The workhorse

I’m typing this blog post today on a 2013 MacBook Air.

I have to say, this little machine has fit me like a glove, however unintentionally. It was bought hurriedly, to replace an aging PowerBook with a dying battery, and at the time I overbought because the tricked-out model was in stock at the Apple Store.

Since then, it’s been a trusty partner for our household. For most of its life, it was the shared home computer for my wife and me, as well as for our children as they began to get online. Between that and our work machines it did good broad duty.

Last year, we got two new computers in rapid succession—a family replacement for this computer, and a new Macbook Air for our older son—and this became our disposable unit that I’d bring to work, coffee shops, etc. When covid-19 hit, our younger son took over the new laptop, leaving me on this machine full-time.

With the exception of a command key that popped out (I popped it back in, poorly but effectively; one corner has been sunken into the body for years) and a midlife battery replacement, it’s been reliable and productive. In this year of remote use, it’s finally starting to falter under heavy use: the trackpad isn’t clicking well, and I’m wearing off the coating on the other command key.

With the specter of more remote learning ahead, I’m probably going to buy yet another laptop, so my fourth grader and I don’t have to bicker over the “good” computer. If the 2013 Air died midstream I’d be in for a long week.

But I have to say I’ve been very content. This computer just goes and goes. When it crashes—there’s a lot of cruft on my machine after 7 years—restarts are quick and save states respected. The Magsafe power cord has saved me many times. Staying on an old OS (I’m still on Sierra! That’s borderline embarrassing) has allowed me to keep old software humming along (I’m looking at you, Photoshop CS 5.1). And while I’m not fussy about such things, I do find that the old school keyboard is more comfortable than the chiclets on the 2019 Airs in our possession.

It’s been a good machine. I’m sure it will linger (for the Photoshop, mostly). And that will be fine.

“You should have your own place in the internet.”

Hear hear! There’s a reason you can still read my twentieth-century writings, in their original format, at their original URLs, and it has everything to do with many of the points in this essay about blogging on one’s own website. (Not that you should read my old blog posts, but some of them are still fun.)

Deep in the era of essential/evil/ephemeral social media, having your own little corner of the internet is still a wondeful thing.

(Via Longboard)

After Shopping

Hey, I’m blogging again! Yes, a little bit here, but much more at After Shopping, my new site keeping track of the changing landscape of retail and storefronts as America grapples with the economic impacts of covid-19.

This is familiar territory for me in an unfamiliar environment. Longtime readers of this space will recall Timely Demise, which I spooled up during the financial crisis, just over a decade ago. I had a good run with it and learned a ton.

I’d thought about rebooting the concept for a few weeks and got set up in just the past few days. Once I found a name that resonated, and an appropriate angle to pursue, I was off and running. And run I shall: just to baseline the news to date for launch, I penned nine blog posts in the span of a few hours.

With effort, determination and a bit of good fortune, most of America’s retail footprint will persevere, but we’re already on a trajectory for an unimaginable amount of change. I’m hoping to capture as much of it as I can in one space and understand the forces and trends behind it.

I’m excited for this project and hope it proves interesting and enlightening. I wrote a little more about the concept over there, but readers can also just start at the top and explore.

Day 67

Yesterday my wife and I had a brief argument over what day of the week it was.

I’ve started adding little things to my calendar just to keep track of time. Normally, it keeps track of what I do: non-work activities, kid stuff, social plans. Now, of course, most of that is shot. A few weeks ago I looked at my calendar and saw nothing. And suddenly, I had no idea what went on those days. It was unsettling.

We joke about how life has become a blur, how days of the week no longer have meaning, that maybe I need to bring back the “Feels Like” Forecast, only it won’t say anything. But it’s true: without pacing, life really does blur together, sometimes for good (two-week vacation, anyone?) and other times, not.

So now my calendar includes the mundane. “Finish jigsaw puzzle.” “Costco delivery.” “Cronchy potatoes.” Things that otherwise wouldn’t matter, but now do. Because they give life structure: meaning, progress, momentum.

I am grateful for work, for my wife’s work, for my kids’ school, not just for the obvious (growth, interaction, income) but because we benefit from the pacing. Even intra-day: when the boys have class after lunch, the whole day feels better, because there’s a reason for them to engage in the afternoons. Yesterday they managed to while away 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in sprawling online playdates, more or less, and came out of them dazed and blinkering. Should we spend the summer in WFH and without camp, we’re going to have a robust activity schedule. Again: structure.

