Birthday Weeks

cakeMy birthday fell on a Thursday this year–yes it was this past Thursday June 18 for all who still want to send cards and presents.

Thursdays for us working stiffs often means little opportunity to celebrate on the actual day. On this birthday not only did Ihave a lot of work to do but my wife and son were at a baseball game–he was playing, she was watching. So I came home to an empty house. Not the best. But this can happen on mid-week birthdays.

My birthday often also becomes jumbled with Father’s day. Not quite like being born on Christmas but in the same realm. This year it worked out OK. Because they were 3 days apart I received extra consideration over the entire 4 days.

That’s when it struck me. Birthday weeks. Why not? After the first few the specific day becomes less important than the proper celebration. Having a birthday week affords everyone of the same opportunities. And if it is a special one, say Frank’s BIG 5-0 coming up in July, take the whole month. More if you need it. Why not? You are worth extolling.

BTW, there are still 3 days left in my 2009 Birthday Week. Just in case you want to go out and celebrate– preferably with me.

I Got The Biggest Bag

“It helps to have known your doctor since he was 10.”

That was my response at the cardiologist office to the small, white haired woman behind the counter. She had just handed to me a bag of filled with drug samples. It is not unusual for doctors to give these samples to patients in order to have them try new medications or, in my case to carry me through until my new prescription comes in the mail.

I was responding to her comment, “you got the biggest bag.”

On my way out the door I heard her repeat several times. “That is so nice. That is so nice.”

It is nice to have a friend for so many years…and he’s a doctor.  And he even remembers my birthday.

Are There No Good Guys Left?

Famous people, especially actors, should not be looked to as role models. And yet few people know my friend Gary, my step father Fred or any of the other truly good guys in my world.

With actors especially it is easy to confuse the characters they play with the people they are.  And yet given all the press they get usually there is enough known about their private lives to think you know. So when I read that Morgan Freeman had an affair with his stepdaughter that started when she was a teenager, it saddens me. He certainly played many stand up guys. He had that reputation as well. Married to the same woman for 25 years. Maybe the car accident was Karma.

Mel Gibson’s fall from grace has been well documented. Woody and Soon-Yi.  John Edwards. Too many others to list.

All I can say is that I can take a slew of mediocre movies from Tom Hanks but finding out something that drops him from the Good Guys list would put me over the top.

As long as we are discussing famous prople as Good Guys, my thoughts go to Walter Cronkite who is 92 and reported today as being very ill.

And that’s the way it is.

Coffee: What A Difference A Year Makes

I doubt that the Age of Indulgence is truly over. Despite all the media coverage on how even the upper middle class is economizing, I suspect that the AOI is just on holiday.

And yet, a year does make a difference. I periodically stop at a Starbucks in an affluent northern suburb of Chicago on my way to the office. What draws me is that on occasion I have run into people I know. I can get my coffee fix at work for less but the opportunity to see friends is too hard to resist.

A year ago the lines were always long no matter what time I arrived. Staff would be rushing around trying to fill the orders and not make the tony clientele wait. Now they are lucky if the number of customers exceeds that of the staff.

I was further reminded of the change in attitudes when I ran across an article on the Internet about the most expensive coffee maker in the world which at the time of the article had just been installed in a coffee shop in San Francisco. I do not remember how I came across the article but when i first saw it I thought it was recent and intended to write about the exceptions to the austerity mindset.

But this article in the NY Times about the $20,000 Japanese Siphon Bar  was written in January, 2008 when we all still were 401(k) millionaires and credit was easy.  An article on Gizmodo describes the process, “Each “pot” consists of two globes. Water vapor evaporates from the bottom globe into the higher globe to meet the grounds. The coffee is then stirred with a bamboo paddle, removed from the heat and siphoned back to the lower globe (minus grounds).”

I wonder how many cups of coffee are being served from the $20,000 coffee maker. Probably as many as are made from the $100 per pound beans from Indonesia called Kopi Luwak, a coffee that is only roasted after it’s been eaten and excreted by a palm civet (a small cat-like creature).

Sounds yummy.

