Life in the New Normal

I’ve taken to texting the boys on an almost daily basis now. The last time, I was rewarded with these photos from Dave. He and Maren had escaped the confines of Boston and had driven down to the cape, where they found plenty of space in which to distance themselves with. Unlike Fort Lauderdale, it looks like they had the beach pretty much to themselves.

5 Boroughs Pandemic Map

Dan meanwhile is living in the hot zone. He sent me this map that was current as of yesterday morning. He lives in the red ring that covers most of Brooklyn. He lives across the street from an Orthodox Jewish community center. Looking out his front window, he could see a crowd had gathered there. First the Shul police tried to break up the gathering and then NYPD rolled up. Dan and Brit have been holed up together, subsisting on takeout and delivery. He has kind of lucked out this department. First a pizza order got screwed up and they got four free pizzas for the price of one. Likewise, a breakfast order was delivered twice. Can you say second breakfast?

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Anne and I went out for our daily constitutional. Then Anne attended another virtual gyrotonics class. I went for a bike ride. For a change, there was not a cloud in the sky, although it was pretty windy, so this marvelous weather won’t last very long. The park was pretty crowded, but not too. With the zoo and all of the museums shuttered, there were fewer people in the park than such a fine day would normally garner. Only the restrooms and the golf courses are still open. There were lots of flowers out, including the redbud, which is in full bloom. Two of those large flashing highway signs, the kind that normally tell you which lane ahead is closed, had been installed. Their message was, “Six Feet Apart Folks.” They could have turned them off though, for all of the effect that they appeared to be having. I didn’t use the bike path, but kept to the roads, which allowed me my space. 

Countdown

Grand Central Terminal Clock

After my recent spate of NYC-centric posts, I recounted to Dan a story of our most recent visit to Grand Central Terminal. This was last year; Anne and I were touring Manhattan. Dan was at work. We came upon Grand Central while walking about midtown and since we were taking Amtrak to Boston the next day, we figured that it would be a good idea to checkout where exactly in this huge edifice we should be going tomorrow. We looked around inside. The place was a hive of activity, with commuter rails of various flavors going every which way, but no Amtrak. Finally, we asked someone, where is Amtrak? This question evoked a horrified expression from the attendant, because Amtrak isn’t at Grand Central, but is across town at Penn Station. We comforted the attendant, explaining that we weren’t taking the train today, but that this would be good to know for tomorrow. In true New Yorker fashion Dan said, “That’s right, New Yorkers hog the good terminal for themselves and make all of the out-of-towners use the other one.”

Tonight, all eyes will turn to New York City, specifically Times Square, for the New Year’s countdown. Come midnight (or eleven local), the ball will drop, signaling the beginning of a new year, a new decade. Accompanying this milestone, a certain maudlin song will be sung, the many tooting of party horns and maybe a kiss or two, if we’re still up. Here, an hour later, this process will be repeated. This time, with the muted rumblings of fireworks being set off somewhere outside. A new year, a new decade, what will the future bring? Hopefully, some joy to leaven the inevitable sorrow.

I’ve already published my New Year’s header of silent, but endlessly repeating fireworks and queued a post for the morning. The complication of scheduling ahead into a new month was further complicated by the new year. It seems like I am rushing through the holidays. Yesterday, I took down our rather desiccated and by then quite fragrant-less boughs, which evoked a tsk-tsk comment from Dan about taking down decorations before New Year’s. I know, I know, but it was time. Out with the old, in with the new, that’s what I say. Happy New Year!

On Witches and Faries

2019 has been a banner year for television. As the numerous streaming services compete, we the subscribing audience were left with a bounty of TV series to enjoy. This is most true in the twin genres of sci-fi and fantasy. This year has seen the conclusion of HBO’s epic Game of Thrones saga. While its ending may have disappointed some fans. Its true climax at the Battle for Winterfell remains an enduring favorite. In 2019 Disney debuted its own premium streaming service, headlined by a new Star Wars franchise, The Mandalorian. Mando as he is called by his friendimies, is a bounty hunter in the mold of the original Star Wars trilogy character Boba Fett, but with a heart of gold. Featuring an adorable Baby Yoda, this marquee effort bodes well for the launch of yet another pay-to-watch platform, in an already crowded market. There is now so much good TV to see that a journeyman effort like The Witcher hardly stands a chance.

Dropped on Netflix this month, this sword and sorcery offering stars hunky Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia and is based on source material created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. Basically, a witcher is like a warlock and Geralt is also a “good” bounty hunter. Hunting only bad monsters. He co-stars with sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and princess Ciri (Freya Allan), who find that all of their destinies are tied together. Lacking the production values of either Thrones or The Mandalorian, Witcher compensates with a certain campiness and a sense of not taking itself too seriously. It comes across like a playing of the game Dungeons and Dragons.

Think of the actors as knights of the dinner table, inhabiting their characters, with adlibs and asides. Like in any good D&D story, there is a fair amount of bumbling about, as the characters go hither and yon, questing for whatever each episode has served them up. There is an underlying story, the arc of which is eventually told across this show’s eight episodes of season One and nicely tees-up season Two, which has already been green lit. Witcher is not as good as its better competition, but is still enjoyable and not worthy of just discounting.

Unlike the Staten Island Ferry, Netflix isn’t free. It has held the lead in the race of competing TV subscription services, but everybody and their brother is in the race now. It remains to be seen how well it will perform in the future. Striving for king of the hill shows may not be their forte and the network might be better suited to utility programing, relegated to living on the margins with short haul successes, getting one from place-to-place.

Sailboat Wanted

We got a text from Dan. He found a sailboat for sale on Craig’s List. The seller, who lives near Marquette, about 3+ hours away, is asking $500 or best offer. This is an “old” 13.5′ wooden sailboat, the hull was originally manufactured by the Old Town Canoe Company in 1950. It is a similar model to the sailboat Robert Manry famously used in 1965 to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He set the record for an Atlantic crossing in the smallest boat with that voyage. He called his boat the Tinkerbelle. This boat was refashioned in a similar way as Manry refashioned his (with cabin) and was last sailed 12 years ago. Comes with sails, rigging, and trailer. The seller rates its condition as fair. 

In 1971, while I was in high school, I too bought a sailboat for $500. It was a Snipe, a 15.5′ dinghy. I just Googled its class number and discovered that it was built during World War II. Likely in 1943-45. I didn’t have Craig’s List back then. I think I saw the ad on the school’s bulletin board. I bought it from a classmate. It too included sails, rigging, and trailer and I would rate its condition as fair. After about another $500, a whole lot of sweat equity and my father’s help, it was ready for the water. I sailed it for a few years. First taking the family out on Portage Lake, near Ann Arbor. Then I courted Anne with it. Eventually, what with college, I grew tired of it and sold it again for $500.

My father taught me how to sail, as I taught Dan. There was a boat up here that he loved to sail, a Whaler. It was kind of a pig of a boat, but he loved it and was quite good at handling it. One summer there was a beach wedding and some of the other guest took it out, when they shouldn’t. They nearly drowned and Dan had to help in the rescue. He saved the boat, but no good deed goes unpunished though, because next summer he discovered that someone had wrecked the boat, by destroying its rigging. 

Dan has pined for a new sailboat ever since. He’s in Brooklyn now and when last we visited him, Anne and I took a turn through Central Park. At one of the ponds there (Back east every nonflowing body of water bigger than a puddle and smaller than the Atlantic is a pond.), there was this pictured boathouse for model sailboats. I asked the caretaker about them and she told me that they sell for up to $5,000. I’m thinking now that maybe more than $500 is a better offer.