a bit of a self-conscious fear that the folks around my know that I’m dumb, and that they are only being polite in not pointing it out – but I also suspect that they might be getting tired of it.

Now I’m just trying to make it through today.

If I do, then I reckon I’ll hit the couch after work.

And re-read “Flowers for Algernon”.

 

 

 

*if you’re not familiar with this reference – well, that’s Uncle Joe, and he’s moving kinda slow, at the Junction. Petticoat Junction!

This is the view down Connie’s Coulee, in Hellroaring Canyon at Big Mountain.

DownConnies

When I moved to Utah in 1998, we actually found the house that we were going to buy right after picking up the rental car at the airport – it was, obviously, in Park City.

We spent the next three months living in corporate housing down in Sandy, but while we looked at another hundred homes or so while working our way back to buying the house on Parkview in Summit Park, we did manage to find El Chubasco, which became our go-to restaurant for the next seven years.

The first time we walked in, they had a drawing of a burrito on a sign by the door, and the caption said “Mole Burrito $5.95” (I believe that was the priced). I decided to order the mole burrito; I reckon I thought it was the “special”.

Turns out that that sign was there for the next seven years; and, every time we went to Chubbies, I could be counted on to buy the Mole Burrito. The number of times that I got something else in the interim could probably be counted on one hand. I would say to myself, as we were going in, “I think I’ll get the enchiladas, or the relleno”, but it wouldn’t happen. I’d wind up with the mole burrito, time after time.

Sometimes I would actually order something else, and then – while I was standing there – change my order back to “nah, make that the Mole Burrito, por favor”.

I sort of have the same problem with Connie’s Coulee.

When we go up for Dawn Patrol, we ride the back half of the mountain, and then I tend to stay on the back side – riding chairs 7 and 11 until I’m tired. Then, I’ll come back up to the summit, and take off down the cutoff to Big Ravine.

However, if I’m riding that cutoff, and I see that Connie’s is open, then – unless there is some great time constraint, or I’m injured or really exhausted – I can’t help but hop through the gate and ski this run.

Even when I tell myselfย  “I’m not going to do that this time”. On Saturday, that’s what I said – but then, having passed the gate, I ducked the rope and dropped in anyway.

Just like the Mole Burrito ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, first off, I’d like to state that I stand foresquare for everything Ben Franklin ever said, thought about or suggested, including the things that I don’t know about, which are most of ’em. And that includes Daylight Savings Time.

But I can’t help but think that we orta get some daylight to SAVE first.

huh.png

Starting DST on March 10th just doesn’t seem to make sense to me, since the idea is that we’re going to be moving the clock back to make better use of the extra daylight that we get as a result of the lengthening days.

But the days don’t even get back to AVERAGE until the Vernal Equinox. So just what daylight are we saving? Sound like we might be going into debt.

I know a lot of people don’t like DST – but, again, Poor Richard is the guy who suggested it, and were I to disagree with Benjamin Franklin, I’d have to have a darn good reason why.

But I actually have no problem with it – like it just fine. I’m sober enough to remember to set my clocks back; I wake up early enough that, even were I to forget, I’d be able to recover from the error.

I don’t mind waking up before dawn this Sunday morning because I wake up before dawn EVERY morning.

I listen with amused contempt to all of the rage and hand-wringing over DST, whether it’s starting or stopping; the ones I find the most amusing are the ones who want it to be Daylight Savings Time all year round, which is basically a way of saying “I want to lie all the time, and pretend that I’m actually 1/24 of the Earth’s circumference west of where I really am.”

(I also think it’s mildly humorous that a lot of folks complain about DST, but I never hear anyone complain about time zones, which are actually just another restructuring of the relationship between the clock, and the passage of the Sun across the sky, intended to standardize activities. Ya gotta wonder ๐Ÿ™‚

But starting Daylight Saving Time when we’re still two weeks short of catching up to the daylight’s shortfall from the winter – that one makes me say “huh?”

So – huh?

At the end of every life of which we humans are aware, we have this compulsion to call the end – to say, at some point, that the end has come.

It could be the doctor in the ER, giving up and checking his watch after a failed attempt at defib. It could be the family, being forced to make a decision to pull the plug. It might be the pet owner, deciding that enough is enough – that his beloved companion should suffer no more.

Or it could be me, looking at my tube of toothpaste.

Code

A week or so ago, Ethel laid the tube out and used a straight edge to push what was left to the top. I’ve managed to keep it going until this morning, but I’m afraid that I just might have to say goodbye to this tube.

(While I’m saying that, I’m secretly suspecting that I’ll be able to get one more brush out of it at lunchtime. But that’s a secret – don’t tell anybody. I’ll know that I’ve really given up on this tube when I go into the other room and pull out a new one).

I can’t help but think of all the metaphors.

My hair – I gave up in 2005, and started shaving my head. I knew that I was never going to have a head full of follicles again, so I might as well let my scalp go out with dignity. My running career – in 2013, I finally realized that whatever had happened, had indeed happened, and I wasn’t going to get back to doing tempo runs at 7:30 pace again.