Siphon Bar

Siphon Bar

Numbers Don’t Lie

Well, actually they can and they do on occasion, but not in this case.

It’s bike season…at least according to the calendar. The weather in Chicago continues to be crap. We will have a day here or there in the mid-to-upper 70s and then more cold weather. A dismal spring is hard to take especially following a terrible winter.

Yet I started biking in mid-April and rode each weekend except last weekend because between graduation, related activities and rain it just never happened. Most rides have been cold. I tend to layer 2 shirts and a jacket and I am still cold.

Today the weather could be described as adequate, it was in the 60s when I started and the 70s by the time I finished 3.5 hours later. I was wiped by the time it was over. My hope was that I would notice increased speed this week being that I rode my road bike for the first time this year. I had been on my mountain bike until this weekend partly because I preferred the wide tires in the semi-wet weather and partly because my rode bike needed some heavy maintenance. It had been 4 years and approximately 3,500 miles so it was time for a major tune up and some new parts. 

Every ride so far this year has been a struggle and had taken far longer than it should have. Today’s ride felt the same. I broke the 50 mile mark for the first time this year but averaged barely over 15 mph and with a stop after 30, it took 1:33. Once I get into a normal pattern I usually average much closer to 16 mph. Even 1 mph over 50+ miles makes a big difference. I have been depressed about my riding…one of the few things I count on for joy.

So here is where the numbers don’t lie comes in. Apparently mood and weather  impact perception. This is what I wrote on June 11,2007:

I have been adding 5 miles a week to my ride and topped out this week at 48.5. Average speed at a hair under 15 mph which included 8 minutes of nonride time, 6 for a break and a few stop lights.

And in that post titled June Rocks and Rolls I was having a great time and feeling strong about my riding. Yet, the numbers this year were slightly better. Go figure.

I suspect that a little sunshine and warmth are all I need to turn the attitude around. I am tracking to being ready for my annual century ride. 100 miles. Now that is a number that doesn’t lie.

Doctor My Eyes

Last night.Toronto. I had gotten directions to a local sushi place.  OK. I was given the directions an hour earlier and I have short term memory issues. But…since I refuse to acknowledge them the map and directions stay in  my room. This was not going to be hard.

Out of the hotel is Front St. Turn right a short distance to John and another right and several blocks to Queen. Look for the Starbucks then the small grocery store and then the restaurant. No problem.

A nice night and it is still light at 8 pm. Onward. Five blocks later I know something is wrong. No John St. and it should not have been more than 2 blocks from the hotel. Fortunately there is a bus stop on every corner and a map at every bus stop. Got to love Canada.

A nonchalant stroll up to the map to check out the scene. I find myself standing there for several minutes. I have a problem. Not a life threatening problem mind you. After all the hotel is only five blocks away and at this point I am fairly confident that the right turn should have been left. It is still light out and a very pleasant evening. Except for one thing.


My eyes are not perfect. In fact I have worn glasses since the sixth grade . But my ocular affliction is  nearsightedness so reading usually comes easily even without glasses. I can get up in the morning and get around without needing to find my glasses.

All of you in your forties and later years have been ready to pounce for a paragraph or two. Are you too vain to wear reading glasses. You know that you can get them for a few bucks at CVS.  Ah ha. It was a trap. Got you. I already wear trifocols with readers built right in!

Still I stood there. Glasses on.Glasses off. Squinting. Right eye. Left eye. Nothing worked. This has never happened to me before. I am frustrated beyond words–at least any I know. F–K!

I remember many years ago listening to people about ten years older than me share stories about their various deteriorating body parts and functions. I decided then and there on a life rule.  I would NEVER become one of those stereotypical old men grumbling about their health to other people grumbling about theirs. One modification to the rule. No complaining about anthing from the neck down. Those are the gross areas. I reserve the right to complain about my deteriorating mind and eyes. maybe my ears. That’s it.

The evening at least ends well. I head back in the other direction. Find John St. Find the intersection of Queen St. and John St. Find the Starbucks, the grocery and the restaurant. The food was good, surprising and incredibly cheap. That almost made up for whatever is happening to my vision. Almost.