Another Toilet Paper Story

Posted March 29, 2020 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Warning: Some may find this story distasteful because it involves… well, you know.

Now that we’re in the midst of the great global sickness, toilet paper is flying off the store shelves. I don’t know why. Does coronavirus give you the runs? Maybe. Or maybe people just stock up on toilet paper when they fear disaster is imminent. My home supply is getting short. I now have three toilets and only two rolls of toilet paper.

Yesterday this caused a problem.

I was on the phone with MetLife trying to work out an insurance problem that I feared could result in a huge, unexpected bill. I finally got them on the phone, after being on hold forever, and they told me I had to contact my bank.

I called the bank (was put on hold) and then realized I really had to use the bathroom. I took my phone into the bathroom, not expecting to need it because this would be another huge wait on hold, right? I passed my fecal load before I realized there was no toilet paper left. Then the bank suddenly came on the line with a cheery, “Can I help you?” There I was with a unclean backside, no toilet paper and separated from my laptop computer that I now realized I should have also brought to the toilet.

I heard my son rummaging in the nearby kitchen.

“Nicholas! Bring me some paper towels!” He was unresponsive. “Nicholas, I need them now!” All this was heard by the bank employee since I’m not used to putting my iPhone on mute. I’m sure she found this strange/uncomfortable so I hope, at least, it gave her a good story to tell.

I got cleaned off, got back on the phone and was able to check some stuff on my laptop. Following this event, all my bathrooms are equipped with something, either a roll of TP or a box of kleenex. I’ll visit the grocery story again today to find out, probably, that they still don’t have any toilet paper.

The call to the bank, BTW, did not solve my problem. I had to call the insurance company again.

 

 

 

 

 

Life in the Pandemic

Posted March 26, 2020 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

If there were a movie with the title of this blog post you’d expect danger and action. But life with the coronavirus is just the opposite. I’m at home, often by myself, and doing my best to avoid people. When you do that, things are still and dull.

I walk outside in the morning and I’m struck by how quiet it is. Even if you live in a quiet neighborhood you always hear the drone of city traffic in the background. I’m outside now and that sound is absent.

It’s the eerie silence that comes from fear… not of violent people or some monster but a virus, something that makes no noise and cannot be seen. When you see people they may have it. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not freaking out. I don’t look at people now as sinister harbingers of something that will kill me. I smile and wave as they walk by.

But constantly telling people to stay away from each other creates distance and dread.

I’ve been occupying myself by working on my garden. I climbed a ladder to cut off the tops of some overgrown hedge trees. I fell off the ladder and landed on my side, which knocked the wind out of me and later hurt like hell. Stupid! I didn’t have a plan for losing my balance jumping to safety. And I’m too old to be stupid. I could have busted my head! Did I break a rib? I don’t think so and I’m sure not going to the ER for an X-ray, the way things are.

Earlier in the week I was exchanging messages with a woman I know. I think she’s pretty good at tennis. We’d never played and I asked her if she wanted to play. We’d been texting rapidly but suddenly I was waiting a long time for her response. That’s right… we’re not supposed to spend time together these days.

“Sorry,” I messaged her. “Sometimes I forget that things aren’t normal.”

I have the week off. I work in the media and I’m usually swimming in the current of news. Now it’s in the background. I spot a headline that says unemployment claims are at a historic high. Governments are trying to stop home foreclosures. I see an email from work, telling more and more people who work there to socially isolate and stay home… not come into the office.

We’ve got a stay-at-home order from the governor. The mayor has closed parks and beaches, and San Diego kinda looks like a ghost town. Shops are closed and the only thing you see are people in their cars, those mobile extensions of the stay-at-home space.

My mother is blind in one eye and she has an appointment with an opthamologist a week from Friday. Mom says she doesn’t want to go to it. Partly because it puts her in more danger for coronavirus but maybe more because she hates getting injections in her eye. They’re trying to save her good eye, so her doctor told me what her advice was.

I’m thinking, do we put my mom at more risk of getting COVID-19 as she leaves her apartment to make her appointment? At her age of 92 it would likely kill her. Or do we risk her going blind in both eyes because she’s delayed treatment? It’s her decision, not mine, and she has a week to make it.

One good thing. The kids are at home with me.  So I get to watch movies with them, eat dinner with them and talk with my daughter about her school work. She’s doing classes remotely, of course, so she’s here all the time, at least until she goes to her mother’s house at the end of the week. The thing I like about COVID-19: It doesn’t kill people under 20. It might take me, but God willing it won’t take my kids.

