Bachelor Chronicles: Day 8

Any hope of a relaxing end to the holiday weekend evaporated by 8 a.m. when I realized all the chores I still had left to do before Tara got home. After coffee on the patio, I proceeded to water the garden and patio plants; assemble the new battery-powered weed eater and edge the front/back yard; wash the windows (I even went so far as to buy a window washing kit from Menard’s…who am I?!); do a water change in the aquarium; run to two grocery stores (invariably one of them will be out of a few items, forcing me to go across the street to the other one…I think they must have a handshake agreement or something); wash and put away the dishes; and clean out the junk drawer. I did manage to squeeze a nice breakfast in there that may or may not have included Spam. (It totally included Spam.) I was a real ball of energy for five nonstop hours.

By the time I was finally able to sit down and kick my feet up, Tara was already past Gillette, Wyoming, a mere two hours away. I put on a movie, but then my parents called. And then I kept stealing eager glances outside, because I knew she was close. Tried reading but couldn’t concentrate. Finally, at 3:45, she showed up, boat in tow.

And couldn’t get it in the driveway because of the steep angle. But that’s a problem for another day. Worst case, we leave it on the street. There are other boats and campers parked out there in the neighborhood.

I guess I’d better start dusting off my “Aye, aye, captain!”s now. I climbed aboard to check her out, and foolishly asked where the gas pedal and brake were.

Clearly, I have much to learn about boats.

Fortunately, Tara’s a pro. I’m sure we’ll be out on the water very soon, and she can teach me the basics.

Thank you for following along on my daily (mis)adventures. I enjoy challenging myself with writing exercises like these. On one hand, it feels like Tara was gone for about eight hundred days. On the other, I can’t believe how fast the weekend flew by…and it was a long one.

‘Til we meet again…

Bachelor Chronicles: Day 7

If yesterday’s post appeared to end rather abruptly, that’s not your imagination. After several hot hours outside, and several gin and sodas, things kind of got away from me. First, Tara tried to video call me, but I couldn’t figure out the screen. Then I decided I should make dinner, so I cooked up a spicy pork stir-fry. Dished myself up a plate, sat down on the recliner, took a few bites…and the next thing I knew, it was a few minutes before midnight.

WTF?

My plate was right there beside me, mostly uneaten. The cat hadn’t been fed. The sprinkler had been running for hours. And I hadn’t published my blog post, nearly ruining my streak. I leapt from my chair, dashed out a few hurried lines, and got it published with about three minutes to spare. Whew. I’m just thankful I pre-wrote most of it earlier, while still coherent.

BTW, I didn’t remember the sprinkler until I’d already crawled into bed, which necessitated a mad dash outside to turn it off. Do not ask me what I was wearing. I’m just thankful the neighbors were all inside and/or asleep.

Guys…this is why I shouldn’t be left alone for extended periods. Thank god Tara is on her way back now. She’s the only one who can save me from myself.

I woke up feeling pretty humiliated, but fortunately, not hungover. I honestly didn’t drink any more than I normally would—I just did so outside, in the stifling heat, on an empty stomach. Whoopsie. Anyway, I made coffee and returned to the scene of the crime (the back patio) but it was overcast and really windy, so that didn’t last long. Tara called, and this time I knew how to work the phone. Things were looking up! The wind died down, the clouds dissipated, and I spent 90 minutes weeding. In the hot sun. I really should’ve timed it better and gotten an earlier start.

Showered, read some blogs, ate the spicy pork stir-fry for lunch, and then watched as some really ominous clouds built up.

Holy mammatus! That was directly overhead, and no filter. We had a lot of lightning and thunder, but the storms were just spinning around over the Black Hills and eventually petered out.

After that drama, I watched another drama unfold. “The Departed,” from our DVD collection (yes, we still have one). It had been years since I’d seen it, and I’d forgotten just how brilliant it is. So many great performances. Then I grabbed my wireless speaker and adjourned to the patio, accompanied by Brussel’s sprouts and a ribeye steak, which got cozy with the CharBroil while I caught up on Instagram et. al.

The steak was a recipe I’ve had tucked away for years but had never tried: a MEXICAN SPICE-RUBBED RIBEYE W/ LIME BUTTER. I wrote it in all caps because damn, that meat deserves respect. Tara called from Rock Springs just as I was finishing up—her overnight stop. She’ll hit the road early and should be here before dinnertime.