As with my last post, though, I have little to complain about. The boys are doing great in school, the missus is producing amazing things, the dog has learned how to fist bump, our extended family is safe and sound. I’m at peace with the monotony while we await our emergence from it.

Day 47

In our household, the key to keeping spirits high is soft drinks.

Since heading into isolation mode, we have spared no expense in keeping the carbonated and sweetened refreshments flowing. It’s an easy way to get a kick of energy, or a happy little mouth tingle, or just a change of pace from the pitcher of Brita in the fridge.

It would be hard to overstate our saturation. We have, in the house right now, one or more of the following, many in cases: Diet Coke, Coke Zero, caffeine free Diet Coke, Honest Tea, diet Snapple, Arizona Arnold Palmer light tea, Sparkling Poland Spring, Vintage seltzer, four flavors of Polar seltzer, three flavors of LaCroix, three flavors of Bai, Gatorade, Coca-Cola and Canada Dry ginger ale. We had some San Pellegrino, too, but we ran out.

Since March 14 we have been in the suburbs, my very busy wife and our rather accommodating sons and our food-stealing dog and me, rather comfortably ensconced in a large house with a ping-pong table and plenty of space and decent wifi and, thanks to some quick last-minute thinking, a brand new basketball hoop in the driveway.

Of course, like everyone else who left city apartments for houses as the crisis approached, we only have parts of our existence, despite the surfeit of seltzer. Limited clothing, limited toys and games, no household projects to take care of, a general sense of mild displacement. On par, though, we’re really quite okay.

When 9/11 happened, I was an active blogger in the early days of blogging, and that activity was core to my existence. My posts came daily, a way of communicating, a way of coping. When we began to experience life in the novel coronavirus era, I expected to do the same.

Yet I have not. I’m posting a little bit on social media, and chatting: on various forums and in WhatsApp and Zoom. But that’s all. It turns out my emotional strength is being utilized differently. I’m supporting my children, my wife, my colleagues and extended family, including some who have dealt with the virus.

Also, unlike 9/11, which was a shock, the coronavirus is a rolling tide, with a continual worry about the near future, yet very little that’s imminent. I often find myself completely spent by 9 p.m., wanting only to watch old reruns on cable TV and assemble jigsaw puzzles, rather than expend more effort into, say, extemporaneous composition. (Case in point: when I began drafting this essay, the title was Day 38.) Unlike September 11, when we literally watched and smelled the disaster, my experience has been more removed. I am grateful for that, and for my six family members and friends who have already recovered from the virus.

In my household, we are all healthy; we’re sleeping in a bit; we are at work and at school, in routines that are starting to feel routine. I’ve been very good (read lucky) at securing food delivery slots. The ping-pong and basketball are great. And, because we left home, we have less of our own stuff to fuss over, which leads to lots of time spent just playing games with the kids and cooking. And consuming soft drinks.

So, yeah, I’m doing okay. I hope you are, too. Stay safe in there.

The decade in cities

Hitting publish on my annual Year in Cities post made me think it’d be interesting to compile the past ten years of overnight travel into a single entry.

I suspected the first decade of the century was arguably more interesting—I got my passport in 1999, and in the ’00s went to Europe, China, and Central America. But this decade I seem to have ventured as far as Australia, and to twenty-one states (plus the District of Columbia) and ten countries, so there’s some meat on these bones. Let’s see where I’ve been:

Domestic

Akron, OH
Alexandria, VA
Arlington, VA
Athens, GA
Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX
Baltimore, MD
Bellevue, WA
Blue Bell, PA
Bolton Landing, NY
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL
Cleveland, OH
Dallas, TX
Denver, CO
East Hampton, NY
Edgartown, MA
Gloucester, MA
Grapevine, TX
Groton, CT
Hanover, NH
Hawley, PA
Hershey, PA
Jacksonville, FL
Lake Buena Vista, FL
Lakewood, NJ
Las Vegas, NV
Lenox, MA
Livingston, NJ
Longboat Key, FL
Madison, WI
Montauk, NY
Mooresville, NC
New City, NY
New York
Newton, MA
North Creek, NY
Orlando, FL
Palenville, NY
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Plymouth Meeting, PA
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
San Diego, CA
Santa Monica, CA
Saratoga Springs, NY
Short Hills, NJ
Washington, DC
West Tisbury, MA
West Warwick, RI
Wheeling, IL
Williamstown, MA
Winter Haven, FL

International

Avignon, France
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hong Kong
London, England
Paradise Island, the Bahamas
Paris, France
Positano, Italy
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla, British West Indies
Rome, Italy
St. Thomas, USVI
Sydney, Australia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada