On Ghosts; a poem

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised

that there is no substance to a ghost;

no sign of recognition from a digital apparition floating past my screen,

a parallel life and dimension that holds only the most tenuous of connections; a shared misery and despair

that there isn’t anybody there

who cares enough to respond with even the most innocuous of pleasantries.

But oh, afeared spirit, I do hope you find your peace, are exorcized and released

from any obligation on this plane that might cause you more pain; the torment of regret, of lost love’s lament, of notes never sent.

Though now I bid you adieu, I won’t expect the same from you, tortured spirit of the web, captive specter of a dream’s flow and ebb.

So float on, phantom menace and disturb my thoughts no more

I’ll try to keep an open mind while I show you the door.

The ‘Stones Of Years”

I found myself unexpectedly tearing-up while listening to some AM Hits Of The Seventies, today. It wasn’t the lyrics in particular, but the “weight” of so much time that had passed bearing down on me.

That’s why you don’t look back; not because it’s useless to ponder past mistakes, or the road not taken, or all the things that are now inescapably unchangeable now, but because the weight of time, the “stones of years” if you will, can crush you under it’s sobering, existential heft.

Best not to look back and know when the wheel of time has caught up with you.

🎶 Has the dawn ever seen your eyes?
Have the days made you so unwise?
Realise you are

Had you talked to the winds of time
Then you’d know how the waters rhyme
Taste of wine

How can you know where you’ve been?
In time you’ll see the sign
And realise your sin

Will you know how the seed is sown?
All your time has been overgrown
Never known

Have you walked on the stones of years?
When you speak, is it you that hears?
Are your ears full?

You can’t hear anything at all 🎶

– Greg Lake, ELP, “Tarkus; Stones Of Years”, 1971

I used to like birthdays…

Like Christmas, when you’re a kid, birthdays were filled with a kind of magical power. Not only was your existence the focus of everyone’s attention, but you could expect some nice gifts as well.

The fact that mine took place in the spring usually meant bikes, or kites, or balsa-wood gliders, or any number of toys that could be enjoyed with my friends outdoors. Good times.

As I grew older, say, in my teens and twenties, I came to expect that kind of attention. I’d even pout if it wasn’t forthcoming. I’d hate myself when that happened.

Now, at 56, I’ve come to expect the opposite; I hope that my birthday passes with little to no fanfare. I bristle at the attention and force a smile and a thank you.

I even set my Facebook profile so that it doesn’t publish the fact. But to no avail, the birthday wishes come flooding in and there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop it. So I respond politely and as expected. This will go on all day. 😏

Today, there’s a calming rain outside the carport and i’m sitting with Jett, one of our two cats, while she cleans herself and enjoys the simple comfort of a seat cushion.

Later, i’ll drive out to my daughter’s house and hang with her for a little while. I won’t stay too long, as my twenty-something tattooed girl probably has no idea how to entertain me, nor do I expect it.

No, at this point, my expectations for birthdays is on par with my expectations for everything else – purposely low.

Welp, the FB notifications keep flooding-in. I’d better attend to them with a “Thanks!” and a “😊” – my standard polite response. That’s what’s expected, after all.

Dear Diary: Emotional Support Pet 4-30-21

Over the past year, my relationship to women has been turned completely upside down.

The woman i’ve been with for thirty years, to whom i’ve been married for 20, I now realize never had any physical desire for me whatsoever.

To her, it seems, I simply fulfilled an expected role as “husband” and “father”, and maybe “partner” and “co-provider” at best. I’m needed, but i’m not wanted.

Once this realization set-in, with her identity confirmed as being firmly “asexual”, I lost a part of my own identity.

Any remaining passion I had for her, or for other women in general as compensatory objects of my physical desire, vanished completely and left me spinning aimlessly in zero-G, as if everything I once counted on to keep me oriented in space floated away.

Since then my brain, if not my body, grasped for anything that might bring that old orientation back, but to no avail; every woman i’ve reached out to, regardless of initial infatuations or flirtations, now treats me like an emotional-support pet, someone they can unload on when the mood strikes. I’m just a text away.

It’s my own fault, really, I invite it. I even enjoy it to a point. I have a problem with maintaining proper emotional boundaries but that’s a family-of-origin story I won’t go into here.

