January 3rd

Posted January 3, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Today is the day before I turn 57 and it’s the day before I go back to work, after a week off. I’ve definitely reached the age when I don’t want people making a thing out of my birthday. No doubt some busybody at work will bring up the subject. I’ll get lots of “happy birthdays” on Facebook, which is fine since those are easy to ignore.

I was on the phone with Maya yesterday who told me she would miss some work because she just cut a huge gash in the palm of her hand while fileting a steak. The wound required nine stitches. She texted me pictures of it.

We got to talking about other things and I told her I’d just had a cello lesson and I was thinking of adopting cello playing as a serious hobby. I told her I hadn’t had a serious hobby since I stopped my training in traditional karate 12 years ago.

She disputed my claim to lack a hobby by telling about my gardening and bike riding. Aren’t those hobbies enough??

I thought about that and wondered if she was talking some sense into me. Do people really need serious hobbies when they’ve got a lot on their plate as it is? It’s true I once said my fallback position, if anyone asked me what my hobby is, would be gardening.

I do garden and I do enjoy it. But in the end it’s more a task than a passion. Tending the garden is a lot like cleaning and tidying the house. Someone has to it. I’ve gotten some knowledge of which plants work in this environment and what you do to keep them vigorous. But if I joined a gardening society I’m sure I’d be quickly humiliated, due to my minimal know-how and the shortage of time I actually devote to it.

No, a true hobbyist is like those people I see on my favorite reality TV show the Great British Baking Show. They work at other jobs but they are really good at baking. Most of them do it every day and they are renowned for their baking skills in their circles of friends and acquaintances.

So in my newly revised view of life, biking and gardening are not hobbies. They are simply stuff that I do. I bike for transportation and I garden to maintain my property. Yes, they are fun and they are good exercise but they’re not hobbies because I’m just not good enough at either one. We’ll see if I have the time and passion to make cello music a serious hobby.

There’s not much else on my mind this January 3rd. It’s a another day of gray skies after several rain storms. This is a strange thing in San Diego and it makes you eager to see the sun in spite of your better judgement. With the holidays past and the days starting to get longer, I’ll reenter life’s routine tomorrow, when I’ve become 57, and look forward to new days of planning and wondering.







San Diego Bay on a Bike

Posted December 29, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

There’s a route that people take when they want to see San Diego Bay and get some exercise. It starts at the central train station downtown, dips all the way down to Imperial Beach on the border with Tijuana and it travels back north on a spit of land called the Silver Strand, which ultimately runs into Coronado Island.

The words bay and bike are alliterative so coming up with a catchy name was easy. The Bayshore Bikeway. I rode the bikeway’s 24 miles yesterday. That may not sound like a huge distance but when I arrived in Coronado my legs and ass were sore and I was really ready to quit. Thankfully Orange Avenue in the tony seaside town is full of good places to get a beer and lunch.

The Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway

But… why was I doing this? Because I never had before. Also, I’m training to cycle across Iowa this summer in RAGBRAI, a bike journey I’ve known about since I was a kid, growing up in the state. I’ve been reconnected to the event (which I never took part in) by my buddy Scott Horsley who started doing it with other reporters for NPR who had to cover the Iowa Caucuses.

He told me their cycling team was known as “No Pie Refused,” which refers to the fact that locals who live along the RAGBRAI route across Iowa have a tradition of offering pies to the bike riders. It took me a while before I realized this was also their sad, lame joke about what NPR stood for.

Getting back to the Bayshore Bikeway. The upper part of the bay route coming out of downtown is dotted with hotels and other parts of the tourism/convention industry. Travel further south and you see shipyards, commercial port ops and the San Diego navy base. Lots of hardhats and uniforms.

Go further south near Imperial Beach and you see the saltworks, with huge piles of salt that are brilliant white in the sun that are extracted from seawater and sold to midwestern cities that use it to melt the snow and ice on their streets in winter.

As industry fades from the scene the southern part of the bay looks like a lagoon with a shoreline that fades into the water and you see small islands that are covered with reedy plants. Seabirds float on the water then disappear as they dive for food.

I’ll tell tourists who come to San Diego to do the Bayshore Bikeway. They have to be into biking — it is 24 miles — but they’ll see a lot of stuff tourists don’t normally see. And it’s flat. It’s along the shoreline so it’s flat and there are no hills to climb.

I returned to the mainland of San Diego on the Coronado Ferry. I chose not to go back the way I came and double my milage on the bikeway… for reasons stated. A woman on the ferry winked behind her sunglasses. On the trolley back to my neighborhood I saw a beautiful, cheerful couple who were in their late seventies. I imagined what they looked like 40 years ago.