Now that the sun is going down it’s pretty pleasant out, so I’m going to hang out back here for awhile. No fireworks for me. I do see some dark clouds on the horizon though, and I don’t mean that metaphorically…

Bachelor Chronicles: Day 6

This was a weird day: not quite a work day, not quite a holiday. Half of each, since the office closed at noon. Five people were out anyway, which in a small company amounts to almost half the office. I’d be lying if I said it was the most productive day in the world, but I did zip over to a Lutheran church a couple of miles down the street to take photos. I’d interviewed a local artist a couple of weeks ago for an upcoming feature in Black Hills Visitor, but midway through our chat a truck pulled up right in front of the mural we were talking about and I was unable to get a picture. This morning, there were no vehicles blocking the building, so I was able to get some good photos.

The mural was designed as a memorial to the MMIW (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women) movement that deeply affects so many Native American families, and helps to bring a small bit of closure. Derek, the artist, talked about all the symbolism in the painting, from the red handprint to the “crosses” that represent stars in the Lakota culture and appear on much of their beadwork. It was fascinating to learn all this, and I walked away impressed with Derek’s passion and heart. He is Lakota himself, and so obviously this mural touched him deeply. I have a deep respect for the Lakota culture, and will do all I can to help spread their message.

Here’s another one he painted on an apartment building next to the church. It represents the racing magpie, a key figure in the Native American Great Race legend. Fun fact that Derek shared: the Black Hills appear in all his work. You can see them painted in blue and purple on both buildings.

Talking to such interesting individuals and learning about the history and culture of the region is hands-down my favorite part of my job. I’ll link to the story when it goes live online.

After leaving the office, I made a liquor store run (priorities!) and then picked up sushi for lunch. One of our most pleasant surprises upon moving here was discovering that, contrary to what you might think, you can find good sushi in the Midwest. I came home, lowered the A/C because it was hot again, puttered around for a bit before deciding to head out to the patio, heat be damned.

And then I almost came back inside, because holy shit, it was hot. 98º. But I powered through, catching up on blogs and drinking gin. At one point it started raining, quite unexpectedly, and Sydney—our calico cat—freaked out. She demanded to be let inside (a first for her!), but 10 minutes later it was hot and humid again and I let her back out.

Not much else of note happened. The evening was a bit of a blur. I guess fireworks occurred at Mount Rushmore, but I wanted no part of that.

Tara begins her long drive home tomorrow. Can’t wait to see her.

Bachelor Chronicles: Day 5

When I headed out the door for my morning walk at 5:30 today, the temperature was 70º. Yesterday, it was 51º at that hour. Quite a difference, eh? Wednesday I wore long pants and a hoodie, Thursday it was shorts and a t-shirt. It felt like two different seasons within the span of 24 hours.

It was 90º by lunchtime.

And then the skies grew dark and ominous, the radar lit up, and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued. The worst of it passed by just to the north; we got a little rain, some pea-sized hail, and that was that. The forecast for the next week calls for on-again/off-again chances. Some of the storms could be severe. I feel like we keep dodging bullets, whew. Our garden lives to see another day!

While I was busy working this week, Tara and her dad were prepping our boat for her journey home. They got the hitch and trailer installed yesterday, and Tara’s truck handled it effortlessly. She said she could feel the extra weight when driving, but was able to accelerate and brake easily. Here’s a sneak peek!

No fancy dinner tonight; I’ve still got leftover adobo. Since I probably won’t make it again for another six years, I might as well enjoy it. I also picked some lettuce from the garden for a salad. Netflix just added The Karate Kid so I’m going to guilty pleasure my way through the first movie tonight. I always did enjoy those films and their cheesy 80s soundtracks. Wax on/wax off, indeed!

One reader commented yesterday, “You seem to be easily filling these eight days of posts.” Well, I think she jinxed me, because today I hit a brick wall.

Not literally, thank god.

No questions and no blog awards? No bueno! On the verge of despair, I remembered our TableTopics cards. These award-winning conversation starter sets help millions of people spark fun and meaningful discussions with their family and friends around the dinner table, at parties, on road trips – wherever!

(Yes, I copied and pasted that from their website. I love the enthusiasm). Tara and I will sometimes bring them along when we go out to a bar (it’s been ages!!) as they’re a fun way to pass the time. So I grabbed a few, and voila! Instant questions. No humans required.

Q: What’s the all-time best movie about time travel?

A: So many possibilities! Do I go with the nostalgic (Back to the Future), the goofy (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), the dystopian (The Terminator), or the cerebral (Arrival)? In the end, I’m picking a film that is comically entertaining but also heartfelt: Bill Murray’s classic, Groundhog Day.

