Birthdays, kayaks and getting back to normal

For the past week my life has been kayaks and birthday lunches.

I’ve never been one for birthdays, I don’t see any reason to celebrate getting older, and of course my mother always cries when I say that and she thinks I wish I never was born, which of course is not the case. I just don’t like to make a fuss over it.

So usually my birthday comes and goes and my family does something, usually a cake on pizza night or something, but I guess because of the pandemic coming to an end, people want to get out, so I’ve been having lunches almost daily with different people, who are asking to take me out for my birthday, which was almost a week ago – yet the lunches keep going on and I’m loving it. I have a lot of Gemini friends, so there are lots of other birthdays during this period, so we have been celebrating those, too. So it’s been one big Gemini party lately.

For years I went out to lunch almost daily with different friends, and family, on different days and it was just the norm, but over time it seemed to stop, but it’s back and I’m loving it.

One of the local restaurant owners saw me on the street and started complaining about the fate of restaurants these days and he said I look so relaxed and happy and don’t have a wrinkle on my face, which he meant as a put down, but of course, I took it as a compliment, especially on my birthday, the day he actually said that to me. I had to remind him that the pandemic affected everyone, not just him.

As for the kayak/canoe saga, my kayak friend traded in that blow-up thing for an actual canoe. He had some guy with a trailer bring it over to my house to store here so we can easily take it out on the water, but haven’t yet. The bay has been choppy, maybe due that big beautiful full moon. Did you see it?

He came over to try it out, to see if it worked in the water without any leaks. It’s an old, ugly canoe, and therein lies the rub. One of my neighbors objected to it being on the property. “I’m trying to make the place look nice and you have that piece of crap hanging on the wall?” He offered to buy a nice new wooden one for us all to use, something he called “Hamptons-style.”

So I told him to just wait it out, my friend will get bored and get rid of the canoe, although he didn’t take it well when I told him it had to go.

I normally would fight it and say that I live here too, I have rights. But the thing is ugly, it is not going to be used, and my neighbor always does things for me – like buy me a brand new canoe, which I am going to decline. It makes no sense for him to do that.

So between that and lunches with friends (he was one of them that took me out), that’s what’s been going on around here. Business has been picking up, so that’s great and I’m getting ready for summer travel, so that is great, too. Little by little things are returning to normal, let’s hope they stay that way.

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Our kayaking misadventure

So things are slowly getting back to normal. I actually did some physical activity yesterday. It’s been so long! And the good part is that today I don’t feel achy or any pains, so my muscle memory is working.

What we did was go kayaking, but only for a short time That’s me rowing at left and that’s a blow up kayak, which looks more like a moccasin/shoe.

My friend Jorge came over with a new kayak – a blow-up kayak! I told him we had regular kayaks here at the building that we could use, but he insisted on purchasing a rubber blow-up one. So he brought it over and while I didn’t want to go out in that thing, I thought, “Let’s see what happens.”

I live on the bay so it only made sense for him to bring it over so we could launch from here and he could just leave it here for convenience if he likes.

I know Jorge almost all of my life, so it was just another day; another adventure for us to add to our hundreds, if not thousands of adventures we’ve had in our lives together.

It took awhile to blow up the thing. Maybe an hour! Eventually one of my neighbors brought down an electric pump and showed us an easy way to do it, so that made that part easy. Another neighbor brought me sunscreen and insisted I use it, so it ended up being a nice day.

We finally got the thing into the water and really didn’t get the results we had hoped for. As I suspected, it was ricikty and flimsy and unstable. He packed some sort of lunch and drinks and stuff and that thing made the kayak even heavier, plus we had all sort of supplies – life jackets, oars and other things.

We got out into the bay and paddled around a bit, but it was rocking and jiggling and wouldn’t steer right, it kept turning in circles. It was not was was expected – from him anyway. Me, I sort of predicted this.

What I didn’t predict was that I would get seasick. I’ve lived around the water my whole life and only got seasick twice – this time and once on a Key West snorkeling trip.

Anyway, after about 20 minutes of “boating” and an hour or more of setting it all up, we decided to head back and get out. And just as we got to the home docks, I got seasick and started throwing up. Not good.

I almost jumped out and swam to shore, but we made it in properly as many of my neighbors stared from out back, where some were in the pool, others sunning themselves and others getting ready to boat. For a small building, it seems like everyone was out!

