A morning off from work

If there is a time of day that is consistently more peaceful than any other, it is the morning. Everything seems more optimistic as our neighborhood gets going.

I had the morning off from work today, so I took the opportunity to brew some coffee and settle myself on our front stoop to watch as the world around me woke from its slumber. A couple of our neighbors walked by on their morning constitutionals. The kid next door dashed to his car, started it up and drove away. The birds happily chirped and the dew glistened on the weeds in our yard.

The weeds. It briefly crossed my mind that I should probably make my wife happy and do something about them. I took a sip of coffee from the mug in my hand and dismissed that chore as something best left for another day. My thoughts then turned to our son.

The kid doesn’t start classes again at West Virginia University until the fall semester, but I took him back to Morgantown last week. He’s back months early because the new wallet I wrote about the last time I posted here made him go. The lease he signed on the house we moved him into started June 1st. My wallet strenuously objected to shelling out rent money while he lived in our basement for the summer. Besides, he’s got a job in Morgantown slinging deli sandwiches for hungry, lunchtime customers. He can make his own money there instead of relying on hand-outs from me if he remained home.

I suspect the days of our son sleeping deep into the afternoon and then wandering around our house in his boxer shorts looking for a snack at all hours are over. His roommates will have to put up with that now. His life is with them – in Morgantown – not here at home in Martinsburg. I suppose that’s as it should be, but I’m still coming to terms with his absence.

As I was ruminating about our son and the “Circle of Life,” I heard something rattling above my head. I looked up to see that a Blue Jay had alighted on the gutter that runs the length of our house. I watched as it skipped along for a second and then it made a short hop over to the Bradford Pear tree that stands in the front yard several feet from our dining room window.

It must be wonderful to be a bird in the morning. They seem so cheery as the sun comes up. But then that Blue Jay took a dump right in front of me and flew off.

The spell was broken.

I tossed the dregs of my coffee into the yard and went back inside the house.

I’m still trying to figure out if that bird was trying to send me a message about the “Circle of Life” and how shitty it can be.

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Helpful gift suggestions for Father’s Day

I hate to limit your options, especially this close to Father’s Day, but if you’re thinking about getting me a wallet, you should probably think again.

I bought one this week.

I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t wait until June 18th. My old wallet was falling apart.

Not completely, mind you. The magnetic clip that secures paper bills worked just fine.

But is keeping a wad of cash on hand really necessary anymore? With bank cards the norm, who carries a whole lot of actual dollar bills these days?

And since we’re on the subject of folding bills into wallets, when is the last time you heard someone refer to a wallet as a “billfold?” I haven’t heard anyone use the term since I was a kid, when my mother used it from time to time.

There seems to be only a few reasons to walk around with real, honest-to-goodness dollar bills, anymore. I only carry money when I need to pay say – my barber. The barber shop I frequent remains a cash-only business, so I usually end up going to an ATM and withdrawing only what I need to pay for a haircut. If I think about it, I MIGHT get a little extra for when the kids come calling for a hand out, but that’s about it.

Anyway, I didn’t buy a new wallet because I was worried about securing paper money. I was worried about losing the plastic cards that have largely replaced bills. The stitching that held my old wallet together was unraveling. And, the see-through sleeve that holds my driver’s license wasn’t really a sleeve anymore. I nearly lost my license several times because it kept slipping out.

So yea, since I couldn’t trust my wallet to be a proper wallet anymore, I bought a new one.

But don’t despair about finding a Father’s Day gift for me. There are plenty of other good ideas.

Just don’t get me a new tie. I haven’t worn one on a regular basis since I stopped reporting on West Virginia state government and took what is ostensibly a desk job at NPR in Washington, D.C.

A new fishing lure or two would be nice. But I’ve all but given up on hooking fish. I’m a terrible fisherman.

You could get me a wrist watch. But I don’t really need one because my smartphone is perfectly capable of telling me the time.

A new case to protect my smartphone would be cool. But I’m thinking of upgrading, so it’s anybody’s guess if what you buy me now would fit a newer model later.

Socks are always welcome. But when I bought my new wallet I also sprung for some socks. So, maybe not.

Same thing with shaving gear. Don’t need a new razor. I’m partial to facial hair.

Come to think of it, a beard care kit would be super, except my wife bought me one a month or two ago during a silent auction fundraiser for a local do-gooder group.

I could go on, but I think that’s enough for one day.

Hope this handy list helps!

And don’t forget, Father’s Day this year is Sunday, June 18th!

The Poke Pressure is ON

I would love to announce in BIG BOLD LETTERS that I’ve been victorious since the last time I posted here, that my prowess with a rod and reel has improved so much that fish seem to happily offer themselves up wherever I may cast a line.

But I can’t because (a) fish are not that malleable and (b) I haven’t been fishing lately.

To be completely candid, I haven’t made fishing a priority despite making a big deal about my goal for this spring – to at least be able to say that it is indeed within the realm of possibility for me to catch a fish every now and again.

That’s not to say I don’t THINK about going fishing.

I do.

Just last week, I thought a lot about catching fish. My wife was out of town, meeting up with some old college friends. They spent a few days revisiting the good times on their old campus (in Ohio of all places, but that’s another story). Her absence presented a perfect opportunity to shirk household chores, stand uselessly by the water and get tangled up in my line.

But I didn’t take the opportunity.