Q: How many states have you visited and which was your favorite?

A: I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a lot growing up, thanks to an Air Force dad and bouts of wanderlust. The number is at least 41, but probably higher…these are the states I know with certainty I have visited. I suspect I’ve been to Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina, too…maybe my mom can confirm? Pretty much everywhere but the deep south.


Create Your Own Visited States Map

My favorite? I like certain things about a lot of states. I feel silly picking the one I’m in now, but I wouldn’t have uprooted my life and moved to South Dakota two years ago if I weren’t pretty fond of the state. Let’s just say it pushes all the right buttons at this stage of my life.

Q: How much does the news affect your day-to-day life?

A: What a timely question, ha. I try to ignore it as much as possible because it’s so damn depressing these days. There’s not much I can do about events beyond my control (other than heed the latest CDC guidelines or take an alternate route if there’s gridlock). Because I live in South Dakota, there is never gridlock, so my answer is: very little.

Q: Have you or will you go to any of your high school reunions?

A: No and no. I only attended the high school I graduated from (in California) for my senior year, which royally sucked. I made no lasting connections, other than an ex-wife, and it has never felt like my real school. That honor belongs to Douglas H.S. in South Dakota.

Q: What are you hoping your life will look like when you’re in your 80s?

A: I’d like to have a harem by then, and be healthy enough to enjoy it.

Tomorrow the office is closing at noon, so it’ll be a nice 2.5-day weekend. Not sure what I’m going to do yet; probably not a lot, since the weather promises to be hot. If storms fire up, I might be tempted to chase them across the plains.

Bachelor Chronicles: Day 4

My boss officially reopened the office today. Not that we ever actually closed down; it just means that the holdouts still working from home had to start coming in again. I’m glad I made the decision to transition back on my own a month ago, because having to wear pants again is like ripping off a Band-Aid. Without Tara’s shoulder to cry on, I’d be lost.

Since I’m recounting the minutiae of daily life, today I worked on creating a brand narrative for our coupon book, met with my team to begin strategizing for a new publication we’ll be launching soon, and worked on content for Keystone (I’m halfway through the alphabet on my updated copy for Black Hills communities).

Chris and Meghan at work brought in a couple of miniature strawberry plants for our garden. I have not been able to find decent strawberries around here to save my life, so thank you, guys! I planted and watered them as soon as I got home. Speaking of, the garden is coming along decently. The tomato plants are getting big and the zucchini is blossoming. We’ve already used a head of lettuce, and there’s more for the picking. No actual fruit or veggies yet, but our fingers are crossed.

This year is one big test anyway. The spot we picked is west-facing, so it doesn’t get sunlight until noon. Not ideal, but it still gets a solid eight hours this time of year. It was the only place in our backyard where we had the space and could easily keep the deer out. It’s right next to our raspberry bushes, and they grow like gangbusters, so we’re hoping for the best. Assuming we keep the garden there next year, I would want to do raised beds. The ground slopes gently on that side of the house and when we water it tends to run downhill. Like I said, trial and error.

One reader commented on my last post, Your dinners are looking great. No ‘just cereal’ when you are a Bachelor. 

I’ve never been a “just cereal” type. After my divorce in 2006, I was essentially on my own for six years. I liked to cook, and that gave me an opportunity to try a lot of new dishes. The habit stuck with me, and now that I’m married to a picky eater, I’m even more motivated to cook meals for myself when I’m eating alone. Having said that, I will admit to a bit of burnout. I’m writing this post while kicking back on the patio with a glass of wine. I’m keeping it simple tonight, grilling hot dogs and a can of Ranch beans. But they’re buffalo hot dogs from the local meat market, so even my easy meals are a little upscale, ha.

Gotta admit, I am tempted to order takeout tomorrow or Friday, though. This chef could use a break.

It occurred to me today that I don’t have to ask for questions, as I was nominated by Rivergirl for one of those meaningless blog awards that most of us pretend to find disdainful but are secretly pleased at receiving. Of course, it would be more pleasing if I didn’t have to share the spotlight with four other bloggers, but whatevs. It gives me an excuse to answer a few not-serious questions dreamed up by Rivergirl. By the way, you should read her, especially if you like wildlife or want to see the World’s Largest Backyard. She lives in Maine, where I imagine most of the residents are in competition for that honor. A word of caution, though: if an hour goes by without a new Rivergirl post showing up in your blog feed, you might start worrying that the internet is broken. 🙂

Without further ado…

Would any of you be willing to let a slightly pissed off red squirrel and her children rent a room? The sooner the better, I’m getting hateful looks.