I came upstairs and it seems like I fell asleep for a long time while Jorge got everything back together. When he came upstairs two hours had passed! I could have sworn it was half an hour!

We ended up going to a local place to eat lunch, but I was still feeling unwell, so I didn’t eat anything, I took it home with me. He went home from the restaurant and after another hour or sleep or so I felt much better and I texted him and told him, “I had such a great day today!”

And I did, seasickness and all.

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No more touching

The pandemic will have us doing all sorts of new things; you know, changes in our behavior and customs.

I noticed yesterday that I automatically DIDN’T shake hands. And now that I think about it, I don’t shake anyone’s hand anymore. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to think about it and then pull back, now it just comes naturally – don’t touch each other.

Yesterday, I was with a friend and he said, “Tom, this is so-and-so” and he introduced me to some new guy in town. I said, “Hi, nice to meet you,” and that was that. We were a few feet away, shaking distance, but neither of us attempted to shake hands. All three of us talked for about half an hour and then parted, but no one shook hands then either.

I think I mentioned this before – I don’t like to shake hands, although in the past I would do it, and I don’t like to hug or kiss, which in the past, I did. But I guess this is a thing of the past. No more of this touching each other when meeting and greeting.

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Kayaking (beaching and boarding)

One of my friends bought a new kayak. It’s a blow up one. I never saw one like that before. Seems like a rubber raft to me.

He is coming over this week and we are going kayaking. I live on the bay, so we’ll launch from out back.

I told him that we have a few kayaks in the backyard that belong to neighbors, and anyone can use them, but he insisted on buying his own. He didn’t actually buy it, he won a gift certificate from a sporting goods store and decided to get the kayak with the certificate.

I haven’t been kayaking in years. For so many years I was in the ocean or bay almost daily. I kayaked, paddle boarded, swam and just hung out at the beach. Even when I was younger and was supposed to be working, I would get home and my mother would say, “Why do you have a tan? I thought you were at work all day!”

Some days I would just go out to the beach, have lunch, and then get back to work, other days I would spend all day out there. But it was almost a daily thing for most of my life. I need to get back to that.

I took this picture today, it’s a still shot from a video I took of a guy paddling by early this morning.

I’m working on getting back in shape for the summer. Actually for the rest of my life. Hopefully this and all pandemics will be a thing of the past. This kayaking and eventually paddle boarding and swimming should get me back in shape. Time to lose the pandemic weight I gained.

Stay tuned!

This is one of my favorite comics I did in February.

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A good exhaustion

So my friend who visited from NY is on a plane on his way home as we speak. I miss him. But I’ll see him in a couple of months when I go to NY so that will be fun.

But let me tell you something. If you haven’t gotten back to your after-pandemic routine, you know – back to normal, you may be in for a rude awakening.

I like to think I am in good shape, but after not doing much for the past year and not going to the gym, let me tell you – I am beat after everything we’ve done. It’s almost as if I need a day off in between our outings.

He said to me yesterday that I seemed very low-key, not down, but very quiet, “low energy” are the words he used. He said I wasn’t like my usual lively self. He was right. I was exhausted from all the walking and site seeing and other things we did. We had a cool/cold winter here and now the heat and humidity is starting to kick in so that takes a lot out of you. And not having done much exercise or walking in the past year makes a difference when you walk nine miles a day in the heat and humidity!

But it feels good. It’s a good exhaustion, like when you do a hard day’s work and you feel you’ve accomplished something. That’s how I feel.

A visit to the zoo

I finally got the workout I have been looking for all year – I went to the zoo with a friend the other day.

We walked around in the sun and heat for five hours – that will give anyone a nice workout. We ended up walking miles! It felt good. According to an app on my phone, we walked 9 miles! Slowly and stopping a lot, of course, but still, 9 miles!

I could not move the next day. I hadn’t worked out so much in a year due to the pandemic. When I’m in NY, I have been known to walk 12 miles in a day, so I better work myself up for that for when I go this summer, otherwise I’ll be nursing sore muscles after one day out and about the city.

I have a friend in town from NY so we’ve been doing things, I’m not sure what possessed us to do Zoo Miami, but on that same day, one of my cousins announced that was her first day working at the Bronx Zoo, a lifelong dream of hers.

I got excited because I started watching all those behind the scenes zoo shows at the beginning of the pandemic. That was my Saturday nights and the Bronx Zoo episodes are my favorites of all of them. It’s very comforting, especially at the time of being locked inside for all those months.