So that’s one way to look at my current situation, and, despite my role in creating it, I’m tempted to feel some resentment. I don’t want to be somebody’s emotional-support pet. I want to rediscover my passion, but it might be unrecoverable and, ultimately, undesirable.

So, instead, I can choose to look at this phase as an evolution of my Anima development to the “Mary” phase: relating to woman (women) exclusively as a friend – and nothing more – not the subject of delusional infatuations (i.e. emotional transference objects) or the objects of projecting my physical desires.

Nor should I revert to the earliest “Eve” phase; woman as mother. I remember the devotees at the Hare Krishna temple used to say, “Treat every woman as Mātā”, or “mother”, which is just another way of saying treat every woman with the respect you would give your own mother.

But no, I will not; because woman as a friend, as “Mary”, will be given only the respect she warrants and nothing more. You cannot be a friend to someone if you have ulterior motives, be it seeking the comfort of “mother” or the promising satisfaction of “Helen” (woman as the object of desire, the second phase Anima development).

Making this transition over the last year has been uncomfortable for me, someone who heavily identified with objectifying women no matter the depth of my relationship to them; there was always an underlying sexual motive or expectation involved.

Ever so slowly, however, i’m learning to surrender those expectations – or the universe has been teaching me and i’m finally starting to listen.

P.S. if you don’t know what the hell i’m rambling on about when I talk about “Anima Development”, you can read a bit about it by clicking the link below:

Rediscovering the Anima and its Development

Dear Diary: 4-16-21 The Hazards Of Online Dating

I joined an online dating site but it feels like a mistake. Everyone is looking for their “forever“ person. I’m in no position to be anybody’s forever anything.

[And if you don’t already know from reading this blog, i’m married to asexual who’s given me permission to find physical intimacy elsewhere, assuming it’s possible….or desirable….eh, i’m still trying to work all that out. Read past posts on this subject if interested.]

Besides, forever aint what it used to be at my age (almost 56). I live in the moment. I’ll be happy to get through the next week without some real or imagined existential crisis.

So I feel like I’m just sucking up oxygen meant for people who are actually single on that site. I do wish for their success if it brings them any comfort. I don’t want to stand in the way of anybody’s comfort.

That said, I’ve been completely transparent about my circumstances. Maybe that works against me because i’m not participating in popular romantic myth of “happily ever afters”. I’m looking for a supplement not a cure.

I’ve even received compliments about how refreshing it is that somebody “lays it all out there with no fronting”, but i’ve found no dates or genuine interest yet – at least not from anyone i’d be interested in (i.e. close enough geographically and close-enough looks-wise).

But a funny thing happens when you’ve scrolled through hundreds of profiles; you begin to question your requirements and your comfort zone.

For example, I’ve had a lot of passing interest from black women, which is fine and welcome, just surprising. I’ve never considered dating a black woman before because of my relatively insulated, exclusively white, privileged, suburban upbringing.

I know enough to realize, generally speaking, that their experience of growing up in the US likely bears little resemblance to my experience (just watch US news on any given night); we may as well have grown up on different planets.

So even though I welcome the differences and I’m not at all averse to dating across racial lines, the cultural difference and our tortured history still give me pause. I’m tempted to try it just to confront my bias – which is lousy reason to date anybody. Swipe-left….

I did recently extend a hand to a nearby prospect, even though she didn’t show any interest in me whatsoever. Immediately following that I had a moment of panic; what if she says yes? What am I going to wear? Do I need to clean out the car? What are we going to do? How can we do it safely without worsening the firestorm of Coronavirus? (You may have heard that Michigan is the hottest hotspot in the country right now – not exactly conducive to dating.) How does anybody navigate this shit? Especially now; I haven’t even got my Covid shots yet.

But no danger; she never responded and I know she’s been on the site since I sent the invite. I’m starting to realize my being an “older man” does me no favors in the dating dept. Just as well, I think i’m more comfortable living in my post-sexual, quasi-marital, insulated bubble anyway. It may be passionless and dull, but It’s safe in here.