We’ve already got a family of red squirrels squatting in our backyard, emptying our bird feeder of sunflower seeds as quickly as we can fill it, so that’s going to be a hard pass from me.

If you could change one thing about your spouse/partner/significant other/blow up girlfriend what would it be, and why?

A patch kit for when she deflates…?
Ha, kidding! It would be nice if Tara greeted me at the front door after work with a glass of bourbon in hand and my favorite slippers, but A) This isn’t 1956, B) I beat her home most days, and C) She reads my blog, so obviously my answer is, not a damn thing.

Can you talk me into eating kale in 50 words or less? I know you can’t, but it will be fun to see you try.

This would be a lot simpler if we lived in Portland, where panicked shoppers raid grocery stores and stock up on kale when there’s even a slight threat of snow, but she’s in Maine and I’m in South Dakota, neither of which are kale hot spots. I got nothin’.

(By sheer coincidence, that was 49 words.)

You win an all expense paid trip for two to Antarctica, do you bring a Kardashian or Caitlyn Jenner?

Kendall Jenner. Because I googled “which Kardashian is the most normal?” and her name is the one that kept popping up. Even she says she’s not like the others and that’s good enough for me. Plus, that Vogue cover…

By some strange twist of fate, you’re elected President of the United States in 2020. What’s your first executive order?

Cede the country to Canada.

And finally, if you’ve made it this far…. why do bloggers feel compelled to keep this award thing going when none of us really like them?

In my case, to help fill eight days’ worth of posts!

Bachelor Chronicles: Day 3

Yesterday evening, after I’d thoroughly watered the garden and outdoor plants, I successfully predicted the future.

Naturally, I’m sure it will start pouring any second now, I blogged.

Naturally, it did. And was accompanied by such an incredible display of lightning, the kids across the street were cheering loudly with every flash. We get a lot of thunderstorms here during the summer, but this one was especially impressive. I sat on the steps next to the driveway, aimed my phone skyward, and watched the action unfold. Thanks to my secret lightning-capturing trick, I got some pretty good shots. This one is my favorite.

Lightning continued to arc through the sky like that for about an hour. Tara happened to call while I was sitting out there enjoying the show.

“You probably shouldn’t be talking on a cellphone outside during a thunderstorm,” she cautioned. Of course she was right, so I dragged myself inside to watch from the safety of the living room instead. Within minutes it started raining, and that was accompanied by the distinctive pinging sound of hail striking the roof. Fortunately it was only marble-sized and didn’t last long enough to cause any irreversible damage to the landscaping.

Today was an odd weather day, only because it wasn’t blazing hot. Temperatures have been in the 80s and 90s for the past week, and are forecast to be in the 80s and 90s for the next week, but today was a cloudier and cooler exception. 78º (only because the sun broke through the clouds late afternoon).

I had some wine after work and cooked a spicy Cajun dish called Chicken Sauce Piquant. Years ago I was a book reviewer for my friend Heidi’s Sacramento Book Review venture, and I got to keep the books I reviewed. I started requesting cookbooks, and this recipe came from Donald Link’s Real Cajun. Yeah, it’s spicy. Yeah, it’s delicious. No, Tara wouldn’t/couldn’t eat it.

Speaking of recipes, I had several requests for the teriyaki glaze I raved about yesterday. It’s no secret and I’m happy to share:

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup pineapple juice/water (reserved pineapple juice from the can + water to make one total cup)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium saucepan, combine the soy sauce, pineapple juice + water (enough to make 1 cup), brown sugar, ginger, and garlic powder.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Combine the cornstarch and cold water in a separate bowl.  Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the simmering soy sauce mixture.  Continue to simmer and stir until thickened.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

And another question, courtesy of Erica/Erika, whose blog is titled Behind the Scenery:

If you could go back to your younger self, would you have pursued a different career? What did you want to be when you grew up?

Ooh, a thought-provoking two-parter!