 

 

Two Friends, Gone at age 56

Posted January 26, 2020 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

A long life these days means you live to be… what? 80 years old? Both my parents lived beyond 90. In fact, my mom’s still going. But even now there are people who die when you don’t expect it, and it happened to two men I knew. One I knew very well and the other, I knew well enough to feel the shock.

Albert Webster. RIP.

Albert Webster and Kevin Wilson both died in January 2020 at the age of 56. I’ll start with Albert Webster, who I knew best.

Albert was a New Yorker. His dad had a long career with the New York Philharmonic and Albert also went into the business of managing the performing arts. He worked backstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and moved to Minnesota, where he eventually became the stage manager of A Prairie Home Companion.

The last time I saw Albert, he was at a distance. I was in the audience in a big auditorium and he was walking across the stage at a performance in San Diego of “Live from Here,” or maybe it was still called a Prairie Home Companion. I can’t recall. I’m sorry I didn’t go backstage to say hi to him.

Albert died in January of a pulmonary embolism. It’s a blood clot that gets in your lungs.

I got to know Albert through his wife Kristina, and I got to know his wife through my wife Karen, who went to law school with Kristina at the University of Minnesota.

I spent a long time thinking about Albert before I could write a sympathy card to Kristina. And I thought about Albert’s generosity and his calm, peaceful nature.

I thought about the time he came to my house in Minneapolis and helped me install a dishwasher when I was terrified of connecting the electrical circuits. When Albert was involved in a project you knew things were going to be okay. I thought of him visiting us in San Diego and talking to my son when he was a toddler.

Kevin Wilson I knew less well. But he seemed to be a kind soul who reminded me of Albert. He was my mailman for many years and I remember seeing his tall, thin frame approaching my house then continuing along the block. He and I spoke frequently when we realized we were both bike enthusiasts.

And that’s how Kevin died.

A resident of La Mesa, he was riding his bike on the morning of Martin Luther King Day when he was hit by a car, east of El Cajon. It was a hit and run. The CHP arrested a motorist, suspected of running into him. Kevin was pronounced dead at a hospital later that day. A news report said the guy driving the car was also 56.

Two men I knew died at the same age at virtually the same time. I might say ‘go figure’ but it can’t be understood or explained. The living have to move on when the dead are gone. We just try not to forget.

 

Stopped by the San Diego Police

Posted December 28, 2019 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I haven’t been stopped by the police very often when riding my bike. But it happens. And it happened again toward the end of a 30-mile ride I took yesterday through National City, Chula Vista, Barrio Logan and Balboa Park.

I was headed home after dark on Meade Ave, a wide road with a lot of stop signs. They claim I was blowing through the stop signs, and of course I was. Coming to a complete stop on a bike kills your momentum and makes you stand on your pedals to get going again. Doing that over and over at each stop sign slows you way down. I typically reduce my speed a bit, look both ways and keep going if there’s nobody else in the intersection.

Of course, I didn’t say this to the cops. They wouldn’t have been interested or sympathetic. Arguing with police when it’s nothing more than a traffic violation is just a bad idea. You never win those arguments.

One of them took my license, took it back to the squad car and ran it through the computer. Turned out I wasn’t wanted for anything.

In fact, they were three nice young men and we had a nice conversation. I told them riding a bike in San Diego was dangerous. I told them about getting hit by a car at Colewood and Montezuma that gave me TBI and put me in a recovery program for 3 months.

I told them about the 30-mile ride I was doing that day and they seemed impressed.

When they let me go, without a ticket, I made sure to stop at all stop signs with my remaining couple of miles to go. I wasn’t sure the headlights behind me were police, but they could have been. It was too dark to tell.


Reduce, Reuse, Return to the Earth

Posted November 13, 2019 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I’ve been recycling garbage most of my adult life. That means I’ve put certain objects in different bins to separate it from the trash, with the belief that they would be trucked off to some factory, which would turn them back into raw materials for manufacturing. But today I’m starting to feel like I’ve been hoodwinked.

There’s been a lot of good reporting on the subject. You can look at 60 minutes or NPR’s Planet Money. The jury may still be out on the general subject but it’s starting to look like recycling was a bad idea to begin with. It certainly doesn’t make economic sense and it doesn’t seem to make ecological sense either.

Recycling plastics, for instance.

