Archive for the ‘Temporary Bachelor Man’ Category

Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver, CO

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

The leisure of the past few weeks is over; now it’s time to get hustling.  The next month or two will involve a lot of travel, primarily by Airstream of course, but also a few unavoidable airline flights and at least one good road trip next week.  Today it’s Denver, a quick and easy hop from Tucson by air, where I am visiting a client, Timeless Travel Trailers, with Brett.

In the best mode of business, we concluded all the serious stuff in a matter of a few hours and then got on with the good stuff, which in this case was a late dinner at some local Italian place and an evening at Lakeside Amusement Park.  The park is one of those historical time capsules, begun in 1908, massively remodeled in 1934, and owned by the same family for decades.

I like the place.  It’s the kind of old park that hardly exists these days, right off off I-70 despite the pressure of development in the surrounding area.  It’s a tad rough around the corners and a few of the original buildings are in disrepair & closed, but we met the owners of the park (it’s small)  and found that they are extremely dedicated to the place. They are actively investing in refurbishing old rides, bringing in new ones, improving the landscaping, etc.  The lakeside setting is very nice, lit up with the reflections of neon signs from the classic rides and circumscribed by a narrow-gauge steam (or diesel) railroad that brings you far out and back in 13 minutes.

At night the park comes to life with the lights and crowds that fill the parking lot, even mid-week.  Admission is just $2.50 and all-you-can-ride bracelets were $17.75, although the price varies a little depending on day of the week and special promotions.   The park was packed last night with families seeking fun on a warm summer evening, even well past 11 p.m, when we were still bouncing from the bumper cars (“Autoskooter”) to the Ferris wheel to the ultimate ride in the park, the Cyclone roller coaster.  (Brett captured the picture of me exiting the Autoskooter.)

No question, the Cyclone is just plain awesome.  It’s one of those great rickety all-wood coasters from the golden era of amusement parks that you can ride again and again.  It starts with a dark curving tunnel, then the inevitable steep ascent where you get a good look at the peeling paint and wonder “is this thing safe?” –but you don’t get much time to think about it because in a few seconds you’re barreling through impossible turns and holding on for dear life.  About two and a half minutes later it’s over, depending on how fast the Cyclone is running that night.  (The speed varies with temperature.) We got a fast ride according to experienced folks who knew it well.

I particularly liked the little architectural surprises that are everywhere in the park.  One advantage of being old and not modernized is that the rides like the Wild Chipmunk, the Spider, Scrambler, Tilt-A-Whirl, and Hurricane have terrific mid-century design ticket booths, all different.  In other parts of the part you’ll see great Art Deco, both inside and out.  Curious and quirky features abound, right up to the giant neon exit sign that says simply, “R E D I T” (Latin for “to return”).

Closing hours vary but we were there until nearly midnight and the rides were still open.  I saw the last couple of riders puttering by on their blue Skoota Boats at 11:30, and there were still people dropping in at the snack bar for a cotton candy, Icee, or popcorn.  I have a feeling we’ll be here again, perhaps on our trip coming back east from Vermont in September.


Tucson neon hunt

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Last night Carlos and I went back out on the prowl for neon and other historic signs.  We’ve been documenting the signs for over a year now, on and off.  Now we’re nearly done, with over 80 separate sites documented by my camera so far.

We picked up another five sites last night — a big night — in about two and a half hours of zipping from one location to another, rapid shooting with the Nikon, and then leaping into the car to race to the next spot before the light faded, like a pair of crazed scavenger hunters.  We’re getting pretty good at it now.  Carlos figures out a plan to hit the unlit signs in the “golden hour” before dark, works in some of the signs that combine neon and paint for twilight, and finally a route to all the neon signs that are still working in the darkness.  I drive and take pictures.

Tucson got aggressive about eliminating obnoxious signage after Life magazine printed a picture of one of our main boulevards and deemed it “the ugliest street in America.  Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung the opposite way.  Our historic buildings are nearly all gone, the dramatic neon signage that helped define the city is a mere shadow of its former glory, and that boulevard that was once the ugliest street in America has been promoted to being as ugly and generic as any other street overrun with retail chains.  Progress has its price.

