Adios, 2018

The year is ending with a little excitement here in Rapid City. If you consider a blizzard exciting.

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Never a dull moment around here, folks. Tara has to work today, but the bank is opening two hours late due to the weather. I don’t have to be anywhere (my first day on the new job is Wednesday) and I certainly don’t intend to venture out – not when the temperature is going to drop to zero by mid-afternoon. Fortunately, we were planning a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration at home, anyway. Picking up Chinese food (as is our tradition), listening to music, and maybe playing a little Nintendo.

I can’t help but reflect on all the changes 2018 brought to our lives. It has been a year like few others. 1994 sort of compares, when I left the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest, but back then I kept my job and my time zone, and the distance wasn’t as great. When the clock struck midnight one year ago, Tara and I looked at one another, a mixture of excitement and fear in our eyes. All the work ahead of us seemed overwhelming back then – packing up our worldly possessions, quitting jobs, bidding family and friends goodbye, and moving 1,250 miles away. There were moments where we wondered how we’d ever get it all done. And yet here we are, South Dakota residents for six months now, and it all feels natural. Yes, it was a lot of work, but we came through unscathed and it feels like we are both reaping the benefits of a simpler life in a small(ish) Midwest town already, just as we’d hoped. I am excited to see what 2019 brings!


Seems a little anticlimactic to talk about Christmas now that our tree and decorations are all packed up and back in storage. We had a great holiday, even though we missed our loved ones; we made an apricot-glazed spiral-sliced ham in the new pressure cooker Tara got me and went for a cold hike along the Skyline Trail, where it started snowing lightly. We were hoping for a white Christmas but missed out by just a few hours; the following morning we awoke to 2″ on the ground and some pretty slick roads that made me wish once more for 4WD. My new employer’s Christmas party was that evening, and it was a pretty fun little gathering; Tara got to meet my new boss and coworkers, there was free beer, catered food from Qdoba, and a white elephant gift exchange in which I actually ended up with a decent present for once – a mini desktop fridge that will keep a few cans cold. Perfect for my new office! PSI’s party was quite a bit tamer than the wild Fuel parties with casino games and live music, but nobody threw up in the bar this time so perhaps these low-key affairs are better, after all.

On Saturday, we drove out to the Badlands to admire them with a fresh coat of snow. All I can say is, wow.

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It’s hard to say what the highlight was. I’m torn between these bighorn sheep…

And this spectacular sunset.

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Stay safe tonight! Hope you all have a very happy 2019. Let’s go make some great memories, okay?

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Lava Junkie

How ’bout that Hawaiian volcano?!

I think it’s safe to say I’m obsessed with the Kilauea eruption. I have spent more time than I care to admit devouring news stories and scrolling through Instagram photos and video of the lava. Hashtag Leilani Estates is an easy way to kill an hour.

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Anybody who knows me shouldn’t be too terribly surprised by this revelation. I have long been fascinated with natural disasters. Not that I hope for them, of course; but when they do occur, I find it impossible to look away. If this were a jukebox, I’d have Mother Nature’s Greatest Hits on heavy rotation.

Not long ago, I wrote about my experience living in Hawaii. How I mostly hated it, except for the Big Island. I have fond memories of  black sand beaches and jungles and, best of all, hiking the Devastation Trail and Halema’uma’u Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I might have pocketed a few lava rocks, too; it’s a good thing I’m not (too) superstitious as Hawaiian legend claims that doing so angers the Goddess Pele, and she will retaliate by cursing the thief with misfortune. In fact, many a tourist has sent back a pilfered rock after encountering bad luck upon their return to the mainland. If this all sounds like a wacky sitcom plot, it was; remember that episode of The Brady Bunch where Bobby found an ancient tiki in Hawaii and bad luck started to befall the family? That bad juju was based on the legend of Pele. tiki

Fortunately, I never encountered any bad luck myself. Unless you count barely missing out on seeing an eruption firsthand. In 1983 we were vacationing on the Big Island; the day after we returned to Oahu, Kilauea erupted. My dad was always bummed about this, so I guess my fascination is hereditary.