I was a young reporter when I attended a news conference in Minneapolis hosted by Hennepin County and some charming plastics industry minions who were going to show us how easy and sensible it was to prepare plastics for recycling. A woman smiled as she took a gallon milk jug, crunched it up and dropped in the correct colored bin. It may have been a blue bin but I can’t remember. This was in the ’90’s. A long time ago.

I’m willing to bet that plastic recycling was a scam from the start. The people behind plastic recycling knew it didn’t make sense but this was a way for us to not feel so bad about buying plastic. Therefore they could continue making it out of petroleum. Is that shit recycled? Looks to me like it ends up in landfills, as it always has or, worse yet, floating the Pacific Ocean’s great garbage patch.

Today, I throw plastic in the trash because I’d rather see it at the Miramar Landfill than floating in the seas or shipped out to God knows which country where they do God knows what with it.

The three R’s of solid waste management used to be Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. They should be Reduce, Reuse, Return to the earth.

The answer might make you think I’m in favor of landfills. I will say that with landfills, at least, you know where the trash has gone. You can see it pile up. You can smell it. There’s no slight of hand when it comes to garbage dumps.

But just burying it doesn’t mean it returns to the earth. That only happens when trash degrades in an efficient way that’s kind to the earth and the groundwater.  And I think this has to start with a long goodbye to plastic packaging and products and that’s not going to be easy and it will take a while.

This wonderful, durable waterproof material we call plastic has become part of virtually everything we make. It’ll take some brilliant environmental engineering to find replacements, and it’s going to take a willingness by consumers and governments to move in the right direction.

This old earth will be fine and ultimately it will find a way to reclaim all that is cast upon it. But it would be a bummer if we poor humans have to live in a plastic trash bin for the rest of our existence. The good book says “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” It’s what happens to us and it has to happen to our trash also.

RAGBRAI 2019

Posted August 4, 2019 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Dipping my rear wheel in the Missouri to start RAGBRAI. Notice the river is so high that the river’s edge is in a parking lot.

Another year, another week of near-perfect weather judging by Midwestern summer standards of perfection. Tens of thousands of people from all over the country came to Iowa for RAGBRAI, bound by a common culture of friendliness and tolerance and the shared challenge of of riding 65 miles a day for seven days on a bike.

It’s never hard to start a conversation on RAGBRAI, and I had a ton of conversations with strangers about public radio, my kids, my Iowa roots and the mysterious allure of RAGBRAI, the world’s biggest bike tour. I’m actually not sure that’s true but it’s what I’ve heard and it works for me.

One person I encountered on the road was Ben Kieffer, whom I worked with 30 years ago during my first job in public radio at WSUI in Iowa City. We rode together for close to an hour, catching up on what’s been going on in our respective lives. We had some conflicts while working together, but I was happy to see that water was under the bridge and out to sea

WSUI has been folded into a larger “Iowa Public Radio” network. Ben works for them now.

Amish country in Davis County, Iowa.

As before, I was riding with the NPR and Team Groucho cycling clubs. NPR had another pie-eating relay race with the Des Moines Register and we lost again. Our record thus far is 1-3.

While riding I had many conversations with my good friend Scott Horsley, who, by God’s mercy, is no longer covering the White House and no longer has to report on Donald Trump. With Scott, I felt obliged to tell him that I was having some troubles in my marriage, and that my wife and I are separated.

When it comes to that subject, it’s easier to just to tell people “things are fine” and that’s what I typically do. But when you’re close to someone, especially someone who also knows Karen, it begins to feel like a terrific dishonesty.

I thought of this when I was talking with a member of our NPR/Groucho group and I asked him how his son and daughter were doing. This was not someone I was close to, but he still chose to be honest, telling me about the terrible problems one of his kids was having with mental illness, and the difficulties he and his wife were having affording the costly care.

Someone once said every act of honesty is an act of courage. I heard that more than 30 years ago. I still remember it and still think it’s true.

John Hickenlooper with Bill Danforth outside a beer tent.

As this was a vacation for the members of the NPR team, we tried to avoid talking about news and politics as best we could. But we couldn’t ignore the fact that some presidential candidates were using RAGBRAI as a campaign vehicle. One of them was John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, who showed up with his campaign staff at a beer tent along the way. This was appropriate since Hickenlooper, prior to his political career, created a business out of brew pubs. Bill Danforth, governor of Team Groucho, got his pic taken with Hickenlooper.