So I moved on from the hunting and gathering part of the site to the blog part of the site. At least there, I thought, I might get a better sense of who people actually are, what they think – as opposed to a list of various factoids and wishes. But it wasn’t much help.

The blogs are few and far in between; more like FB status updates than complete thoughts. And lo, if you do have the audacity to type more than two paragraphs on an idea and maybe even try to inject some humor into your post you’ll likely be flamed unmercifully for your efforts. The culture of this particular site reminds me of the early days of America Online or MySpace (there’s even a community chat-room with comments flying all over the place in no comprehensible order)- ugh, it’s the wild, wild, west all over again.

After only a couple weeks I concluded this whole online dating thing feels so inorganic, so unnatural, so forced, it’s no wonder people on these platforms are so suspicious and sensitive. It’s anxiety-inducing and depressing when it feels like everyone is walking around with an agenda – and not necessarily the one stated in their bio.

What’s worse is there’s a plethora of fake accounts trying to phish you, the site-owners trying to up-sell you (you essentially can’t do anything with a free account and what you get for a paid account is awful), and the players out there making you look bad. The whole prospect of finding a stable connection with somebody of similar age, character, and interests seems impossible.

No, i’d do better soliciting strangers with handbills in front of a strip-mall wearing a biohazard suit.

A “Big Guy” Reviews The Pelican Coast 100XR “sit-on” Recreational Kayak.

The Pelican Coast 100XR.

I was anxious to try out my new recreational sit-on kayak and get a feel for it. After having dumped my sit-in kayak a few times last year and having to drag it to shore and dump out the water (not always possible, btw), I was hoping this new set-up would make that eventuality much easier.

Ahhhh, back on the river.

I should preface this review by telling you that I am 6’3” tall and 270lbs – So it can be a challenge to find a kayak that will suit me and keep me buoyant – which is why I originally bought a sit-in fishing kayak.

So, first the good news. The Pelican Coast 100XR recreational kayak is relatively cheap (lists for $420 – I paid $350), it’s lightweight (46lbs), and with it’s 325lb weight capacity kept my large frame well above water at all times. The seat is durable, relatively comfortable, and removable if you need a place to sit onshore.

Now for the bad news, at least for Sasquatches like me. 😁

What I realized immediately when I got on the river was my center of gravity on a “sit-on” kayak is much higher than a “sit-in” kayak, making the odds of tipping it over better. This required more concentration and a different set of skills from the “sit-in” kayak I already had.

I had to learn to lie back in the “Ergocast SB Seating System™” (meh, I still used a seat cushion and back pad) and NOT move the trunk of my body at all, but only my arms and shoulders, otherwise it got very “tippy” (technical term, right? 😁). Maybe i’ll try skipping the cushion next time to lower my center of gravity.

Pelican’s “Ergocast SB Seating System™”. Comfortable enough, but I still used pads.

Something else I realized about this type of seat: I wouldn’t be able to duck a “limbo-log” (fallen tree over the river) as the seat-back does not allow me to recline.

The fixed, molded plastic foot rests are terribly uncomfortable for me if I moved my feet around at all; the other rest pegs jabbed into my ankles and calves. As you’ll see below, i’m very tall so the furthest peg is my only option. I much prefer truly adjustable foot rests that slide back and forth.

The moulded foot pegs are uncomfortable for me and the “Quick-Lock Hatch” unusable on the water as I couldn’t reach it.

The “large rear tank well” would be fine for a cooler, but because there are bilge-holes in this kayak, that go clear through to the water, there’s a permanent puddle in the back (at least when you’re as big as I am), so you can’t store anything that can’t get wet. Pelican does make a “storage pod” for this purpose.

The large rear tank-well has bilge-holes that go clean through to the water. Pelican does make a storage pod for keeping things dry, though.

Normally, I’d store my orange dry-bag in the forward “Quick-Lock” hatch, but I found no liner inside (is it missing or does it not come with one? It’s not mentioned on Pelican’s page), and really, I couldn’t reach it anyway without fear of capsizing – so that was unusable on the water.

Then I realized this hatch would probably defeat the purpose of me trying to keep water out of the inside of the kayak anyway, should it leak when tipped over. If you look closely at the sticker on the hatch below, it says it’s not 100% water-tight but it does have an o-ring seal.

