Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for March, 2023

Sunday musings…3/12/2023

1 Spring. As in “spring ahead” and change all of your clocks to Daylight Savings Time, one hour LATER than this time yesterday.

Did I read somewhere that this is the last time that we will ever do this in the U.S.? That EST is now EDT? Forever?

2 Umbraphile. Lover of shadows. A belated RIP to Jay Pasachoff, beloved professor of Astronomy at my Alma Mater Williams College and perhaps the world’s expert on solar eclipses. Jay was a particular favorite of athletes at Williams (“Stars for A bars), and the feeling was mutual. The holder of the world record for most solar eclipses witnessed, he was famous for taking students and alums along for the ride as he chased the sun around the globe.

Sadly he will miss the next big eclipse which is set to take place in 2024. Let’s hope that the good folks in Sinaloa, Mexico are able to safely welcome Jay’s fellow umbraphiles as they congregate in his memory.

3 Monk. Malachy McCourt is 91 years old. Younger brother of Frank, he of “Angela’s Ashes” fame, Malachy was most famous for being a raconteur/n’ere-do-well who ran in the original Rat Pack circles. His memoir, “A Monk Swimming”, remains one of the funniest reads of my life. I vividly remember reading it on a plane, every five minutes bursting out laughing and wiping tears out of my eyes so that I could continue. My seat mates thought I was nuts.

Having outlived his siblings and pretty much all of the running mates of his younger years, McCourt will hold a lonely court this Friday in NYC at the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. HT to the NYT for reminding me how much I liked his book; I think I’ll pick it up again, if for nothing else than to read once again where he got the title for his book.

Think “Hail Mary”.

4 Cool Adjacent. My “Lovely Daughter” Megan once described the three versions of her Dad. “Work Dad” was pretty intense. Not a whole lot of fun most of the time. “CrossFit Dad” was cool. I always got a kick out of it when she added “who thought a Dad could be cool?!” I am now “Lake Dad”. All chill. A different kind of cool.

I love this phrase, “cool adjacent”. For the most part that probably describes any phases in my life when someone might have used “cool” to describe me. Yes, I was deeply involved in CrossFit for some 13 or 14 years, and I certainly circulated in the same air as the truly cool among the CrossFit crowd both locally and nationally. Not unlike where I fit in with my professional colleagues on a national level now, what I really was, and likely am, is cool-adjacent. I fit comfortably near the cool kids or the cool stuff, and by and large they are comfortable with me in the vicinity. If I am being honest, despite my darling daughter’s lovely description, I’ve always been just a bit too old, or young, or whatever, to really, truly be cool.

But that’s OK. I’m happy to be in the neighborhood.

5 Level. As in level setting. As in I am so sore from three workouts over the last four days that it’s embarrassing. Mind you, these workouts were nothing like my prior CrossFit WODs, the things I wrote so much about when “Sunday musings…” was a part of my CrossFit experience. It’s the CrossFit Open season right now and even though my Coach is a very experienced CrossFit trainer and Box owner (hi Bill!) trust me, I am doing nothing of the sort.

What I am doing now is struggling to find my level.

I came across a quote a bit ago–I wish I could remember whose it is so I could give credit–that applies here. At least as far as my hobbies and other avocations are concerned. “It’s OK to not be too good at something that you like to do.” This does not apply to your job, of course. Especially if you have a job like my day job. There’s no way around it there; if you do the kind of thing that I do for a living you gotta be more than good, and you have to be more than good all of the time. This isn’t about what you have to do, though. This is about something that you simply choose to do because you like doing it.

Think golf. Or dressage like Beth. We watched a really cool documentary series on Disney+ last week called “Chasing Waves” about a group of young surfers shooting for Olympic medals or trying to make a living as “Free Surfers”. What interested me the most was the older surfers, the pioneers long past any aspirations for their surfing, who nonetheless headed to the beach at every opportunity. Each one admitted at some point that they weren’t really all that good anymore, at least in comparison to what they recalled as their competitive peak.

No matter. They were good enough.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time and wasted a bazillion electrons trying to figure out what will occupy my time as I eventually move on from that day job of mine. To be honest, I’ve struggled with the whole “not as good as I once was” thing with stuff like golf. It used to be a kick aiming for PR’s during my peak CF days. Even though it wasn’t really anywhere near any kind of elite level, deadlifting more than 2X my bodyweight at age 55 was a kick. Raising my lifting PR’s and lowering the times on benchmark WOD’s like “Fran” was for awhile my version of Beth’s progress up the dressage ladder of levels. Even though I was really and truly doing CF as a means to an end, elevated fitness as a way to be better at life in general, it just felt good to keep getting better.