In the past few months, Tucson finally passed the Historic Landmark Signs Ordinance, which amends the sign code to allow a narrowly-defined set of old and currently non-conforming signs to be taken down, refurbished, and returned to use.  The idea is to keep the most historic, attractive, and irreplaceable old signs in Tucson, lest the town become just another piece of generic America.

Since we started shooting these signs, we’ve noted that several have since disappeared, been horribly “tagged” by spray-painting vandals, or have been destroyed by neglect.  There’s a sense of urgency to the project, as we can actually see the remnants of Tucson’s 50’s and 60’s era sign architecture vanishing as we work.  It’s like we’re driving a 1960s muscle car with 1/8 of a tank of fuel remaining, and we can watch the fuel needle moving toward “E” as we search for a gas station.  I find the job exciting because we are capturing history, depressing because we are watching it disappear, and inspiring because a lot of civic-minded people are volunteering their time to try to bring it back.

I don’t yet know where this will end up, but we expect it will eventually become a book.  We’d like to raise awareness and appreciation of historic signs, especially neon.  Much work lies ahead: organizing, researching, writing, designing, and probably fund-raising. Right now we’re just having fun documenting and researching.  It may be years before this turns into something publishable, but that’s fine.  It’s a journey and for me a wonderful tutorial on Tucson’s modern history, neighborhoods, and architecture.  Not a bad way to spend a few 100-degree summer evenings.


Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!

Friday, August 5th, 2011

(Apologies to the good Doctor Seuss for ripping off his title)

The good part of things being quiet lately is having time to think.  So I strapped on my cap and fired up the thinker, and one of the things I thought about last week was that my office is a disaster area.

I don’t mean where I work at home.  I have a space rental office in town that is primarily a warehouse for old magazines and our store items.  It is a windowless box in an office building that I hardly ever visit.  My capable associates, David and Hannah, drop in a few times each week to fulfill store orders (mostly Newbies books these days) and mail out back issues, and other than that the place is empty.  I go there once a week to pick up checks and mail. The mail is usually a note from a subscriber (enclosed with their renewal check) that tells me how much they love Airstreaming or Airstream Life magazine.

So when I’m feeling a little down from working too much or a rough day, I can drive a few miles to the office and get a little morale boost in the form of something to deposit in the bank and an “atta boy” or two from a fellow Airstreamer.  There have been days that my entire perspective has been changed by just a single $24 check with a nice handwritten note paper-clipped to it.  I do love my subscribers, they’re such positive and fun people.

But lately the office itself has been looking a little shabby.  Since we are all just dropping in for a few minutes, nobody really takes ownership of it.  We handle a lot of paper in there, which means little scraps get all over the carpet, dust accumulates quickly, and flattened cardboard boxes nearly fill the place every few months.  I scheduled Hannah last week for a couple of hours to join me in what will likely be our annual cleaning event.  I brought the vacuum cleaner and cold drinks, Hannah brought the moral fortitude that comes with being in her 20s.

The big problem in the office is that we had an abundance of certain old issues of Airstream Life magazine.  Back in the early days I was required to buy 5,000 copies from the printer as a minimum.  Of course back then I didn’t have anywhere near 5,000 subscribers, and it was a massive financial strain to pay for those copies and then figure out how to sell them.  I donated a lot of copies to rallies to get the word out, distributed them for free to Airstream dealers, and worked hard to sell them as back issues.   For the most part this was successful.  In later years, when we finally exceeded 5,000 subscribers, I was able to order more precisely and so these days we have very few leftovers.

Part of the office cleanup job was to inventory what’s left.  We have no copies of issues published before #6 (Fall 2005), and no more than 200 copies of any other issue (far fewer in most cases).  Out of 29 issues published to date, 20 of them are still available in very limited quantities.