That wasn’t my only close call with nature’s fury. I’m sort of like the Forrest Gump of natural disasters, having secured a front row seat to many an event. As evidence, I submit the following:

  1. Run like the wind, Toto! During my final summer in Dayton, Ohio, my brother and I spent a week at summer camp. One night, long after lights out, we were awakened by a counselor and ushered from our bunks. We were then marched across a field, through a howling wind, as turbulent clouds raced by overhead. Our destination? A concrete bunker beneath the swimming pool. It turns out a tornado warning had been issued, and funnel clouds were spotted in the vicinity. Luckily, none touched down. I vividly recall huddling nervously in the dead of night, surrounded by bags of chlorine stacked in haphazard piles. Pretty scary night for an 11 year-old!
  2. I spy the eye – no lie! In November 1982, Hurricane Iwa raced across the Pacific and took aim at Hawaii – the first hurricane to strike the islands in 23 years. Guess who had a front row seat to the whole thing? We stayed inside our house on base as winds gusted up to 120 mph and rain pelted Oahu. The worst of the storm occurred in the evening and overnight. I don’t remember ever feeling scared; I was simply in awe. The next morning we emerged to bright sunshine and a lot of damage, mainly downed trees. It was the first and only time living there that school was cancelled due to weather.
  3. Happy birthday – I got you snow! April 27, 1984, was my 15th birthday. Typically I associate my bday with pleasant spring weather, but in South Dakota (ha!) one can never assume. That year, I spent my birthday indoors as heavy snow fell and gusty winds blew. I don’t remember how much snow we ended up with by the time the storm wound down, but it’s safe to say “a lot.” This wasn’t the only blizzard I’ve experienced in my life, but because of the date, it’s the one that stands out the most in my mind.
  4. A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on! October 17, 1989, was just a normal Tuesday – until the ground started shaking with a vengeance. I was living in the Bay Area, just digging into a plate of spaghetti with my girlfriend at the time, when everything started rocking and rolling. I’d lived in CA for three years by that point and had experienced quite a few quakes, but nothing of that magnitude. And when the TV stations switched from the World Series game to images of citywide devastation – the worst being a collapsed freeway – we knew it was serious. The next week was a surreal blur. My college classes were cancelled and aftershocks kept coming. A few months later I traveled to the epicenter and somewhere, there is a photo of me standing in a fissure in the ground that comes up to my thigh.

Tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and earthquakes – oh, my. I’m just thankful to have thus far avoided tsunamis, avalanches, wildfires and alien abduction.

Well, the last one is a maybe. But that’s a story for another day.

Countdown: 42 Days

Lipstick on a Pig

As far as Friday the 13ths go, this one is anything but unlucky. The Moondoggies’ new album, “A Love Sleeps Deep,” came out today. It’s been five years since their last record; that’s basically an eternity in the rock ‘n roll biz.

If you are unfamiliar with our history with the band, let’s just say much like sleeping love, it also runs deep. They are basically the soundtrack to our relationship, and against all odds, I’ve developed a friendship with their lead singer, Kevin. I am not name-dropping, by the way; hardly anybody knows who The Moondoggies are! If I were going to do that, I’d talk about the time I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand, lol.

Seriously, though. The new record was on heavy rotation for me today. And it’s awesome. Harder and heavier than their last album, and more topical. These are good things. Kevin embodies all that I appreciate: he is an anti-Trump, feminist, socially conscious rocker who plays in a band because he loves music. He doesn’t care that his band isn’t very well known. (Having said that, you should check out the album. He might not care about fame, but I’d love it if more people “discovered” them!)moondoggies-alovesleepsdeep

We’re going to see The Moondoggies play a show at Mississippi Studios next week. It’s bittersweet; it’ll be our eighth (and final, at least in the immediate future) time seeing them live. We’re not quite stalkers, but close. Unless they happen to play in Rapid City on some future tour, of course. Doubtful, but I do plan to run that by Kevin after the show on Wednesday.