There are zoos featured from all over – Tampa, England, Australia, Columbus, Ohio; North Carolina, etc. It’s amazing to see all the love and respect the animals are given by the caretakers. But my favorite is how they do it in the Boogie Down Bronx.

I have plans to visit the Bronx Zoo this summer – to not see the animals – but to see the human characters I see on the zoo tv shows!

Maine Cabin Masters

The Maine Cabin Masters

There is a tv show I’ve been watching a lot lately – Maine Cabin Masters. I’ve been binge watching it. I really like it.

It’s a group of old friends and some family members, who renovate old cabins for clients, which they call “camps,” in Maine. The cabins are on lakes or rivers. The main three are Chase, the boss; his sister Ashley and her husband Ryan. There are also Dixie, Jedi, and Lance, who was a great character on the show, who left in later seasons.

The scenery alone is worth viewing, so much of it seems to take place in the fall and the turning leaves are amazing. The show is fun because they all have a great rapport since they know each other all their lives and also, the renovation work is great, they take old worn out cabins and turn them into spectacular places. And three words really are the main/Maine reason to love it – “Maine,” “cabin,” and “lake.” Three perfect things.

There is one thing that bothers me though, and that’s the budget. Clients give them a long list of things to do which usually consists of fixing the whole foundation, replacing the roof, replacing the outside siding, replace the flooring, sometimes redo the inside stairs, add a new outside deck, add new windows, renovate and redo the kitchen and every single thing inside, including bringing electricity and running water into the place and oh yes, add a dock down on the lake and add steps down to it, also many times, trees, huge, tall trees, have to be cleared from part of the property – and do it all for $30,000!

The crew is about eight people and the supplies have to cost way more than $30,000. The roof alone is more than that. How much would the Property Brothers charge for this? $150,000 or more? I can’t figure out how they work for months, literally a couple of months on this one job and all split the $30,000 after paying for supplies.

Now I am guessing the producers of the show pay it all, but still it’s all unrealistic. Even if they are paying for most of the salaries and supplies, etc., why not give a realistic estimate and at the end of the show have a little blurb in the credits that says the production company paid for the job. Sort of like Judge Judy, where the people who lose the cases have their loss paid for by the production company.

Other than this one little thing, I love the show. It’s comforting to watch. The hour goes by quite quickly.

Old friends popping up out of the blue

I’ve been cleaning the house up this week. Nothing much, it’s more messy than dirty. But I want it to look decent for a friend I haven’t seen in 40 years. Yup, 40 years! We were kids the last time we saw each other for goodness sake!

He emailed me a couple of weeks ago. My name popped in his head after all these years and he did an internet search and he found me. We talked on the phone, and he’ll be in town maybe this week. He lives in Orlando now and he’s back and forth to Miami often.

Strange when I think about it. 40 years – a lifetime. I had a whole life since I saw him last, so did he.

This isn’t the first time this happened, a friend I know since we are three years old contacted me not long ago. He found me on Facebook. We haven’t touched base in person yet, but he also lives not too far from me, maybe an hour’s drive north. The last time I saw him, I think he was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Amazing. He has a wife and four kids now.

Social media is amazing. But again – this isn’t the first time, but a bit before I was on social media, in 2008 or 2009, I found an old photo of a friend named Tom, yup, another Tom. We were very good friends but he left town after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was such a crazy time that people got scattered all over the place and he ended up going back to California, to San Francisco, where he was born. His family has lived there for generations. I never asked him about it, I have to – did they go there during the gold rush of 1849? How did they end up there so many years ago?

Anyway, I found a bunch of old photos and there was Tom in one. It jogged my memory, I had not seen him for almost 20 years by then. I did an internet search and I found his email address. I emailed him and we connected, he came down to visit and we have been connected since – mostly on Facebook – but we have been connected in person, too. It’s sort of my turn to visit him in California – maybe soon after the pandemic is over.

I find it so weird and interesting that even though decades have passed, we all go back to where we left off – sort of like muscle memory. It’s like no time passed at all. Even all our voices sound the same to all of us after not hearing them for so long. And the funny things we remember about each other come right back. Certain things come up or tv shows come on or whatever, and something flashed in your mind and you remember certain people at certain times doing certain things. A news story or event or a certain neighborhood or building brings certain people to mind.

My friend in Orlando asked if I remembered him. I was taken aback when he asked. Why wouldn’t I? He’s part of the fabric of my life.