First off, no…I would not pursue a different career. Writing is my passion, and I think I’m pretty good at it. I’ve dreamed of being a writer since junior high school, when I entered a short story contest and won first place in my age group. What I would do, however, is tell my heading-off-to-college self not to pursue an Advertising degree. Creative writing is my forte and I thought it would be fun to dream up campaigns ala Don Draper, but two years in, I lost interest because it was obvious that advertising is a cutthroat business and I’ve never been interested in stabbing people in the back. At that point I had no desire to pick a new major and start over from scratch, so I pocketed my B.A. and took a customer service job with a global manufacturing company. I then spent many years working my ass off to make my writing dreams come true, clawing my way rung by rung up the ladder until I reached the top. I’ll tell you this: becoming a writer without a degree or any real-world experience is a Herculean task, but I fought my ass off to make it happen. I worked three customer service jobs before making a move into marketing, which I felt could serve as a stepping stone. I wasn’t really qualified for that either, but had proven my worth to the company and they gave me a chance.

Then the company downsized and let me go.

Unemployed, I picked up any odd work I could find that was even remotely writing-related. Sold my soul to the devil by working for a content farm ($12 an article!), had a trial gig with Groupon, signed on for the book reviews, landed an (unpaid) food column in the local newspaper, self-published my novel. So much grunt work, but I was able to start building a portfolio. And then, the company that laid me off started hiring me for freelance jobs. Real ones, with decent paychecks. The lesson here is, never burn bridges. I smiled the day they walked me out the door, and I smiled again all the way to the bank when depositing the checks they wrote me.

One thing led to another, and through sheer force of will—a common theme in my life—I transformed myself into a writer.

And that is a very long-winded response to part one of the question, ha.

Part two is easier. Before I wanted to become a writer, I wanted to be a meteorologist. I doubt many fourth-graders study weather charts, but I did. Ultimately weather forecasting involves a whole lot of math (not my strong suit), so it’s relegated to the hobby bin. But still very much an interest as my weather station proves.

Whew.

See you tomorrow!

Bachelor Chronicles: Day 2

My aunt left an interesting comment on Facebook in response to my boat post.

Years ago (and I mean really years ago and not just before the pandemic), when I visited you from California, we had lunch at a restaurant on the Columbia. You looked at the boats and announced that one day you were going to have one. So yeah–good for you! Smooth sailing.

My Aunt

Reading this was gratifying. I have long said I’m a person who always gets what he wants, be it through sheer force of will, determination, or stubbornness. Or a combination of all three. I hadn’t even remembered the conversation until she mentioned it, as it took place at least 15 years ago, but I remember it now; we were sitting on a deck beside the river on a sparkling summer afternoon and I stared longingly at the boats plying the water. See? I really have always wanted a boat.


Today was a fairly typical Monday. Tara called this morning, and I told her how I’d taken a morning walk, watered the garden, fixed breakfast, and was getting ready to head out the door.

“That all sounds so normal!” she replied wistfully. As much fun as she’s having visiting family, these trips are always whirlwinds, chock full of obligation. I’m usually missing home before we’ve even left.

My latest project involves creating two pages for each of the 11 main Black Hills communities in our Visitor publication: one called “The Story Of [Insert Town Name]” that details its history, and the other, “Visit [Insert Town Name],” talks about attractions and events. Each town takes a full day to complete; since I’m going alphabetically, today it was Hill City’s turn. I have to admit, I’ve learned at least one new thing about every place I’ve written about so far. I just slip on my noise-cancelling Bose headphones, crank up the Spotify jams, and spend the day researching/writing. It makes the hours fly by quickly.

Here’s a nice display of the current issues for a few of our print publications.

I came home, put on music, and cooked myself dinner. I decided to try a new recipe: a grilled chicken and pineapple brown rice bowl.

Yes, it was every bit as good as it looks. The best part, hands-down, was the homemade teriyaki glaze. I could have scooped it up with a spoon and eaten it directly from the pot. Don’t worry, I didn’t.

Afterward, I gave the plants and garden a good soaking, even as ominous dark clouds piled up to the north and east. Lots of rumbles of thunder and lightning flashing in the distance, but it’s been a dry summer and we haven’t had much luck with storms, so I didn’t want to take any chances. Today’s high was 95º.

Naturally, I’m sure it will start pouring any second now.


OK, I asked for questions, and a couple of you responded. Thank you for that. Feel free to ask me more! I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to write about to fill these posts but, ha-ha, forgot how long-winded I can be.

Q: What are your favorite foods?

A: This one is tricky because I like almost everything. I will say I am drawn to bold flavors, so anything that is tart, tangy, or spicy is right up my alley. Think pickles, Kimchi, sour beer. I have an entire pantry shelf devoted to hot sauces alone. Narrowing down actual foods is impossible: I like all cuisines (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.), meats, veggies, and fruit. I guess the only real way to answer this is to play the last meal game. If I were consigned to death row (wrongfully convicted, of course!) and facing lethal injection, I have always said my final meal would consist of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and a slice of coconut cream pie. Short of picking one absolute favorite, this will do!