But that’s all over now, and that’s OK. Exercise is just that, a means to an end with no aspect of “getting good”. I am working out, and putting up with the above-mentioned soreness, so that I can pursue a couple of things that I like to do. Now that I am past both of my hip replacements (and the ambush carried out by my TFL and IT Band after the last one), it’s time to get back to things I do just for fun. Because of the pain I never got up on a paddleboard last summer. Not once. I’m not all that good at the SUP thing, but I sure like being on a board. My functional workouts will hopefully get me back on a board, or back in a kayak.

Probably not getting up on a surfboard, but that’s OK.

The concept of not being all that good will be a bit more challenging, and the process of level setting much more complex with the activity that is most likely to be the most fun: golf. Not because I will be able to regain some semblance of the level I once enjoyed. That particular golf cart has sailed. Nope, what I need to do is to get to a level of “good enough” to be able to enjoy the best part of golf at my stage of life: playing golf with other golfers who really like being on a golf course. The reality is, you have to be at least a little bit good at those things you like to do, and on the golf course there is a certain level I’ll have to work to get to in order to be able to achieve my goal of being in those foursomes of guys who are doing what they like to do, however “not too good” we all may be at doing it.

So it’s off to the indoor range after my sessions on the C2 bike and rower, my muscles still trembling a bit from the sneaky-hard work my buddy Bill is getting me to do. The Orange Whip and Speed Sticks my brother insisted I buy last year are waiting their turn in the leveling process (gotta clear out some space in the garage), all part of the price I am willing to pay for the privilege of not being very good at something I know I like to do. And who knows, perhaps allowing myself to just like what it is I’m doing, however good I am or how good I’m not, will make it easier for me to find a couple of other things I can like to do. I mean, it may not be all that good to become very good at my latest discovery.

Have I told you yet about how much I’ve been learning about the world of rum?

I do like doing these “musings”, no matter how good or not good I am at it, so I’ll see you next week…

Talking To Strangers: Sunday musings…5/5/23

“You want to escape winter and you are looking at a map Quebec City? The weather app says it’s zero degrees there!” “Now you know why I prefer looking at paper maps.” –Frazz

“The map is not the same as the territory.” Ray Nayla, The Mountain in the Sea

Beth and I have just returned from an adventure in south Florida experienced in two parts. We followed Hero, Beth’s epic dressage horse, as he spent a part of “Season”, as the Floridians call it, in the equestrian mecca that is Wellington. When folks asked me where I was headed I told them that Beth was following her horse, and I was following my Beth! In truth, absent Hero and our friends who train both him and Beth, Wellington holds very little of interest for me.

Which is why I make it a point to talk to strangers there whenever I can.

Do you do this? Talk to strangers? I make a special point to do this all the time, but I make a particular effort when I am far afield from my home coordinates. Whether playing at home or away, talking to strangers puts me in “the territory” rather than simply placing me on a map. I’m pretty good at it, actually. Likely due to the potent combination of both nature and nurture at home (my mother is famous for chatting up literally any poor soul who is even momentarily motionless in her vicinity) and the necessity of doing so on the daily at work (I am a physician who sees dozens of patients each day). Breaking the ice and starting a conversation is second nature, and thankfully I have a keen sense that alerts me when a stranger (or I) might wish to remain strangers.

We chatted up any number of strangers over our 2+ weeks in Florida. Have you ever flown Allegiant? They don’t have a bulkhead on the port side in the front of the bus. This left us sitting knee to knee with the flight attendants on the way up and down. One of them literally couldn’t make eye contact, either with us or their teammates; no chatting there. On the other hand we did get some giggles out of the other flight attendant. She sent us off with a huge smile and best wishes for the trip ahead. Friendly banter with the rental car garage attendants resulted in two super-sized upgrades.