Maybe I’m too old for this long-distance cycling shit. RAGBRAI is a big rolling party but it is about 60 miles a day. Next time I’ll try to turn around when I get to Coronado. It’ll be good for me.





Who Wants to Live to be 150?

Posted December 25, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m in my 50’s and I have two parents around the age of 90. And this has brought the reality of aging and death closer than I’ve ever known. Now I no longer understand… in fact I cannot even conceive of the desire to live forever.

Maybe nobody really wants to live forever but every part of our culture seems to be aimed at defeating deadly diseases and the infirmity of old age. I’m a Catholic and I know that life is sacred but so is death, even though I can’t be entirely sure we go to meet God when we’re done with life. I accept some things on faith but I’m still thinking about that one.

Another thing I think about is research that shows you can reverse cellular deterioration with certain proteins that reprogram cells back to an embryonic state. It doesn’t quite mean aging can be stopped. But maybe it means aging is malleable and living to 150 is a possibility we can take seriously. But who wants to live to be 150?

I think of the well-used saying “When you’re tired of London you’re tired of life.” I can imagine being tired of London or any other place, and I think we reach a point where being tired of life is perfectly natural.

Life is a process of seeing the same stuff over and over and it’s not always that great. People complain about the same old things and they keep performing the same acts of stupidity and selfishness. When you’re young everything is new and exciting, even the bad stuff. Get a little older, you tolerate it and roll your eyes. When you get old you’re sick of it and it makes you grumpy. You look at the hopefulness of youth and you think what they hope for will never happen and when will they stop kidding themselves?

It gets harder to see life as a gift when the thing looses its luster.

Like I said… this a natural tendency, and how long do you want to live like that. I ask myself how far do we need to go in avoiding the inevitable grasp of death.

People march for the causes of defeating cancer or heart disease. But if you don’t die of cancer or heart disease then what are you supposed to die of? I have never experienced the death of a person who is very close to me. Uncles, grandparents, long-lost friends… their deaths were distant and not something I would expect to to be powerfully moved by.

When my parents die I wonder if I will I feel pain and sadness, emptiness or simply relief. I wonder this when I see my father struggle into the passenger side of a car and pull his right foot slowly, slowly into the footwell. It takes him an eternity to just get in.

It sounds weird, even shameful to suggest we should welcome or be relieved by death in any way. But I we do. And I’m pretty sure when my time comes, I will.

I’ve had it with the Electoral College

Posted December 20, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

In the American presidential election I am one vote among tens of millions. But it doesn’t seem that small. It seems a lot smaller. It seems meaningless. The reason for this is the Electoral College.

American presidents are not elected by people, they’re elected by states. And today, December 20th, the states cast their electoral votes. All of the state’s electors go to the winning candidate in the state. I have influence over who wins in California but no influence over who wins the presidency.

Donald Trump lost the election by almost 3 million votes, and he's going to be the next president.

Donald Trump lost the election by almost 3 million votes, and he’s going to be the next president.

Unless you live in a swing state your vote is wasted. You may as well write in Calvin Coolidge. And if you live in a large urban state your vote counts less than it does in a small rural state.

In Wyoming each elector represents 143,000 people. In California each elector represents 500,00 people. In the 2016 election Donald Trump lost by almost 3 million votes. And he still is going to be the next president.

With the Electoral College, the presidential election is a stacked deck in a game of cards. The arcane system of choosing presidents through state electors was a compromise reached in the late 18th century that had little to do with reflecting the will of the people.

It had a lot to do with protecting the interests of former colonies that were jealous of their power. It had a lot to do with protecting the interests of slave holders, who managed to get people they considered their property to be counted as three-fifths of a person in the U.S. House and in the Electoral College.

The argument for getting rid of the Electoral College is as simple as the principal of one man one vote. My vote for president in California should have exactly the same value it has in Wyoming or South Dakota. It should be exactly as important as a vote in a swing state because they are no better citizens.

We need to have a popular vote for president. It’s long past time. The Electoral College is undemocratic. It devalues the office of the president, and it has to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

Not Writing Enough

Posted December 12, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I got a Christmas card from my old friend Vera Bestgen, who follows this blog all the way from Hamburg, Germany. She said I’m not writing enough. She doesn’t just mean I’m not writing to her enough. I’m not writing in CUL-DE-SAC enough. She’s right of course.

