3500 Observations and Conversations

After eight years, five months, and two weeks, here is my 3500th post on this blog. If I keep up the pace, I’ll produce post number 7000 as I near my seventy-sixth birthday. I am confident I will not achieve that milestone.

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Yesterday, I drove through downtown Hot Springs. Because the time was approaching noon and I was hungry, I decided to have lunch at Las Americas, a combination tienda/ diner I visited on occasion before COVID-19. It’s a place where I can buy gallon cans of pickled jalapeños, as well as ancho chiles, the latter inexpensive and in bulk. The restaurant/diner portion of the place has expanded since I first started going there; I don’t think the menu has changed. My lunch yesterday was a local Mexican restaurant staple, a ranchero mixto, that’s loaded with cheese and rice and bell peppers and strips of chicken and beef and onions and who knows what else. I asked the waitress whether the kitchen would substitute fresh jalapeños for the bell peppers and she assured me they would. They didn’t. But, still, it was tasty. The chips and salsas (two kinds; the green one is quite spicy and incredibly good) that are delivered upon being seated would satisfy me as my meal; I feel obliged to spend money, though. Everyone wears a mask and, both times I’ve been there in the times of COVID, patrons are seated quite far apart. The waitresses speak fluent English, but most patrons do not; fortunately for those patrons, the waitresses also speak fluent Spanish.  I miss eating in restaurants; sitting in a booth, across the table from Janine, felt so comfortable. I did not realize just how comfortable and “right” that felt until after it was no longer possible.

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When I came home yesterday, I expected the floors to shine; the reason I left the house was to give a housekeeper free rein without me being underfoot. Generally, she comes every two weeks. But she did not come yesterday. Apparently, two weeks ago, I told her I did not know whether I would continue to engage her; I did not recall that. When I got home and realized she had not been here, I sent her a text to inquire whether she was okay. She responded with the explanation. Her schedule is full, so her next available day is two weeks hence. Oh, well. I am used to cleaning between her visits. Perhaps I should devote my of my time to housekeeping as a regular practice.

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Before I drove to Hot Springs, I went to the post office to drop off several pieces of mail; letters of instruction to financial institutions to transfer ownership of IRAs. And before that, I called the county tax assessor to inquire about what, if anything, I needed to do about the county’s property tax records. Monday, I will continue to plod along with those duties. As I wade through the administrative functions required of a person in the aftermath of a loved one’s death, it occurs to me that the process could be smoother and less painful. It’s almost as if every step of the procedure is intentionally geared toward reminding the survivor of a painful absence; a solemn and difficult process made even more excruciating by bureaucracy. I suppose the process might be easier if the estate had been put in a trust. We were advised to create a trust; we chose to reject that advice, opting instead for traditional wills. When I finish with this series of unpleasant reminders, I may revisit the idea of a trust.

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As usual of late, I was up before four this morning. It’s now approaching 5:15 and the cold remnants of the first cup of coffee just barely cover the bottom of my cup. I purloined the pure white cup, a stylized word “Vortex” imprinted on the underside of the bottom, from a motel several years ago. My vague recollection is that the motel restaurant overcharged me by a few dollars for breakfast and I responded by taking the cup home with me. I suspect the overcharge was greater than the value of the cup. But the cup is my favorite. Not long after I took it home, I decided I really liked it and wanted to have a few more like it. But after doing some research, I learned that it is a product designed for restaurants and is available to purchase only in volume. I did not need 144 cups, so I decided to stick with just the one.

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One of these days, when the mood strikes me, I will return to complete the many posts I’ve placed here without assigning categories. I think I should assign at least one category to every post. But I have been neglecting to assign categories for several months, I think. Even before the recent disregard for categorization of posts, I often put off that task until I had forgotten it. The task may be more than I want to undertake, though. The count of posts that are uncategorized is 754. I do not know if that includes both published and unpublished posts. In any case, it may require more attention that I want to give. If I decide to produce a compilation, that might be the time to assign categories only to those I select for inclusion. Work. This involves work.

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In spite of my physical age, I feel much younger…mentally. Probably thanks to the fact that I never had kids, I never matured in a way that “normal” adults mature. I still like to “raise hell,” albeit in a more reserved manner than I did in years past. I still like to push the limits in some of my undertakings. I enjoy exploring and trying on new ideas that, traditionally, give way to rather inflexible belief patterns as people age. While I believe that  time and, especially, experience tend to breed wisdom, I do not believe wisdom is an automatic outgrowth of age and experience, nor do I believe wisdom is reserved for those with experience.  My wife, in her infinite wisdom, restrained my more outlandish tendencies toward getting involved in wild undertakings. But she, too, had a pretty strong streak of adventurousness in her. She was ready to do a tandem parachute jump, but we only had enough cash for one of us, so she let me go, instead.

One aspect of my youthful perspective expresses itself almost exclusively when I’ve had enough alcohol to loosen me up. My inhibitions tend to diminish almost to the point of disappearance. There’s good and bad in that. The good is reflected in my becoming more social, more likely to engage in conversation, and just generally friendlier. The bad is reflected in taking those characteristics beyond generally accepted limits.

I tend to be more restrained around people close to my physical age than I am around people ten or twenty or thirty years younger. That’s not always true, but it is a tendency I’ve noticed. I remember, of course, when I was much younger and someone considerably older acted artificially younger than their physical age. Often, people my age found them laughable and silly; they were judged to be trying unsuccessfully to cling to their lost youth. Fortunately, for me, I am pretty good at not caring when people misjudge me. Maybe it’s a defensive, protective reaction; whatever it is, my mental response is to be contemptuous of those judgmental people. I see the irony in my reaction, of course, but my sense of superiority allows me to overcome the irony.

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Sometimes I wonder whether I unconsciously write about matters I have confronted but that haven’t yet been fully resolved. The age issue, and judgment by younger people, for example. Did that come up because I recently felt the barbs of youthful judgment? Hmm. I don’t recall any incidents that would trigger my thinking, but maybe I’ve blocked it out of my mind. It’s sometimes frightening to attempt to understand oneself without success.

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How the hell would I categorize this post? I’d have to assign a dozen categories to even begin to cover it. It’s just after 6 and my stolen cup remains empty. That is a sin against Man and Nature; I shall repent.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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