The “Quick-Lock” hatch isn’t 100% water-tight and it’s unreachable on the water. Also, smaller items can get lost inside the kayak as there’s nothing preventing them from sliding backward.

All in all, it’s a decent kayak for the money but not for someone of my size. I think i’d be happier with a wider fishing kayak that’s more stable. Of course, that can be quite a bit more money.

The Pelican Coast 100XR would be a good recreational kayak for someone smaller and more spry than me who, maybe, doesn’t want to cover up their legs while they’re sunbathing on the river. I got a decent sunburn on my thighs and calves, even this early in the season.

The author attempts a selfie while trying to avoid ending up in the drink. 😉
Thanks for reading!

Morning Scribbles: 4-1-21

I have just a few minutes to scribble my thoughts down while I sip my black coffee and suck on my vape.

It’s Thursday, the fourth day after finishing my latest vacation, and I already feel tired. My body aches from neglecting to keep up with my workouts during vacation – but at least I’ve picked it back up again this week and didn’t just let it all fall apart. My wife asked me last night if I feel more fit. I kinda do, but the body doesn’t respond at 55yrs old the way it did at 25. Besides, i’m really just doing it to maintain whatever I have left. I’ll have to be even more strict with my diet if I’m to really look more fit.

Tonight will be “Game Of Thrones” night with my brother. He and mom are doing really well, which makes me happy – or at least less miserable than I would be if they were not. I still call mom every day on the way home; that’s our routine. Routines are important. Especially when you get older.

I asked Cheryl, out of the blue last night, if she’d rather live with me or her friend Vicki. She was surprised by that. It was just a question. Our relationship has grown so routine, so “room-matey” these days that I found myself wondering what it’d be like to live alone after thirty years. And sometimes she seems as irritated with my presence as I am irritated at her lack of empathy, inquisitiveness, or need for intimacy.

Not really sure I’m built for living alone. Hell, I live with her and I still feel lonely. She has no problems enjoying her own company for long stretches at a time. Me, not so much. I get irritable and anxious – but I’m beginning to surrender to it.

She says she only gets tired of being responsible. I’ve heard that before, which is why I always offer and help with cooking, laundry, and whatever else she need get done.

Well, time to make my salad and go to work. The dog is awaiting his portion of the ritual.

Essentially Screwed

Rant warning….

Not gonna lie, i’m starting to feel a bit resentful as I watch all my fb friends get the vaccine while I, an “essential worker” (a.k.a. a sucker who worked through the entire pandemic with exposure to others) patiently waits his turn. I should know better than to do capitalism any favors. 😏

Sure, I got on “a” list (Oakland County’s “Save Your Spot”) and periodically (like every couple months) get reminded via email that i’m still on it. Yeah, thanks.

Meanwhile, people who have nothing better to do all day than scour the internet for available vaccines (because, like everything in capitalism, of course, getting access to vaccines is a competition) sign up for multiple lists, get their shots, and likely forget (or more likely “don’t care”) to cancel the other appointments they get, thus resulting in wasted vaccine. That’s what happened down at Ford Field in Detroit, i’m told.

So this morning, when I saw another “friend” successfully navigate the vaccine rollout clusterfuck, I felt a bit triggered, but I held my tongue….er…thumbs…er text – you know what I mean.

As others congratulated them on their accomplishment, as has become the custom online, I simmered, but I didn’t rain on their parade. I nearly did; I typed and re-typed my comment, erased it, considered posting it to my own page, then finally settled on you, dear anonymous WP reader. Lucky you! 😁

But on my way to my “essential job” this morning, I started to get some perspective after hearing a story about a guy who ended up homeless because he lost his gig, couldn’t pay rent, then got evicted – which, in “Racketopia” (my nickname for the U.S.) is essentially the same as branding yourself with a scarlet “E”, rendering you a bad bet and unlikely to rent another home or apartment on your own with that hanging over you. He’s now paying more to live week-to-week in a motel than he did to stay in his apartment. Not completely clear on exactly how that happened (story was on NPR’s “Morning Edition” 3-30-21).