I’ve decided I want to clear out the back issues.  The IKEA “Expedit” storage unit I use in the office is full and it’s time to make space.  So here’s a bit of self-promotion. Airstream Life back issues are going on sale for the first time ever.  Single copies are still $8 apiece.  But if you want every back issue of Airstream Life we have in stock, they are now 40% off when purchased as a set.  In other words, all 20 remaining back issues — the equivalent of five years of Airstream Life — are just $96 plus shipping.  And when they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

I can’t take credit for this idea, because the thinking was really done by David.  I invited him to join me last night for a pizza and he rewarded me with a little brainstorm of ideas, of which this was only one.  (I think that makes dinner tax-deductible, too. I should have paid with the company credit card.) It’s a small thing but I’ve learned that the small things matter in a small business.  Do enough small things right and pretty soon it adds up.  Cleaning the office led to a pizza-fueled discussion, which led to a good idea.  I made things neater, got fed, had a nice chat and now we can sell the last of the back issues.  If every day went that way, I’d be a pretty lucky guy.

Perfect lightning

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Living an Airstream you tend to be more attuned to the weather.  Perhaps that’s because you’ve got less “house” surrounding you and therefore feel closer to the elements.  Two inches of fiberglass sandwiched by aluminum sheet is all that protects you from the threat of rain, snow, high winds or hail, and when precipitation comes down it makes a musical racket above your head.  Whatever is happening out there is something you can’t easily ignore.

This freaks people out at first, especially the first time they hear hail nuggets pinging off the aluminum, but eventually (I’ve found) the weather becomes an old friend that visits regularly, and rarely is it something to fear.  I particularly appreciate the sight of far-off lightning in the summer, which in the summer monsoon season of Arizona far outshines Fourth of July fireworks.  Now, out of the Airstream, I still pay more attention to the weather than I used to.

All summer I’ve been waiting for the perfect thunderstorms to come through Tucson.  By my definition, the perfect thunderstorms are those that arrive after sunset and dance around the city about twenty miles away.  They are discrete cells, surrounded by clear air, and often arrayed in a line that slowly marches by.  When this happens, we can see the lightning show but avoid the rain and high wind, and conditions are perfect for nighttime photography.

Eleanor had wanted to be here for such a night with hours of lightning.  There was one lovely evening when we drove up the mountain to an overlook and watched a few distant storms, but I’ve written about that already.  The “perfect” line did not occur before she flew back to Vermont, much to her regret.

Last night I began to see rapid flashes through the closed shades on the windows.  I had to go look from the front step, and sure enough it looked like a line of storms had set up to the south and west of Tucson.  I could see at least three distinct storms, each flashing like fireflies so often that the sky lit up every 15-20 seconds.

Even though I was dressed for bed, I had to grab the tripod and set up the camera.  My usual lightning photography gear is the Nikon D90, tripod, Tamron 10-24 super wide angle lens, and a headlamp (so I can see to adjust camera settings).  In this case, it was augmented by silk pajamas as I stood out on the concrete sidewalk in front of our house and snapped over a hundred time exposures ranging from 12 to 30 seconds.

Unlike my session last summer, I opted to let the exposure run a little longer, so that the sodium lamp glow of Tucson would give the sky an orange-pink cast.  This made a few lightning strikes over-expose, so after a particularly good and distinct bolt I would cover the lens with my hand until the timer ran out.

Lightning photography is fun because you never know what you’ll get and it’s a constant chase game.  The storms move across the sky, some peter out and others gain strength, and all you can do is try to guess where they’re going to hit next, set up an exposure, and hope for good luck.  Southern Arizona monsoon storms help out by providing lots of lightning — much more than we get in the northeast — so even an amateur has hundreds of strikes to work with.

The storms continued all night.  I finally wrapped up my photo session around 11:30 when things seemed to be waning, but in the middle of the night a new set came through and woke me several times with ear-splitting crashes and house-shaking booms.  At dawn another set came through, finally bringing us the first rain of the night.  When I finally dragged myself out of bed, the ground was wet, the sky was gray, and the air felt like a Florida summer morning, ripe with humidity and the smell of things growing.  It will stay like that for half the day, and then things will clear up back to the normal clear blue skies of the desert … until the next time.

More photos from last night on Flickr.

And more from 2010


Darn you, Puritans!

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Eleanor and I managed one more roadtrip, a short one up to the Phoenix area for a little “this and that”: browsing, a little shopping, a late night cruise in Scottsdale, dinner out and a night in a resort.  But that’s it.  She’s got to head back to Vermont so that our child will remember that she has actual parents.

No, I’m just kidding about that last part.  Eleanor will head back, but Emma is becoming as independent as an 11-year-old should.  We have stayed in touch via video chat and phone calls, and it’s obvious she gets along just fine without us.  Her grandparents have done a great job of keeping up with her schedule of play dates, sailing, and summer art classes.  When I called yesterday I was told that Emma was down at the beach making s’mores and was therefore unavailable to speak to her father.

That’s quite a change from the days when we were living in the Airstream, roaming around the continent but rarely far from each other.  People speculated that she would grow up “needy” or improperly “socialized” as a result of our extreme togetherness, which is of course utter nonsense.  Why do people think that being close to your children or parents is a bad thing?  (Little wonder that as a society we treat the elderly with disdain.)

I speculate that it is an old outgrowth of Puritanical beliefs, right along with the idea that we should be ashamed of our bodies.  In any case, the result speaks for itself: the kid is comfortable in her skin, and while she misses Mom & Dad, she’s pretty happy with the other loving members of her family.

Not so easy for me, however.  When I’m alone for weeks at a time I don’t have the support system of the family around me, and it’s a big adjustment.  It’s far too easy to spend the day inside the house, in front of the computer, and not seeing another living soul all day.  That’s a trap.  Pretty soon you can turn into a Howard Hughes-like caricature, savings toenail clippings in a jar and growing a long beard.

I was watching a National Geographic program about Solitary Confinement (in prison) and the inmates were describing what happens to them after too much time alone.  They talked about the need for human contact, and the paranoid thoughts that start to overcome them.  Psychiatrists chimed in: solitary makes you start to feel aggressive toward your jailers, even if you weren’t violent before.  That must explain why I forgot to water the citrus before Eleanor arrived; I was lashing out at the greenery.

I now pity the telephone company guy who is scheduled to come here to look at my DSL line.  If I don’t get out to the mall to walk around and see some humans (OK, mostly teenagers, but that’s as close to humans as I can find in a mall environment), the telephone guy’s life could be in danger.  And he’s a nice guy, “Tom,” who has visited here often because every summer my DSL starts getting wonky.  (I’m on my third replacement DSL modem and I have all the Qwest service guys mobile phone numbers now.)

Of course, my jail cell is not enforced by the penal system, it’s self-imposed.  It’s another darned Puritanical leftover, the moral imperative to do work.  Once in a while I break free of that social boundary and play hooky around town, but it’s difficult for me.  No kidding.  I’ve been self-employed for 18 years and wound so tight about getting the job done that it’s hard to let go even when there’s really not much work to be done.  Today is a good example: the Fall issue is in the hands of the printer.  This post-production period is a classic “quiet time” for the magazine, or rather a “calm before the storm,” because until the issue hits the mail the phone will hardly ring, my email Inbox will be oddly empty, and I won’t be under major pressure to work on the next issue for a few weeks.  So by all rights I should be having fun.

I learned this lesson a long time ago.  I used to be a “consultant,” which meant nobody was looking over my shoulder and I didn’t get a regular paycheck.  So  I worked really hard when there was work to be done, and when there wasn’t I was usually trying to play rainmaker so that there would be work again soon.  On those occasions when I felt like I had done all I could do for a while, I blew off to do something, anything, absolutely guilt-free because I’d earned it.

When I was publishing the magazine and working (2005-2008) the Airstream made it easy.  We’d park it in a place where Internet and phone worked well, until the work was done, then relocate to some nearby National Park and go hiking for a few days in a cellular “cone of silence.”  Usually that meant a short drive, and there we’d be, all together with our home and ready to go exploring.

It’s a bit harder now, with the Airstream up in Vermont, me in Arizona, my other Airstream stranded in Texas, and no tow vehicle handy.  I am quite tempted to pack up the tent this weekend and go somewhere in the cool mountains where the forest hasn’t been scorched in this summer’s fires.  What I’d really like to do is get some Airstream friends to drop in for a few days, but nobody wants to come to the desert in the summertime.  (Wimps.)  Hey, I’ve got 30-amp power in the carport to run air conditioners, so what’s there to be afraid of?

Now you know why I was so desperate to find a backup tow vehicle earlier this summer.  The idea was to launch out to Texas and recover the Caravel, and make a big trip out of it, complete with the comfort of air conditioning.  Alas, now I’m short on time.  I did finally find the car I wanted — it’s the car I sold, the Mercedes 300D.  I should have kept it and put a hitch on it.  Another one in even better condition has popped up locally and I could buy it, but I’d really like to get that Miata sold first.  Any 1980s-era Mercedes, no matter how nice, is going to suck up a bit of money before it’s fully sorted out and ready for long trips.

So I’m sitting tight for now, and looking at the tent… and my laptop.  Sooner or later either the Puritans will win out, or the Airstream-inspired wanderlust will.



The Silence of the Blog

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

I feel a certain sense of responsibility to post at least weekly when we aren’t traveling in the Airstream, and there’s a sort of editorial guilt that comes up when I realize I haven’t written anything in longer than that.  I hate the epidemic of bloggers all over the Internet who post a few entries saying things like, “I know I have posted in a while but I’ve been busy.  I’ll get up to date this week, so check back soon!”  And of course they never write again…

But hey, if I’m busy, that’s when the posting really happens.  It’s when things get routine or even dull that causes me to  lose my inspiration.

Such has been the case lately.  This has been a quiet season for TBM, something I regret.  The three weeks of bachelorhood have flown by but except for my archaeology tour all the days seem about the same.  I’ve gotten work things done.  The Fall magazine is now well into layout, Brett & I are working on plans for three different events next year (Alumapalooza, Modernism Week, and another event to be named), and various other projects are rolling along nicely, so I can hardly complain.  Still, work is not enough to round out a life, and that is where I’ve fallen down on the job as TBM.

An unexpected barrier this year has been the wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico.  The entire Coronado National Forest has been closed since June 9 due to exceptionally dry conditions.  That means no access to any of the sky islands in Arizona, including the Santa Catalinas (visible right out my back window), the Huachucas (near Sierra Vista), the Sahuaritas (location of last year’s hike up Mt Wrightson with Brett), and the Chiricahuas in southeastern Arizona.

Well, that totally blew a lot of my plans out.  Climbing these mountains is the only way to escape the heat of the desert floor.  I was planning to go hiking, tent camping, exploring, and sightseeing up in most of those mountain ranges this June, but the closure order is absolute: no travel at all, not even stopping at the roadside.  Fines up to $5000.  So I’ve been stuck here and we’ve had a spectacularly warm June, with several days above 110 degrees.  It’s not great weather for much of any outdoor activity.

Paradoxically, a lot of Arizonans don’t use their swimming pools this time of year. Reason?  The water is too hot.  So the preferred form of recreation this summer seems to be going shopping, especially to malls where you can walk around in air conditioning.

I do like the relative quiet of summer.  There’s always a noticeable drop in population when the snowbirds leave in March or April and then again when some of the students leave the University.  It’s a great time to get things done, because you rarely have to wait in line or get slowed by traffic.  On the other hand, there’s not much going on sometimes.  Outdoor fiestas, a great and common feature of Tucson in the winter, are virtually absent.  Who wants to listen to music, dance, eat, and shop crafts when it’s a blazing 108 degrees?

Even the Fourth of July is sort of a muted event. Most of the city appeared to be in hibernation, with hardly any cars on the major roads, and clerks drowsing in the quiet of empty stores. The traditional backyard barbecue with fireworks and s’mores and mosquitoes that we’ve come to expect up in the north is much less appealing here.  I didn’t smell a single grill on Monday.