As stated, the weather was near perfect by Midwest standards. We had rain the first day of cycling, which was more of a blessing since it broke the stifling heat we felt when first arriving in Omaha for the start of the ride. Later in the week,  it rained again overnight and I heard the raindrops pummel the top of my tent as a I camped in a city park. But it stopped before we got up. That morning I told a Baptist minister, who was selling pastries at the park, that I had prayed for the rain to stop, which was true. He said, “So did I.”

Among the towns traversed: Winterset, the birthplace of John Wayne. Bloomfield, the home of a remarkably handsome county courthouse and surrounded by Amish country (Horse carriages caused no undue traffic problems on the county roads). Adair, site of a train robbery by Jesse James. Stuart, site of a bank robbery by Bonnie and Clyde (Nobody ever said crime was unheard of on the RAGBRAI trail). Keokuk, the end town and confluence of the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers, as well as the childhood home of entrepreneur Howard Hughes, Sr. (He was the father of the more famous and crazy one who had the Spruce Goose.)

Beth Howard, pie maker.

l got to meet Beth M. Howard, a pie maker in Franklin who — through books and blogging — has taken the pies to new heights in terms that are culinary,  interpersonal and philosophical. Her banana cream is unbelievable.   Did I tell you we lost the pie-eating contest? The small-town web infrastructure strained under the weight of tens of thousands of cyclists arriving in overnight towns, virtually every one of them carrying a smartphone. Posting news of your RAGBRAI exploits on Facebook were very difficult.

The route this year was the best I’ve seen, with plenty of hills and nice scenery. Did I forget anything? Maybe. Suffice it to say RAGBRAI was another big rolling party. I had a great time though I may take a break next summer.

 

 

 

Taking on the Joy of Eating

Posted June 9, 2019 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I have begun doing something I never have done before. Dieting. In the past I’d tried to watch what I eat and resist the temptation to have a little bit more. But I’ve never taken it seriously, and I’ve never really had any success losing weight.

So what’s my diet? I’m counting calories. That’s it. I don’t care about fat. I don’t care about carbs. Just calories. I call it the eat-less diet.

Hang on. Here’s a snappier name: The 2,000-a-day diet.

I figured if I limit my daily intake to 2,000 calories, I’ll burn more calories than I consume and I’ll lose weight. My son introduced me to an app called MyFitnessPal. It allows me to calculate the calories in pretty much any food. I store the meals I create in a database. Yes, the database also tells you how many carbs there are and how much fat but, like I said, I don’t really care about that stuff.

The weight isn’t coming off in a flash but it is coming off. I’ve lost 8 pounds in about four weeks of dieting. I want to lose another ten-twelve pounds before I stabilize my weight. This experience has led me to some interesting discoveries.

The first thing I discovered is dieting is a lot easier than I expected. I imagined terrible pangs of hunger, and the expense of great willpower to keep to my new eating regimen. As for those hunger pangs: I feel no more hungry between meals, eating 2,000 calories a day than I did eating 3,000 calories a day.

Yes, losing weight takes some discipline and patience. It requires some organization. Figuring out how many calories are in that slice of bread, that scoop of peanut butter or that glass of wine is a hassle, and it’s a hassle keeping a diary to track all of it. In fact when you do this, eating becomes more of a task than a joy.

And the joy that comes from eating was my big discovery.

When you live in a world of virtually limitless calories, you don’t really eat because you’re hungry, and you sure don’t eat to survive. These days we eat because it brings us pleasure and it’s something to do. Eating is a joy. It’s cheap entertainment. It’s something to occupy you when you’re bored.

You see the glazed doughnut in the pink box that someone brought to work and you anticipate the way that sweet, crusty exterior is going to collapse in your mouth, how the saliva will secrete and how your taste buds will let out a soft cry of pleasure.

Are you hungry? No. Do you need it? No. But you eat it for the thrill and pleasure of holding it in your hand, tearing it in two and raising a piece to your lips.

Maybe this sounds puritanical, denying myself the pleasure of food. But there are more ways to feel good. If you lose weight you’ll feel younger and you’ll feel more alive. So my advice is come up with a plan that makes sense, and just do it. It won’t hurt. And it’ll be easier than you think.

UPDATE!

Still good news. As of Aug 7 I’ve lost 15 pounds.

UPDATE

Okay. A little tougher than I thought. I’ve stalled, still 5 pounds above my goal. Maybe this needs to be the 1,800-a-day diet.