Also, I’ve heard the roll-out in Ontario, CA is even worse. Seniors who managed to get the first vaccine, can’t get the follow-up booster because of logistical f-ups on the part of the government or perhaps lack of access due to the U.S. sucking-up all the available resources. 🤷‍♂️

So i’ve settled down since I got “essentially” triggered this morning and now count my blessings.

First, I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself if I was forced to stay home, anyway. I’d rather work – and i’m lucky to do it. Like i’ve said before, barely anything has changed for me during the Covid-19 pandemic, save for my ability to travel internationally. That’s all, really. I should be so lucky.

Secondly (maybe this should have been firstly), nobody I know has died of Covid-19. There’s a half-million families in the U.S. who, sadly, cannot say the same.

Finally, ANYONE getting the vaccine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (and now its variants) is a win for me because that’s one more person who, hopefully, won’t be spreading it (I hope, that science is still a bit murky to me).

So if you’ve managed to get vaccinated and you’re not an “essential worker”, congratulations, and i’m honestly happy for you – now that i’ve thought about it a bit.

Now go help others get vaccinated; some of us out here in the “essential” trenches are depending on you.

Wandering Michigan’s Left Coast In The Off-Season Day 2 1/2: Grand Haven

You can read the first two installments of this three-part series here and here.

After checking the weather forecast, I realized I would have to hustle if I wanted to see more sights and drop in for visits with friends and family.

So I drove out of Holland and headed north to Grand Haven on the same day. I figured I could make myself some lunch and have a picnic at the beach, maybe, before I hit the road again.

Again, my destination would start, and this time end, with a state park.
Grand Haven State Park seems to have a much larger beach than my previous two destinations, but the lighthouses are what attracted my attention.
A dozen or so tourists and and a few fisherman wander up and down the South Pier at Grand Haven State Park.
A Coast Guard patrol boat begins its rounds as I wander down the pier along the Grand River. There’s a USCG station nearby.
This is approximately where i’m standing as I watch the Coast Guard boat drift by and then into Lake Michigan.
As I wander by other tourists on the pier, I offer to take photos of couples and small groups who can’t get everybody in their own shot. Some thank me graciously and take me up on the offer and some defer.
Nobody reciprocates.
Which is fine; my arms are plenty long enough for a proper selfie. 😉
Detail of the lighthouse power-railing. Notice the lights; they fire them all up at night.
Another detail of the lighthouse power-railing.
A monument to “lives lost off these piers in honor of those who tried to save them”. Makes me wonder how many of those stories there are.
Coming upon the first lighthouse, I notice there’s no historical information on the pier itself (maybe I missed it jumping from the beach, over the rocks, and onto the pier?). No matter, you can read about the restoration here and a little history here.
Detail of the cylindrical lighthouse.
Another detail of the cylindrical lighthouse.
Looking over to the North Pier from the South Pier.
Finally, I reach the”Foghouse” (which includes a fog horn) at the end of the South Pier. For a moment I wonder why they paint them all red, then quickly realize it offers the best contrast to all the blue surrounding it.
The last remnants of snow and ice hang on to the Grand Haven Foghouse and continue to melt in the early spring sun.
There’s something soothing about the dripping of water…and the promise of spring.
Clouds encroach on my location and I realize my time on Michigan’s “Left” Coast is coming to an end…for now. So I found a picnic table overlooking the Grand River (which I had to drive to – there are no tables at the beach), made myself a salad, then headed north and east to see friends and family, then home the next day.
Thanks for reading!

Wandering Michigan’s Left Coast In The Off-Season Day 2: Holland, MI

My next destination was Holland, MI, only a hop & a skip from Saugatuck; less than a twenty-minute drive in light traffic.

Holland, MI, like it’s namesake in the Netherlands, is famous for its tulips, specifically the annual Tulip Festival which was cancelled last year due to Covid-19. This year some of the outdoor festivities will return, i’ve read.

But like I said in the previous post, I’m traveling off-season so none of that’s happening for me. Still, there has to be something to see, right?

I decided to follow my previous scheme: find the state park and go from there.

Holland State Park map, Macatawa Bay, and Lake Michigan to the left.