We spent just a little bit of extra time with every single person who responded to tiny bits of outreach. I thought I was educating the seemingly pushy owner of a surf shop who was trying to sell me a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses (we sell more of these than anyone else in Cleveland). While discussing the fact that thus far it is a physical impossibility to make a clear, un-tinted polarized lens we discovered that he is actually a particle physicist on break from Berkeley filling in for family. We looked him up on Google Scholar; he’s the real deal! Maybe my poking at his sales pitch will turn into an idea that benefits anyone who ever struggled with glare while driving at night.

A waitress in Stuart was so excited to tell us about the hidden gems in her town that she wrote down her “must see” list on the back of the proverbial napkin. Her highlight was “Blowing Rocks”, a natural phenomenon at the local beach where the incoming tide, aided by a favorable wind, sends water through porous beach rocks and creates a kind of surging geyser. Very cool. The owner of a tack shop we visited for an “emergency” equipment fix spent 33 years in Oklahoma trying to move back to NY. Banter with her about “fraidy pits” led to a side trip to the local Italian deli for lunch on a day when we were at risk of defaulting to Subway. I literally bumped into a woman pouring coffee in the French bistro where we got breakfast each morning. Her accent said Massachusetts; sure enough, she was from Worcester. When I told her I was from Southbridge she asked if I was French. I sent her off giggling with my Mass/Rhody/Canuck patois ringing in her ears.

But it was two more significant instances of “talking with strangers” that really made the second leg of our Florida adventures memorable. Our outbound departure was kind of a disaster. I knew that my back tires needed to be replaced. It was my plan to do it in the beginning of the week when we returned. Honest! Really, I was. So of course we had a blow-out on the way to the airport. Thankfully it happened about 200 yards from an exit on the highway, and we limped into a gas station/convenience store right across the street from the off ramp. Out comes a stranger, a young man in a pulled-up hoody, who looked over and asked if we were OK.

Turns out he was a tire mechanic! More than that, he is a tire mechanic who talks to strangers. Here we were with a totally flat tire, 35 or so miles from home and still 15 miles from the airport. Now, anyone who knows Beth is assuming that she was just gonna change that tire, impressing the crap out of that tire mechanic along the way. Of course she was. She can do pretty much anything. Except that our car doesn’t have a spare since it is shod with “run-flat” tires. Even Beth had no idea what that really meant. Our new friend the tire mechanic pulled an air compressor that you plug into your car and tried to pump nus up. No love. An inspection of the tire revealed a tear the the sidewall/tread junction. So it was 15 miles of back roads at 35 miles and hour (the run-flats supposedly will go for 50 at 50mph) with the blessing of the stranger/expert who was willing to talk with us.

And if we hadn’t gotten on that plane we never would have struck up a conversation with Max!

Meeting Max was a classic in the “talking with strangers” canon. Anyone who reads my drivel (or who followed my adventures “Drinking with John Starr” on Facebook) knows that I have a ton of fun with wine and spirits. I also have this little quirk, always on the lookout for something new, and preferably different from what everyone else might be drinking. Anyway, there we were at the festival that is Total Wine and More in Wellington, a store so fabulously stocked with spirits unobtainable in Ohio that we make an annual pilgrimage. We were there to pick up the ingredients for a cocktail to accompany that evening’s crab fest, and I planned to seek out a couple of prized, “can’t get ’em” aged rums.

Which is where Max came into the picture. One of the store managers suggested a couple of his favorite rums and offered us a taste. Max tagged along and proceeded to give a 3 minute master class in tasting rum. The fact that I agreed with his off-the-cuff tasting notes as he eviscerated the poor manager’s suggestions prompted me to invite him back to the rum aisle to review my purchases and make suggestions. It turns out that his entire career has been in the spirits industry specializing in rum. It’s a rather longish story from here, but the Reader’s Digest version is that he changed half of my selections at Total, and then hunted down 3 gems for us while he was shopping for himself in Miami the next day. Oh yeah, and when he delivered them to our VRBO he brought along all of the fixin’s and made us one of the best Mai Tai’s Beth and I have ever had!

The moral of this story is easy and it is obvious: a map is nothing more than the “where” of where you are going. What makes being there worth the trip is the “who” that you encounter once you’ve arrived. The adventure of actually being in the places you see on the map more often than not begins with, or is certainly much more interesting, when you talk to strangers. It’s easy, and it’s fun. Tonight we will make a Mai Tai, raise our glass, and offer a hearty toast to Max and the other strangers to whom we talked, and who helped make our trip an adventure.

I’ll see you next week…

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