Instead, the new rod and reel I bought early last month as a birthday present to myself remains a virgin. And at this rate, it’s likely to stay that way. Currently, it occupies a lonely space in a dark corner of my garage. At least it’s untroubled by the thought of being mishandled by an incompetent.

I could retrieve my pole and go fishing today. It’s my usual day off from work and the sun just came out following this morning’s soaking rain in which I made the mistake of wearing inadequate footwear – my Crocs.

My wife is not pleased that I still insist on wearing Crocs, and to be honest, I wasn’t pleased to be wearing them this morning. My white ankle socks got soaked.

You might ask, “Your feet are already wet, so why not fish?”

I agree that a little more water isn’t going to hurt them, except that I’ve already changed into dry socks. Besides, today is the final day of Pokemon Go’s “Adventure Week”.

The past several days have been a boon to my gameplay. Thanks to more easily acquired candy for rock-type Pokemon, I now have a formidable Golem in my Pokedex. And the Rhydon I evolved earlier this week is one of the strongest in my line-up.

But Steelix still eludes me.

I’ve coveted Steelix ever since the game’s developer, Niantic, changed the smartphone loading screen to show one rearing up from the earth.

To ensure I get one before time runs out on “Adventure Week” this afternoon, I need to get out and play Pokemon Go.

The pressure is on. In a matter of hours, gameplay will return to normal.

But even if I don’t reel in a Steelix today, I know that eventually I will – which is more than I can say about my prospects for catching a fish.

The morning chirp

Woke up this morning to the birds outside my open bedroom window.

They were happily carrying on quite a conversation.

I don’t speak bird, but I gleaned this much from all their avian chirping: their enthusiasm for the day ahead.

It was infectious.

Their joy almost motivated me to throw my pole in the car and set out for the fishing hole I scouted yesterday.

I settled for a cup of coffee on our front stoop.

I’m terrible at catching fish.

Already proved it once this week.

No use ruining an otherwise peaceful morning by getting fired up about the prospect of reeling in something other than a waterlogged stick.

 

Birthday fishing fail

How is it that the kids on YouTube make hooking fish look so easy?

I watched several of their videos Monday morning as I was getting my gear together for my birthday fishing excursion.

After watching them pull fish after fish out of the water, I was certain I would finally get the angling monkey off my back, that I would be able to tell my friends that I caught a birthday fish or two and show my wife that her husband is not a complete incompetent.

I remain, however, true to form.

The first bonehead thing I did when I arrived at the public lake about 45 minutes from my house explains why I decided to keep a spare pole handy. After picking what looked like a nice spot to set up shop, I tangled the line in the new rod and reel I bought last week as a birthday present to myself.

I grew so frustrated trying to fix it, that I eventually banished it to the trunk of my car and fetched the spare from where I left it the last time I failed at fishing – on the ledge in my car’s back window.

I then promptly moved on to the next setback – losing one of my new jigs.

I bid it goodbye not long after I actually started fishing. On one of my first casts, the jig I bought just that morning snapped off the end of my line, went sailing over the water in a high arc, and landed in the lake with a plop.

The sound of it hitting the water startled me. And as I watched each succeeding ripple form on the lake’s surface as the jig sank to the bottom, I figured out what went so terribly wrong. I forgot to release my line by opening the bail on my spinning reel.

Lesson learned?

Not immediately. I lost another new jig in similar fashion.

The next couple of hours I spent lakeside proved disappointingly uneventful. While I eventually got my act together enough to at least throw a line into the water without losing my lure, the fish weren’t buying me as a serious angler. It was as if they had taken one look at me, chuckled to themselves, and then decided it would be too embarrassing to end up my hook.

In the end, only a few tiny salamanders in the shallows at my feet showed any interest in what I was offering. One even started to crawl up my line when I left it dangling in front of them, but then thought better of it and went on its way.

The hard truth is, I would have been better off booting up Pokémon Go on my phone. At least then, I could have looked forward to the satisfaction of catching something, even if Pokémon are just cartoon characters in a video game.

But then, catching a Magikarp on my phone isn’t quite the same as the reality of pulling a big, fat, largemouth bass out of the water.

For that, I need a rod and reel.

If only I could use a Poke ball.

The Masters

Sergio Garcia is no longer one of the best players to have never won a major tournament.

Golf has a new Masters champion.

And I’m going fishing tomorrow.

At this point, you might be asking yourself why I’m planning to dunk a few worms on a Monday – the beginning of the work week.

My answer?

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ve taken the day off and I want to spend it breaking in the new rod I bought last week as a present to myself.

I’m not sure why I bothered to fetch a new pole home from the sporting goods store. I don’t deserve it. I’m a terrible fisherman.

The thing is, though, I’m an even worse golfer. You’ll never see me in a major tournament playoff like the one Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose engaged in to decide the 2017 Masters at Augusta National.

But if Garcia can stick with golf and finally win a major tournament after more than 70 tries, the least I can do is try to actually catch a birthday fish or two.

Deadwood

I’m just getting around to watching HBO’s “Deadwood.”

The show premiered years ago –  in 2004 to be exact – so I’m late to the gold rush.

Sorry. I was busy raising kids.

Anyway, “Deadwood” won wide acclaim during its three season run.

All I’ll add to what’s already been said about it is this – “Deadwood” is gloriously profane.