I found the ranger’s station at Holland State Park, hoping to collect some info and maps on the area attractions, but what I found were just a bunch of weathered advertisements in a weathered, plastic display case near a weathered door that read, “Closed”.

Finally, a young park employee came out from behind the building and asked if he could help me. He seemed a bit startled by the off-season vagabond looking for an adventure.

I asked him what I could hope to do around here and he pointed me toward the tall mound in the woods behind the station (huh, hadn’t noticed that before) known as “Mt. Pisgah”, not to be confused with the Appalachian mountain of the same name in North Carolina.

He instructed me to park down the road at a boardwalk and walk back to the entrance of the Mt. Pisgah overlook. Then I could climb the stairs to the overlook and/or hike the trails.

A view of Macatawa Bay from Black Lake Boardwalk, where I parked.
The entrance to the Mt. Pisgah overlook off Ottowa Beach Rd.

To get to the top of Mt. Pisgah you have two options: hike the long and winding trail, OR climb some stairs….um, a whole-lotta stairs, actually. 😳 I chose the quicker, albeit more painful option.

Welp, looks like i’ll get my leg-workout today after all. 😳
I should note there were several landings with benches to take a breather so you don’t die unexpectedly.

After huffing and puffing in my covid mask (because there were actually a few other people there) I managed to breach the summit and take a look around, my heart now beating through my chest. But it was worth the view.

A gorgeous view of Lake Michigan with the Holland Harbor Lighthouse (locally known as “Big Red”), the beach, and two piers.
Another detail on the horizon that caught my eye (just off to the left of the preceding photo). Who lives in that massive “cottage” behind “Big Red”? Turns out it was built by Amway heir, David Van Andel. You can read more about that here.
Just a detail of a dune fence that caught my eye, as seen from the overlook. Why are these so appealing?
The view opposite Lake Michigan, overlooking Makatawa Bay, which is lined with yacht clubs, resorts, and (ugh) condos.

A couple locals who were also enjoying the overlook told me how to get down to Big Red and the beach. So I huffed it back down the stairs (much more enjoyable than going up, btw) and drove to the beach to get a closer look.

The Holland Harbor Lighthouse
(a.k.a. “Big Red”).
Some history on “Big Red”.
Some more history on “Big Red”(opposite side of sign).
A close-up of the Holland Harbor Lighthouse (a.k.a. “Big Red”)
An N.O.A.A weather station near the beach. You can actually watch the live feed of the camera (see above right), and other locations in Holland, Mi. here. The camera helps them watch for rip-tides so they can warn swimmers and boaters.
A view of one of the piers as seen from the boardwalk in front of the beach.
A view from the beach, looking north.
A less inspiring view looking northeast from the boardwalk.
In other countries around the world you might see some awe-inspiring edifices along their pristine coastlines. In America… f’n ugly-ass condos! Pity our lack of vision.
A satellite view of where I was standing near Ottawa Beach…. taken during a much busier time, I assume. Look at all those boats!
This is the only boat I saw while I was there; a lone fisherman between the piers.
A woman taking photos of ??? along the pier. I asked her if she was “waiting for her ship to come in.” She laughed, and then told me this place calms her before she has to go see her mother in a local nursing home.

It was Time for me to see what else Holland Michigan had to offer an off-season tourist. It seemed to me that I saw an actual windmill somewhere along the coast as I was driving into town. Let’s go check it out.

Driving seven miles east of Holland State Park, along the Macataw River on the other side of town, is Windmill Island…where, indeed, I did spot an actual windmill!
And there it is! Located at the Windmill Island Gardens. Let’s get a closer look.
Some history of the DeZwaan Windmill , ‘the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the United States’. Wikipedia.
Glorious edifice! They should build more of these, if anything, along Holland’s beautiful coastline. Get some clean energy to boot! Bulldoze the condos! 😁
And they can even “Grind yer bones to make me bread!” 😉
A detail of the business-end of the windmill.
A detail of the entrance to the windmill.
A detail of some of the windows in the windmill.
A detail of the Macatawa River, the bridge, the greenhouse, and a gazebo (looking back from the windmill). There’s also a lovely walking path around the grounds (not pictured) where some of the locals take their exercise.

Well, that’s enough of Holland for one day. On to Grand Haven in another installment.