I can also see us planning a trip back here timed around a show of theirs someday. This isn’t a permanent goodbye, guys.


Leave it to me to be a medical anomaly once again.

On Monday, I had an appointment to get my eyes checked. As far as I can recall, this was the first time I’d ever had a vision exam. There was no overriding reason for me to have one this week – I’m sort of the black sheep of my family, the only one who does not wear glasses – other than the fact that I’m covered under Tara’s plan and figured I might as well take advantage of what amounts to a free exam before we move.

I walked in there wearing sunglasses and proceeded to stumble around, bumping into walls and such, while making a general commotion. The front office staff laughed and Tara, who had arrived before me and had no idea I was going to make a grand entrance by faking blindness, said, “See what I have to live with?”

I considered that a compliment.

Because I’d never had an eye exam before, I was caught off guard when they puffed air into my eyes. For the record, they did not warn me in advance. After I jumped a little, I told the assistant to assume I knew nothin’ about what was coming next. Because, well, I knew nothing about what was coming next. The assistant apologized and told me she should have told me what to expect.

No shit.

Anyway. She asked me next if I wanted dilation (no charge) or hi-res photos of my eyes instead ($20). I asked her to tell me more about this dilation thingy, and she rattled off a laundry list of not-pleasant-sounding side effects that included sensitivity to light, dizziness, and nausea, but promised these symptoms would “only last 4–6 hours.” That was a no-brainer for me. I told them I would happily fork over twenty bucks to avoid that nonsense.

So they took some crazy up-close pics of my eyes, which the doctor put up on his monitor. He pointed out my retina, optic nerve, etc. Trippy. Everything looked good, though.

This was followed by the good ol’ fashioned eye chart. At least I knew what was expected of me at that point. Afterwards, he broke the news to me.

“You’re an unusual case,” he said.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that…

Turns out I am nearsighted in my left eye and farsighted in my right. Together, my eyes compensate for each other. I personally like to think of myself as having self-correcting vision, but the doc didn’t see it that way.

“You probably haven’t noticed any problems with your vision,” he said. A true statement. But then he had me cover one eye, followed by the other, and read more lines from the chart while trying out various prescription strengths on me. I couldn’t help but admit it: they made a difference.

So, the bottom line is this: he wrote me a prescription, but I don’t need glasses. At least not for regular, everyday use. He suggested a few different options: distance glasses for driving, especially at night; reading glasses; or progressive lenses to help with both. Now, I wasn’t falling for this sugarcoated “progressive lenses” crap and called him out on it.

“You mean bifocals?!” I shouted asked.

“We don’t usually refer to them in those terms,” he replied, stealing a page right out of the you-can-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-but-it’s-still-a-pig book.

Fine. WHATEVER.

Really though, I’m okay with this. I have nothing against glasses, per se. The doc said it’s unusual for somebody to have reached this advanced stage of life without needing any sort of corrective lenses, so I should just count my lucky stars that I’ve gone this far and been able to see fine.

Oh, also, the eye doc really needs to work on his bedside manner.

So Tara and I will take a trip to Costco at some point and I’ll go ahead and order up a pair. They will probably spend most of their time gathering dust in their case, but I’m willing to try them out in certain situations.


Work has been pretty busy, which means the days are chugging along quickly. We only have a little over two months before our move now!

Hardly a day goes by where a coworker doesn’t comment about this. One young lady happens to have grown up on a farm in a small South Dakota town nobody has ever heard of, and her family is still there. She came in yesterday and asked, “Did you see the weather forecast?!”

She was referring to the blizzard in Rapid City today. 🙂

I just smiled and said yes, I had. I check the weather there on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I still want to move there.

Even though a blizzard in mid-April is hard to fathom. It hasn’t exactly been summer-like out here – cool and wet – but that’s typical. Winter feels like it ended long ago. Meanwhile, in my soon-to-be hometown, the snow is piling up and the winds are howling. Good thing I like the white stuff, huh?

Countdown: 71 Days