Well, things are about to change with the arrival of TSP (Temporary Single Parent, aka Eleanor) tomorrow.  She’s flying into Phoenix and so begins our Second Annual Three-Week Childless Couple Event.  I plan to make the most of it.  You long-time readers know that we love to travel with Emma and have done so extensively for about eight years.  But for these three weeks, we get to do the things that adults like, especially things that would bore or gross out a child.  In fact, we’ll probably focus exclusively on things that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do with Emma.  I don’t know if that includes bungee jumping, eating caviar on toast, betting it all on red in Las Vegas, cooking in the nude, or just cruising aimlessly through the southwest, but we’ll certainly consider all those possibilities.

Sadly, if we do some of those things, I probably won’t blog them.  There does have to be a certain amount of discretion here.  I’ll post the PG-13 version, so you’ll hear about the milkshakes and the street hikes.  I can assure you that there will be at least one or two roadtrips, too.  You’ll just have to use your imagination for the rest.

Archaeology tour in New Mexico

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Things have been a little quiet in TBM-land, with work dominating far too many days, so I scanned the local events calendars and found something to do off the reservation.   The Old Pueblo Archaeology Center in Tucson had organized a once-a-year tour of ancient Mogollon (native American) sites in New Mexico. I don’t usually go in for multi-day guided tours, preferring to explore on my own (or with E&E), but this was a special opportunity to visit some sites that I’d never see without a qualified guide, and to get some detailed interpretation as well.

So I booked the last two days of the four-day tour (I had prior commitments for the first two days) and drove three hours from Tucson to join the group on Monday morning in Silver City, NM.  Silver City is up in the higher elevations of central New Mexico, about 5200 feet, amidst rolling hills and beautiful scenery.  There’s a nice historic downtown and a strong western style.  The famous outlaw Billy The Kid lived here.  I didn’t see any gun-slinging — these days the hotels are crowded with fire fighters, taking a break or setting up to go to the wildfires that are all over New Mexico right now.

Our tour specialized in Mimbres sites, a subculture of the Mogollon.  There are dozens in the area, most of which are protected as best they can be by laws, fences, and secrecy.  In the past pot-hunters have devastated many of the sites, even using bulldozers and backhoes to excavate them, so many of the sites have been ruined or looted thoroughly.  But those that have survived have an abundance of artifacts at the surface, primarily potsherds, pictographs, flakes of small stones, and architectural remnants like stone alignments of huts and depressions of former kivas.

As tourists, we were not there to dig.  At most of the sites we were allowed to pick up anything we found, as long as it was returned to the same spot.  We looked, and tried to connect the little artifacts we found with the living village of people that once existed that spot.  Archaeology requires a fair amount of imagination: you have to interpret the humps and dips of the land, and visualize the layout of a village that has been mostly reclaimed by the earth for centuries.  The sites we visited were at least a thousand years old, a thrilling thought when you find a fragment of that ancient life still sitting on the ground for you to see and touch.

The Kipp Ruin, near Deming, was our chance to see a real archaeological dig in progress.  Led by Dr William H Walker of New Mexico State University, a bunch of graduate students were toiling cheerfully in the heat of the low Sonoran Desert near Deming NM, looking for tiny fragments of Mimbres culture in tidy pits dug into the earth.  The work is dusty and tedious, and the results from this particular site are mostly so small that dozens of them fit into a lunch-sized paper bag.  Unfortunately, the site was almost completely obliterated by pot hunters years ago, so even the stone structures were reduced to mere lines of stones less than a foot tall.  Still, they were finding things, and learning, and they were happy to share the knowledge with our group.

The southwest is having a little heat wave right now, so even in the supposedly cooler atmosphere of the high country we endured 100+ degree days and extremely dry conditions in full sun.  When we toured the Western New Mexico University’s Museum, which had a superb collection of Mimbres pottery, there was no air conditioning.  We ate our lunches outdoors where we could find shade, and we cooled off in the cars during the long drives from one site to another, but mostly the best survival strategy was the right clothing and lots of water.  I went through 120 ounces on Monday, and it was even hotter on Tuesday.

Still, it was worth it.  A little climate challenge helped us feel less like tourists and more like explorers.  The cars got dusty on long gravel roads, the people got sweaty, and the gear got dirty.  I have a bag full of laundry “souvenirs” and a car in the carport that looks like it was dropped in a bag of flour, but I also have 314 photos that I treasure (54 of which are now on Flickr for your browsing pleasure).  I’d do it again.  In fact, I probably will do another archaeology tour this fall.  There’s a lot of incredible pre-historic culture in this part of the country, much of it very close to home, and it’s an element of the southwest that deserves exploration.