I started this blog in October of 2009, after a took a class that taught me to use the blogging software WordPress. My first post was the story of my first trip to Disneyland at the age of 49. Since then I’ve written about Germany and the year I spent with Vera and her family as a high school kid. I’ve written about my daughter’s first communion. The list goes on. Seven years worth.

I’m a professional journalist and I learned a long time ago that I didn’t have the time or inclination to write a successful blog. Maybe I don’t really get it… this blogging business.

What I write is essentially a diary. I love to write, and when I open my laptop and pour myself a whiskey on the rocks I get great satisfaction describing things and summing up my thoughts on a topic, even when I know I may be the only person that’ll read it.

A lot of what we know about the past comes from written correspondence. And the care people used to take with the letters they wrote is not seen in the volumes of electronic correspondence today. Historians are bummed. But maybe blogs like this are the same thing as the letters of the old days. Maybe what I’m doing is writing letters to myself and, naturally, to anyone else who cares to read them online.

I’ve gotten way off the point of not writing enough.

But I’ll write more and I’ll try to keep them interesting. The last thing I wrote about was my dog that died. Since then we’ve gotten two new ones. Here they are.dogs










Marbles RIP.

Posted October 21, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Pets teach us about death.

Death was once so common from contagious illnesses and the takings of war. But medicine has made disease a weak master and technology has made war such a horrible one we have to avoid it at all costs.

So in my life, death has become something that seems to trouble only the very old and people with terrible luck. No one close to my children or me has died.

But we’ve lost pets.

This week we buried the ashes of our small dog Marbles next to a foot-tall flat-topped wall that he used to walk on. He’d trot the length of it, looking at the patio below and our garden next to the wall. It seemed like a peaceful exercise for him and I can look outside and imagine his spirit doing it now.

I won’t say how Marbles died, but it was unexpected and terrible and I blame myself for what happened. We don’t know how old Marbles was because we got him from a Shih Tzu rescue agency, and they didn’t know either. But we do know — maybe it’s ironic — that he got two extra chances at life.

Before we adopted him we were told he had a huge bladder stone that was life-threatening and the rescue group gave him surgery to remove it. We had had him for about two years when the same thing happened again. We didn’t know how to prevent it so we didn’t see it coming.

We were prepared to put him down, given how expensive the surgery would be, but we called the rescue group and they said no… they would find a vet to do it cheaply. They did. He recovered. And we got to keep him. We learned how to regulate his diet and prevent it from happening again soon. He seemed to be doing fine for a while. But then he died.

We keep chickens and I remember one time we had two baby chicks. Sophie and a friend (they were little girls then) decided they should give them a bath, but by doing it they drowned them. That night we took them out to the garden for a burial as Sophie and Nicholas wept.

We had a young cat named Molly who was one of our cat Maya’s kittens. One night she got out and never returned. Nicholas insisted we print up fliers with our phone number and photo of Molly and post them on telephone poles around the neighborhood. We did, but I’d seen those kinds of fliers before. There are coyotes in the area and the fliers usually meant someone’s cat had become their prey.

We must embrace death as part of life. Today in California we have right-to-die laws that are supposed to make death more pleasant. People whose lives are full of choices think it’s only logical they should also be allowed to choose how they’ll die. Though I must embrace death I will not choose it. I only pray that death comes to me before it comes to my children.





Beggar’s Camp

Posted July 10, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

The median strip at a traffic light is the favorite place for panhandlers. It’s an island in the road where cars have to stop until the light changes. I was at College and Montezuma about a mile from my home where I saw two median islands and each had been claimed.

They set up little campsites with their backpacks and bottles of water and they hold their signs, explaining that they’re short on luck. Some claim to be homeless vets. Some say they’ll work for food, though I doubt that work or food is really what they want. I think they want a cash handout.

Beggars camp

College & Montezuma

My wife is a library manager and that has given her a great knowledge of the homeless and people who panhandle. She was in Pacific Beach a couple of days ago and went to a liquor store to buy a bottle of Tanqueray.

All the big bottles were locked up in cabinets behind the cash register. But right out in front of the register were open bins that were full of small vodka bottles, the kind you get if you order a drink on an airplane. To her practiced eye the message was clear: Go out and panhandle for a couple of hours until you get five bucks then come in here and buy a couple of small ones.

Panhandle is a funny work. I guess it came from a day when beggars would ask for money and hold out a pan, hoping you’d put something in there. But I’ve never seen anyone hold out a pan when they wanted money so I wonder why we say it. Maybe beggar is too impolite.