Q: In a non-quarantine world, where would you like to travel to next?

A: I recently mentioned Croatia, and that still ranks high on my list. It would be my base of operations, with jaunts to Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Austria. Although now, I hate to admit it, but I’m weirdly intrigued by Chernobyl, though it certainly isn’t at the top of my list. I’d go…but I wouldn’t linger.

Until tomorrow…

Bachelor Chronicles: Day 1

I’ve decided to go ahead and blog every day that Tara is gone, just for posterity (not to mention a public record of how unwell I function in her absence…humility be damned, I’m going for it!). These posts won’t be as wordy as usual, as I’ll basically be recounting my day. Not every day is worthy of recounting, so this should be interesting!

The first post is coming to you courtesy of a few glasses of wine, so pardon me in advance for any errors.

Believe it or not, Tara had to work yesterday morning. A few things needed wrapping up, so she went into the bank for a couple of hours before hitting the road at approximately 12:45. She arrived in Evanston, Wyoming shortly after 9:00, where she spent the night. While she was busy driving, I ran errands. A friend on Facebook asked what special dish I was cooking last night, and I replied, “Chinese leftovers!”

Food does seem to be a theme here, doesn’t it? I’d alluded to the fact that Tara is a picky eater, and Bijoux, a blogger who has followed me for almost 10 years now (!), commented, You need to do a post on what Tara won’t eat. It sounds fascinating to me because I feel like you guys are really into food? Or maybe it’s just you?

Dear Bijoux: It’s just me.

While it’s true that Tara and I launched a food blog in 2013 where we celebrated every U.S. food holiday for a full year, there is only one adventurous eater in this family, and his name does not begin with a T or end with an A.

Tara won’t eat beans, of potatoes, or anything spicy. She is very particular about chicken, and will trim not only the fat, but at least a 1/2″ area in proximity to the fat, on any cut of meat. She wrinkles her nose whenever I offer her a sip of whiskey, and wouldn’t touch almonds with a 10-foot pole. I often joke that it’s easier to list the foods she doesn’t like rather than those she does, ha. And yet, in some cases, she surprises me. She won’t hesitate to swallow a raw oyster, for instance. That’s a tough sell for a lot of people.

In stark contrast, I will eat anything. Seriously. And I love everything, with the exception of watermelon. I’m almost ashamed that this is something everybody else seems to love, and yet, I despise it. And because our tastes change as we age (I used to despise broccoli and Brussel’s sprouts, and now they’re two of my favorites) I always make it a point to give watermelon another chance every summer. I will take a bite of fresh watermelon, hoping that this is the time I will finally like it!. That has ever to be the case, but I’m an optimist.

When I was post-divorce, pre-Tara, I got pretty adventurous in the kitchen. During this 5-year period, I had several go-to recipes, things that I always enjoyed. One of them was adobo, a traditional Filipino dish that I was introduced to during my first marriage. Adobo is technically a method of cooking, as it can be made with both chicken and pork (I like them both, but always preferred pork). It’s one of those meals my ex-wife made often, and was in regular rotation on our menu. The thing about adobo is, it’s got very assertive flavors: it’s essentially a 50-50 blend of soy sauce and vinegar. I have always been a fan of strong flavor (I revel in the Umami game!), but Tara? Not so much. I have not made adobo in many years, but as I am writing this post, there is a batch simmering on the stove.

I am also currently watching a DVD, Cinderella Man, in the basement. Because it’s another hot day and the basement is cooler by a solid 8 degrees this time of year.

I’ve been watching the radar, and an impressive line of thunderstorms passed just to the north of me a little while ago. Looks like the mothership!

I’m disappointed that it missed us. After two wet years, we’re officially in a moderate drought now and could use the rain.

Tara called a few minutes ago. She has reached her Nevada destination. Whew.

Hey, look at me, building a post out of a comment. With that in mind, and since I’ve got eight days worth of posts to fill, feel free to ask me a question. Anything you’re wondering about me, my life, hopes, dreams, aspirations, winning Powerball numbers next week, etc.? Go ahead and leave me a comment.

I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Beware of Offhand Comments

Tara is headed out of town for eight days today.

That’s a long stretch—pretty sure the most time we’ll have spent apart since we got together—but it’s for a good cause. She’s going to Nevada to pick up our boat.