Changes and rationalizations

Monday, June 20th, 2011

It’s a good thing I wasn’t born earlier in the Industrial Age.  I might have ended up as a factory worker, and I’m not good at doing the same thing repeatedly.  My tendency is to take on a challenge, master it as best I can (which may or may not be very well), then move on to something new.  It’s that same aspect of personality that makes traveling and exploring new places a necessary part of my mental diet.

Occasionally this personality trait becomes a problem.  Case in point: I have been producing Airstream Life magazine for nearly eight years.  Prior to this, my longest employment at anything was about five years.  I definitely have a sort of seven year itch that means it’s time to move on to new challenges.  In the past year or so, the itch of self doubt has crept up my sleeve like a little spider, telling me that it is becoming time to find someone to take over as Editor.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the spider is reaching my neck and it is becoming less ignorable.  Today I found myself wrestling to focus on the laptop yet again to finalize articles and make editorial decisions I should have made weeks ago.  My email Inbox, normally kept lean as a result of compulsive housekeeping and fast response time, is filled with unevaluated writer queries and article drafts for future issues. For me, failing to deal with the routine tasks is a sign of burnout.

Well, there was no chance of finding someone to do my work today, so I put my head down and got serious about dealing with the unresolved questions and unedited articles for the Fall 2011 issue.  Of course, there were no really insurmountable issues, just a series of tough decisions and thoughtful editing processes that had to be done, and once I got into it the work began to fly by as it always does when I’m in the groove.  By 1 p.m., after about six hours of fairly intense work, the Inbox was halfway cleared out and I had three more articles uploaded to the FTP site and ready for layout.  Suddenly things weren’t so bad, and I found myself thinking that I don’t really need an Editor — just a little less procrastination.

At that point I had to bail out of the office, because it was time to get into another long-dreaded task: the eye exam.  I don’t normally mind eye exams, but this one was special because I knew I would be prescribed progressive lenses for the first time.  I suppose I am lucky to have held out to my current age (my AARP card is only a couple of years away, despite the common misconception that I am much younger – it must be the juvenile behavior).  But that doesn’t make it any easier to suffer the indignities of day-long dilated pupils, and having to learn how to compensate for lost peripheral vision by turning my head as if I am an owl.  Now with the new lenses I can see the wrinkles on the backs of my hands, and I can’t see the cars in the sideview mirrors.  Yes, now I can read the menu in a dim restaurant again, but somehow it doesn’t seem like a great leap forward.

In comments on my prior blog entry, I was asked why I’m not planning to tow the Caravel with the old Mercedes 300D.  I suppose it is time to confess: I sold it.  I know I said I would keep it “forever,” but then a guy from Connecticut showed up desperately seeking a rust-free 300D, and he made an offer I couldn’t refuse.  The car and I didn’t have a pre-nup, and I had already stored it for the hot summer, so I took the cash on the rationalization that (a) I wouldn’t miss the car for several months; and (b) if I kept it much longer I’d probably dump another $2k into perfecting it.  Selling it was a way to save me from myself.

But now of course, I’m wondering if that was the brightest move, since I’m here in Arizona, the Caravel is in Texas, and I have no way to get it back.  So I’m on the hunt for a new part-time tow vehicle. I want something fun to drive, since the vast majority of the time the car will be unhitched.  (Please don’t suggest any form of truck, SUV, or full-size car — I don’t regard those as “fun to drive.) The final choice will undoubtedly be something most people would never choose, require custom engineering, and be entirely safe for towing the Caravel despite appearances.  It might be vintage or modern.  It will likely be a convertible (but not the Miata) or two-door sports coupe.  I’m having fun with it.