Also, in 2005, I gave up on skiing; I called it. I moved to the desert, and sold my gear. As it happens, that one was dead wrong; my skiing wasn’t dead, but not skiing almost killed ME. Four years later, we got a condo in ski country, and started commuting. Today I’m grateful to say that my skiing is alive and well, and living in Montana.*

I keep almost giving up on triathlon; the fact is that I’m getting slower and slower, but another fact is that that may not really matter; so far, I’ve managed to finish before they’ve broken down the finish line and sent everybody home.

Then there’s my actual career – my chosen profession; my role as a software engineer.

For many years, I was a bright light – not a rockstar, but always a solid performer, and quite often one of the best. That lasted for a good while – but it’s all faded now. For the last five and a half years, I’ve lived with the constant awareness that I’m the dumbest guy in the room.

Okay, that’s not exactly right – in September and October of ’13, while I was in the five week training bootcamp, I seemed to be at the head of the class; my colleagues and instructors indicated that they thought so, as well.

But as soon as I got back to Salt Lake, something happened; when it came time to actually perform, I felt dumber’n’a bag of hammers. And I’ve felt that way now ever since.

Now I’m 60 years old, and I’m tired; and discouraged. And every day at work feels like one more day of trying to squeeze toothpaste out of a tube that maybe should be tossed. Ethel, again, is quite helpful – she keeps laying my career out on the counter and squeezing it with a straight edge, trying to get a little more life up to the opening.

Some days aren’t bad – some days, though, it’s difficult to make it to the end of the day. I have tried pills for my ADD, and getting 8-9 hours of sleep – of taking nap breaks, or meditation and prayer time, throughout the day. I keep attempting to find a different way of approaching the job – but, sometimes, I simply have to admit that maybe it’s not supposed to be fun, and that’s why they pay us.

Unlike my skiing, however, I can’t just “call it”, say it’s over, and then decide four years later that – whups! I was wrong! Never mind – I’m back at work now!

The toothpaste metaphor breaks down here, though – I don’t have another career in the other room, bought in bulk at Costco waiting to be used. When I toss THIS tube, it’ll be over.

 

 

*My skiing is alive and well in Montana, it is true – but if Ethel ever wants to go to Mexico, I can let it go now. I really believe that I’ve reached that point in my orbit where I’m not going to get any better – where any improvement in technique will be more than offset by my declining physical abilities. So I’m cool with a hammock near the beach.

Today is Ash Wednesday – the start of Lent. The color of Lent is purple.

Lenten Cross

Today, before the service, I walked up to Father Bradley and said “Father, I’d like to ask you to put some ashes on my forehead today – unless that’s an imposition?”

I’ve been thinking about this Lenten season – what to take on, what to set aside. There’s the usual notion of getting rid of things that stand between God and I – but then, the sane person would ask, “why would you want those anyway?”

Sometimes it seems, to me and for me, that Lent can be a sort of “test drive” for daily disciplines. What would my life be like without ever checking the financial markets? What would my life be like if I didn’t have my afternoon snack? What would my life be like if I gave up picking up dog poop until after Easter?

But the fact that I’m in Lent reminds me that I belong to the Episcopal church, and that there are certain things that go along with that. For one thing, there was last night’s Shrove Tuesday pancake supper.

Roman Catholics celebrate Fat Tuesday by drunken revelry, half-naked and covered with beads on floats on Bourbon Street. Episcopals eat pancakes for supper. If they’re really feeling loose and wild, they’ll have huckleberry pancakes instead.

Ethel and I are in ketosis, so we didn’t eat pancakes – but we did go to the pancake supper to do service. Ethel wound up cooking pancakes – I, myself, was assigned Second Dishwasher behind a guy who had no intention of ever letting anybody else wash a dish. She finished cooking by 5:45, and I gave up trying to get close to the sink, so we were home by 6 PM.

Lent reminds me also that I am “marked as one of God’s own”. I wear the ashes until they wash off naturally; I am telling myself that I’m grateful for this, and telling others that I am not ashamed.

This morning, I noted the purple color of the alter and vestments – noticed it very strongly. It seemed to fill the room. Now, I’m not a purple person – but for some reason, the idea of purple as royalty hit me very hard today. We like to talk about the Carpenter walking around in a robe and sandals, but I also want to remember that He was most definitely KING – not as we think of that, but as “absolute monarch”. He could have made the tide stay out, on a whim. King Canute went out to stop the tide to show that he COULDN’T do it – but also as a reflection of knowing who could.

This year, we will miss Easter, as we’re flying to Cozumel on Holy Saturday. That’s hard; we’ve gotten very tied to the observances during Holy Week, and watching The Passion of the Christ on Good Friday without the Hallelujahs of Easter might be a bummer.

But the fact that we won’t be in church on Easter Sunday does NOT stop Easter from happening.

And then, after that, I’ll be free to pick up dog poop again.