Our boat,” you say? Why, yes. I haven’t mentioned it before because it seemed like a far-fetched idea at first, but last summer, her dad came out for a visit, with his boat in tow. He was talking about how he wanted to upgrade, and I said, “I’ve always wanted a boat!” Without missing a beat, he replied, “Do you want this boat?” Now, when I uttered those words, they were nothing more than an offhand comment. Kind of like that time I said to Tara, “Hey, we should move to Rapid City”…and we did.

My offhand comments tend to take on lives of their own.

I love boats, but I’ve never owned one, and have very little experience even riding in them. Is “riding” the correct term? This is how little I know about boats. I think I liked the idea of them; they seem good in theory, but then you start thinking about storage and maintenance and upkeep and “Gilligan’s Island” (a “three-hour tour,” my ass!), and it all seems overwhelming. So we’re sitting outside on the patio, this offer of a free boat is dangling in the air, seconds after I’ve made a comment about always wanting one, and I can’t exactly retract my words without looking like an idiot.

So naturally, I say, “Yes! That would be awesome!!!”

Three exclamation marks, guys. That was the level of enthusiasm I expressed in my response.

And I thanked him profusely, because it’s a very generous offer. It’s a Crestliner fishing boat…I don’t have any specs beyond that (because I don’t know boats!), maybe 16′, with a 75 HP outboard motor. I’ll be sure to post plenty of pics when she comes home. “She” being the boat, not Tara, although I guess that applies to both.

This all occurred nearly 11 months ago, and I have since come around. I’m back to wanting a boat for real, not just in theory. Good thing, because we’re about to have one. There are so many great lakes and reservoirs in the Black Hills, and the Missouri River is a couple of hours away. Walleye are the state fish. Walleye are delicious. I see a fishing license in my future (or at least in Tara’s future…somebody’s gotta drive the boat, right?).

(Is “drive the boat” the correct term?!)

The original plan was to meet up at a campground in Wyoming this month—the halfway point—and take possession of the boat then, but…Covid.

I feel like “, but…Covid” is the wrap-up to a lot of sentences these days.

Wyoming is basically closed to out-of-state residents. At least their campgrounds are. We thought about holding off until next summer, but then Tara talked to Randy and he was eager to get us the boat, and I was eager to have the boat, so she decided to take a trip to Ely and pick it up. She’ll also get to spend time with her sisters and nephews and friends. She can make an IKEA run, a Trader Joe’s run, and a Total Wine run. It will be a beneficial and productive trip, and when she comes back, we’ll have a nice boat with a brand new coat of paint parked in the driveway. Randy is also supplying us with a trailer and installing a hitch. How cool is that?

(I really hope this isn’t my future)

The bad part, of course, is that I can’t go…and we won’t get to spend the 4th of July together. I simply do not have the vacation time available, and need to save what little PTO I do have for my parents’ visit next month and the maybe-it-will-still-happen family reunion in September. So I’ll be holding down the fort, missing my wife like crazy but eating all the food she doesn’t like. Which is a pretty lengthy list, if I’m being honest. The joys of marrying a picky eater! Seriously, I’m digging up recipes I haven’t made in years, former faves that I no longer bother cooking because Tara won’t eat them. At least her absence will evoke all sorts of feelings of nostalgia in the kitchen.

I should start a blog series called “Bachelor Chronicles” and recount my daily adventures sans wife, but I fear they would be v. boring. Remember, I’m a cargo shorts-wearing dad. You would be subjected to tales about my ten-minute commute and the article I wrote about Hill City and the chicken adobo I cooked and the weeds I pulled in the backyard.

Come to think about it, I did devote an entire post to pulling dandelions, so maybe this idea isn’t so far-fetched after all…

June 24, or, How I Arrived Here (Twice)

Twice on June 24, I arrived in Rapid City.

I don’t think I even realized that until a couple of days ago. Obviously, the anniversary of our arrival on this date two years ago has been top-of-mind lately. But equally momentous—though I did not realize it at the time—was June 24, 2011.

I have a core group of readers who have been with me for a long time, and I appreciate you guys to death. You know who you are. But I also have a bunch of new readers unfamiliar with my history, so lemme give you the abridged version of My Life nine years ago:

I’m divorced, single, and jobless. In other words, THE TOTAL PACKAGE! Ha. But I do own a townhouse, so points for that, although it is rapidly turning into a money pit because I was a victim of the shady loan scandals that rocked the banking industry in 2008 and instead of gaining equity, I am sinking deeper into debt with each passing month. On top of all that, my complex is controlled by an HOA. Spawn of the devil, those guys. Never again! Also of note, I have shared custody of my kids, Audrey and Rusty (so named because I am the epitome of Clark Griswold). I have them one week, my ex has them the following; we will continue this back and forth arrangement for a total of seven years.

Now that the stage is set, let’s rewind to June, 2011. I’ve been out of work for eight months already and am feeling restless. My ex is planning a trip to Disneyland with the kids, a portion of which will occur during my scheduled week, which means I am suddenly looking at a string of twelve kid-free days. Due to my circumstances, I’ve been feeling introspective lately, taking a hard look at my life. My conclusion? It’s pretty shitty. I’m bored and restless and the idea of being cooped up alone in my townhouse for two weeks feels almost painful, so I hatch this crazy plan to take a solo road trip from Vancouver, WA all the way to Dayton, Ohio—the epicenter of many happy childhood memories. Money is short but I’ve got plenty of time and a big, fat 401(k) account, so I withdraw some funds (consequences be damned) and hit the road on the afternoon of June 22, 2011. Coincidentally, the same date that we left for South Dakota in 2018. Talk about inescapable parallels.

Two days later (June 24), I arrive in Rapid City—carefully chosen because it is another place that means a lot to me. I spent my formative teenage high school years here. (I blogged every day from the road, and if you click on the link, you will note that I named my series “Getting My Griswold On”—further evidence of my Clark-ness.) I loved living in Rapid City growing up, but haven’t been back in a very long time, so I don’t know what to expect. I end up having such a great time, I rearrange my itinerary so I can spend an extra day here. My impressions are eye-opening:

I was quite surprised to find a little slice of Portland in Rapid City: quaint coffee shops, a used bookstore, and this cool alleyway I stumbled upon that was decorated all over with graffiti and murals. I strolled through there, taking plenty of pics. Love it!

Instead of spending an extra day in Ohio, I’m spending it in South Dakota. I am enraptured by this place all over again, and want to enjoy every last drop of it while I can. If Dayton represents my childhood, Rapid City is my adolescence.

I can’t help but marvel, once again, over the beauty of this area. I liked it as a teenager, even though my parents complained about the brutal winters. This is definitely a land of fierce extremes, and it can be very punishing if you aren’t prepared for it. But the magnificent beauty and abundance of natural attractions make it worthwhile. I’ve often wondered if I could ever picture myself living in Rapid City again, and after returning, the verdict is in: yes, I could. I’m not saying I will – I love the Pacific Northwest far too much – but I wouldn’t rule it out if the circumstances were exactly right.

See, that trip laid the groundwork for my entire future, even though it would take me years to realize this. I know borrowing from your retirement account is never a sound financial strategy, but in this case, it paid off in spades. I should add that I never actually thought I would or could move to Rapid City. The kids were in school and our custody arrangement precluded it, for starters. But then a funny thing happened:

The kids grew up.

But still, I loved the Pacific Northwest…especially Portland! And then, another funny thing happened:

I stopped loving Portland.

I blame this on the rest of America’s sudden infatuation with the Rose City (which, in turn, I blame on the IFC series Portlandia…damn you, Fred Armisen, for making Portland so damn hip!). A mass influx of people descended upon PDX, causing housing prices to skyrocket and traffic to come to a grinding halt at times. Even after I found a decent-paying job and married Tara, who landed an even decenter-paying job, we couldn’t afford to live there any more. Recalling that road trip years earlier, I jokingly suggested moving to Rapid City one day in June, 2017. Tara took the bait, and the rest is history.

Two years ago today, after 18+ hours on the road and 1,250 miles, we arrived in Rapid City. It was love at third sight.

Here we are, two full years later, happier than ever. Everything we hoped for when hatching this crazy scheme has materialized into reality; in many cases, expectations haven’t just been met, but exceeded. I often lament the fact that we didn’t move out here sooner, but Tara brings me back to earth by reminding me that the timing had to be just right (as I mentioned myself in 2011). It’s a classic case of better late than never.

Two years. That’s a long time, but it feels like it’s flown by in the blink of an eye. Believe it or not, all of this somehow still feels new. Two summers, two autumns, two winters, and two springs later, it’s still a novelty.

To anybody contemplating a scary, life-altering change, I wholeheartedly recommend going for it. Sooner, rather than later.

I can’t even imagine what life would look like if we hadn’t done this.