He protests too much

I just left my car for service early this morning – a tune up, Schedule A service.

I took Uber home. I see they charge a booking fee now on top of the regular fee. Strange. How else would I get them, wave them down to save on the booking fee? Just add that fee to the cost of the ride rather than nickle and dime people, right?

A friend texted me and asked me to meet him for breakfast. I had breakfast early this morning, about 7 am, so I didn’t want to go to breakfast, but also, I am incapacitated until the car is done later. So I’m stuck at home, although I guess I could have taken an Uber to meet him.

He could have picked me up you say? No, he can’t, because in Miami, a car-based city, he doesn’t have car. He bikes it all over. He is an older guy, in his 70s and to his credit, he rides miles a day – sometimes as much as 60 miles a day!

When I told him I left the car for service, his reply was, “I’m so glad I don’t have a car.” Which makes me think he wishes he had a car, because why say such a thing? We all chauffeur him around when he can’t take his bike places.

And he is totally against social media, too.. I think it’s because he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand. He puts down social media daily. He sends me articles constantly on how bad it is, how they are stealing our personal info, etc. etc.

Rather than just not say anything, he likes to put social media down, like he does my car or anyone’s car – because he doesn’t have a car.

Ironically, he used to work for the city and he had a city car and he would bring the city car home, which maybe was not allowed, because quite a few years back he was written about in the newspaper and blogs and scrutinized about using the company car for person reasons. So maybe that’s why he has an aversion to cars. Although he has had his own car after that situation and he did pick me up many times to go out and hang out.

He did tell me yesterday that the best thing he ever did was give up his car and use his bike, which I can believe. I told him I missed the gym and he suggested I get a bike, but I miss the free weights, not cardio. So a bike will do me no good in that regard.

He has a new bike now, it folds up. It looks so silly when we are at lunch or wherever, because it looks like a wheelchair or something folded up beside him, then he unfolds it and rides off.

Counting the days until summer

summerhouse
I see Carl and Kyle and that looks like Amanda next to Kyle and Paige next to her.

I came across this photo, which I originally posted in July 2019.

Every year when I’m in The Hamptons I look for the filming of Summer House, a tv show I watch. When I watch the show they seem to always be at bars and restaurants we go to so I’m always checking around for them. I left The Hamptons one day in the summer, in July 2019, and headed back to the city, and there they are at a restaurant some of my cousins were at the night I left.

My cousin Matt took this picture at the restaurant. He texted it and said, “Is this the thing you’re always talking about?” And it was.

I watched the recent episode last night. This year they are quarantined in the house in the Hamptons and they can’t leave. Usually they are out and about and they have big parties and hang out at the bars and beach, etc. and they go back and forth to the city each week and then hit the summer house on the weekends.


I made my plans again for this summer. I had missed last summer due to the pandemic – first time in years, and hopefully I’ll be there this summer. I’m not sure why I like the show so much, but I think it has to do with the fact that I am there when they are there and I am at places they are going to, so it sort of brings the summer back to me. They usually show the episodes six months or so later, so summer is long over by the time it’s on tv, and it is a little nostalgic for the past summer.

I used to like the Fall best, and I guess I still do, but these days I really love summers. I’m not sure why, all of a sudden, but it could be due to New York. New York has a certain vibe in the summer. While it seems like everyone is gone – up to the mountains or out to the Hamptons and Montauk it’s really not like that and the city comes alive. I like tagging my Instagram pics as #summerinthecity, it has a nice ring to it.

Everyone is out on the streets – at sidewalk tables, in the parks – everywhere. It’s alive. The farmer’s market at Union Square has a special feel to it, although I love the pumpkins and eventually Christmas trees and stuff in the fall and winter. But summer is special. We spend July 4th in the Hamptons and there is always someone at the house, so it’s easy to go back and forth at any time from the city, there is always someone driving back and forth at any given time.

I do a lot of walking in New York, on this particular day, on July 1, 2019, I walked 11.1 miles! Those “flights climbed” are probably up and down the subway steps, which isn’t part of this total walking tabulation, so add whatever miles I rode on the subway to the 11.1 miles and you can see I rally got around. I remember this one day because I was flabbergasted at at all the miles I covered in one day.

I’m really looking forward to this summer. It’s hard to believe it is only a few months away. I’m dying to get vaccinated, which will be the first step to some sort of normalcy.