I thought I had no theme when I started writing tonight, but now I see I do.  It’s all about change.  Some of it is forced on me (eyeglasses) but most of it is my own doing.  There are some core elements of life you never want to change because they are the basis for one’s security and self-confidence, but the rest is all small stuff.  It’s just a car.  It’s just a job.  I don’t ever want the fear of change to be ruling factor in my life.  You can’t avoid it anyway.  I’ll take the good and the bad and trust that somehow it will all work out more to the good, in the end.


TBM returns!

Friday, June 17th, 2011

After a pleasant few days in Vermont, I hopped a plane and headed back to Tucson for some summer heat.  It was cool and rainy in Vermont most of the time, so cool that we had to run the furnace in the trailer during the day sometimes, and I realized that once again I had not packed enough warm clothes to survive a Vermont June. I had to borrow a sweat jacket from my mother just to survive the evenings.

The Airstream is parked in its summer holding pen, beneath the cedar trees on the gravel driveway next to the garage.  It will rest there for a couple of months before I fly back up and collect it, along with the members of my immediate family who are spending the summer in Vermont.  (You know who they are.)  I am hoping that the bits of white filiform corrosion that started along the edges and trim on the Airstream a few years ago won’t greatly accelerate in the damp environment up there.  Each year the tiny white spider-webs of corrosion seem to spread another 1/8″ of an inch or so.  Once returned to dry conditions, it stops spreading but the damage is irreversible.  Parking by the oceanside really kicks it into high gear too, but I’m not prepared to give up camping by the beach for anything.

I flew back to Arizona, which means I once again am stuck without a tow vehicle.  The Caravel, you might recall, was left in Texas a couple of months ago, after I attended the LBJ Grasslands Vintage Rally in Decatur.  Fellow Airstreamer Paul Mayeux has been holding it at his shop ever since.  He did a few repairs and tweaks for me in the meantime.  Now I’ve got to figure out how to get it back, because I’d like to use it sometime this summer, which means I’m going to have to find a tow vehicle.  All I have is a Honda Fit, which (despite being a very useful and versatile car) can only move itself.

But first, the urgent stuff.  Temporary Bachelor Man (TBM) is BACK!  Armed with his cunning, a credit card, and a freezer full of food left by Temporary Bachelorette Woman (TBW), he will somehow navigate urban Tucson in the blazing heat of summer and survive to tell the tale.  And you’ll be the witnesses.

First mission: re-boot the house.  Although preparing a house in Tucson for vacation is not very difficult, there were still a number of things to get back in shape once I arrived.  Light the water heater, turn the air conditioning on (it was 92 in the house and took seven hours to cool down thanks to massive thermal mass in the adobe blocks), sweep up the dead bugs (few), add water to all the dried-up drains, check on the plants, plug in the essential bachelor electronics, check the car tires, wash the dust off the car, and go to fetch the nutritional food pyramid of TBM (frozen desserts are at the top).

OK, that’s all done.  Now to fill the long quiet days of a man left to his own devices.  Without a definite plan of things to do outside the house, there’s too much risk that I’ll spend all day inside working, and that’s the kind of routine that turns TBM into Temporarily Psycho Man.  There are several good events calendars for Tucson online, plus favorite haunts like The Loft Cinema, Mt Lemmon, and Saguaro National Park that all have regular events.  (Mt Lemmon seems to be off-limits at the moment due to the danger of wildfires, but with the start of monsoon season approximately July 4, that ban should be lifted.  There are no fires up there and no smoke of any of the Arizona fires can be seen from Tucson at this point.)  Browsing the events calendars gives me a few ideas of TBM-worthy events to visit and possibly photograph.  Events featuring food usually rise to the top of the list.

I have three weeks in my present guise, and then TBW arrives and we change identities again, this time into the “Kid — What Kid?” couple.  We did this last year and it was amazing.  For three weeks in July we will be utterly childless, while Emma is engaged in summer camps and grandparent-spoiling up in Vermont.  We’ll go roam around Arizona with a very loose plan, and if I’m able to get it worked out, we’ll even have the Caravel to do some of it in.  So really I’ll be spending a fair bit of my TBM time planning for the next phase, but that’s OK.  I see adventure ahead, and that’s what really makes it work for me.  Let the first phase of summer begin!



About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine