Flocking Birds

Was outside earlier, snow flurries falling around me. I watched Fozzie tentatively sniff at a pile of frozen poop (his own, from earlier in the day), trying to decide if he wanted to eat it. (He did, but I ran over and cleaned it up first, stealing his “treat” from him.) I looked up and saw a flock of birds moving southwards across the gray sky.

Birds making me jealous by getting the flock out of Ohio.

Gray and cold, cold and gray. This time of year in Ohio is my least favorite. Dark by 5pm and, if you’re lucky, maybe a few errant rays of sunshine during the day. Here in the midwest, a sense of gloom haunts the landscape like the world’s most depressed ghost. Even my SAD lamp seems like it would prefer to hibernate until it’s time to go on spring break. There’s a reason why — at least in pre-pandemic times — I travel to San Diego every March, so that I have something to look forward to, to motivate me to just get through January and February.

I thought a return to San Diego might be in the cards this spring, but with Robert Ludlum’s The Omicron Variant still wending its way through the world, that seems less and less likely. So since I can’t change the fact that I am cursed to be living in interesting times, I’m instead working on changing the things I do have control over — like my mindset when it comes to the winter months. To accept them for what they are — just a season — and perhaps even try to find some joy in them. I turn 40 in a few months, and while I don’t feel old — hell, I barely feel like a grown-up (whatever that is) most days — I am becoming increasingly aware that the desire to skip ahead of the coming days, weeks, months and arrive at some vague, future endpoint, where things may not necessarily be better, and could possibly be worse, is maybe not how I should want to spend my life. And that means focusing more on the here and now, even if I really don’t feel like it some days.

So how’s all that going, you, my imaginary interlocutor, might ask? It remains a work in progress — but it’s going.


Okay By Me in America

First Monday of the new year. For me, the end of a four-day weekend. As my sister texted to me earlier, I always want to have the first Monday of the year off. I’ve only worked a few days the past several weeks, which has been pretty fantastic. Always nice to have the opportunity to pause, take stock, and rest and recharge. I have a good job with a good company, and my colleagues are all good people, so I try to never take these good things for granted.

Last night I saw the new WEST SIDE STORY. I can’t say if the 2021 version is better or worse than the original film or any of the Broadway productions, since I’ve never seen them. It means I also didn’t come in with any sort of preformed emotional attachment to those earlier incarnations. What I can say, however, is I enjoyed it immensely, and will probably be singing the seven or eight words that I know of “America” to myself over and over the next several days.

In other news, I think it’s time to toss out my pumpkins.

Beginnings of a pumpkin wasteland.



Yesterday we ventured out into the world to see the new Guillermo Del Toro film, NIGHTMARE ALLEY, at the Neon. I was really excited going in. GDT is one of the most interesting directors working today, and I am a sucker for a good film noir. It boasted an all-star cast and was gorgeous to look at, but it went on for too long (2 hours 30 minutes) and felt tonally… evil? It’s the best way I can think to describe it. I didn’t find myself sympathizing with any of the characters or caring about their fates.

I’m glad I saw NIGHTMARE ALLEY, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it.

We rang in the new year last night as we do every year — like motherfucking sorcerers.


Twenty Twenty Too

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the impending new year.

I am glad to see 2021 draw to a close. It’s been a shit year. An extended pandemic, the optimism of a vaxxed-and-waxed spring fading into a grim, variant-dominating autumn and winter of uncertainty. Then on a personal level, losing Molly, which was much harder than I ever thought it would be, and perpetually sick dogs in general, plus other shit I won’t bore anyone with. It’s all left me feeling very tired.

While 2021 can’t fuck off fast enough, it’s important to acknowledge the bright spots that managed to shine through the gloom. Nearly 8.5 billion Covid-19 vaccines were administered globally. I got to see family and friends again. I got published. And providing a timely and much-needed shot of serotonin, this belated Christmas gift arrived in the mail today.

It’s supposed to be a Christmas tree topper, but I suspect it will remain out somewhere in our house all year round.

I am under no illusion that 2022 will be easier. Too many variables, too many unknowns for that. But no matter how tired I may be, I remain optimistic that 2022 will be better than the year that preceded it. I don’t know how not to be optimistic, frankly. Not being optimistic means letting despair win, and I am too stubborn to let that happen. Pessimism will find no sanctuary here.

Instead, I am clubbing my optimism over the head, shoving it into an unmarked white van, and stealing away with it into the night, while fires rage, blue and red lights strobe, and sirens blare in our wake.

So let’s give 2021 the middle finger as we cross the finish line. We might be limping, might be bloodied and dragging one leg behind us, but the important thing is… we made it. And that’s not nothing.

See you on the other side.

It’s Friday, Friday

At my team’s holiday party today — virtual, of course — we held a white elephant exchange, and one lucky colleague walked away with this magnificent coffee mug.

11oz Coffee Cup Ceramic Novelty Magic Nicolas Cage Creepy Face Meme Funny Geek Nerd Color Changing Nicolas Cage Fan Gift Nic Cage Secret Santa Creepy Gift Present Cup 1pc 11oz Funny Present
I always enjoyed Nic Cage in FACE/OFF.

After the party wrapped, we let everyone have the afternoon off. Now I am indulging in a caramel-pecan sticky bun and Great Lakes Christmas Ale, and watching the new season of THE WITCHER, a show whose plot is incomprehensible to me but which I enjoy nonetheless. (Seriously, I can never keep the characters straight or tell when in the timeline a specific storyline is taking place. Even with the aid of wikipedia I can barely follow along.)

Anyhow… Happy Friday, sinners.

Do Shit That Makes You Happy

The weather has been so weird this weekend, so very un-December like. Warm and windy. So much wind. Raining like it was spring. Today I worked outside in a t-shirt, cleaning up the pile of broken glass that was, until Saturday morning, the top pane of our storm door, which smacked against the side of the front porch and shattered due to the aforementioned wind.

We took Friday off work to have a spa day.  A simple enough sentence to write, but something we’d been trying to make happen since seemingly forever.  Because of dog health stuff we’ve had to reschedule a couple of times this year.  I’ve actually had a gift card that Jess got me for Christmas 2019 and which I’ve never had a chance to use (for obvious reasons).  It wasn’t until we were in the car heading to the spa that I said out loud, “Hey, I think we’re actually going to do this.”  And we did: massages, facials, and pedicures.  It was expensive and amazing, and totally worth it.

When the pedicurist began working on me, she asked me, in a joking/challenging tone, did I want color?  I said sure, let’s go with black.  She suggested a different color.  Our compromise was High Waisted Jeans.

If you like these feet, my venmo is $thatjoshbales
If you like these feet, my venmo is $thatjoshbales.

I also had four cranberry mimosas in between services, and felt like a million bucks by the time we left.

Then yesterday I went to a belated Friendsgiving, delayed because of illness and — surprise, surprise — dog health stuff.  I saw people I hadn’t seen since early summer, ate delicious food, drank too much the perfect amount of red wine, and laughed more than I have a while.  It was a loud, magnificent time and so very much needed.

This was the most active weekend I’ve had in months, and it felt so good to be out in the world, amongst people.  I would say one of my goals for 2022 is to do more of it, more being out in the world, but it feels more urgent to me than just a goal — more of an exigency.  A thing I must do, for so many reasons but mostly because it will make me happy, and in 2022 “do shit that will make me happy” will be a top priority of mine.

A Study in Sleep

I had an in-person sleep study done last night, for the usual reasons. Even with a hundred sensors affixed to my head with “slime,” as the respiratory nurse affectionately called the adhesive substance, I still somehow managed to look amazing.

A sleep study is an interesting process to undergo, albeit one I’m not in a hurry to experience again. A hospital-like room in the basement of a hospital, a barebones bed, twenty minutes of getting shit stuck all over your body, someone watching you on black-and-white video all night long, and an absurdly early bedtime.

Despite all that, I’m pretty sure I didn’t move at all from when lights went out at 2100 til the nurse woke me up at 0500. I woke up feeling oddly refreshed and was waiting in the Starbucks parking lot when they opened at 0530.

Lake Plastic

The sky was clear this morning; the temperature cool but the wind mild. We walked into town to get breakfast so I could eat my weight in French toast. Afterwards, we “hiked” the two-and-a-half mile “trail” around Mirror Lake. The quotes are because the trail is really just a sidewalk that rings around ugly, rich people houses on the lake’s edge.

We’re staying at a house in Lake Placid — or, as my phone keeps helpfully suggesting, Lake Plastic — a ten minute walk away from downtown. Been here about five days now. We drove up late last week, stopping in Syracuse the first night. The next morning we took the boys out in their wagon and strolled around Syracuse University.

Yes, we have become people who cart our dogs around in a wagon. At 18-going-on-19, Fozzie gets worn out pretty quickly, and Kirby is partially blind, so long-distance walks can be a bit fraught. As such, a couple of weeks ago we bought a fold-up wagon. The boys have thus far enjoyed their new mode of transport — it lets them look at all the things and also be admired and petted by strangers. It’s a good arrangement for all involved parties.

two very good boys

We’ve spent several days hiking and generally bumming around in the Adirondacks. The leaves are changing colors, which has made for some pretty spectacular views. An interesting fact about the Adirondacks is that I am physically incapable of saying “Adirondacks” correctly. My brain keeps telling my mouth to pronounce it “A-dear-run-dax,” even though I know it’s wrong as soon as the mangled word escapes my lips.

We made one brief foray out of the area, on Sunday. Kirby was having some neck pain and, given his medical history, we were concerned it might be an issue with his spine. We called around and found an emergency vet in Burlington, Vermont, two hours away, who could see him. Turns out the pain in Kirby’s neck is muscle-related, which can be treated with pain meds and crating when we aren’t here, which Kirby just loooves. So now Kirby just remains the pain in my neck (har-har). While in Burlington, we also snagged some killer sandwiches from the Henry Street Deli.

As small villages go, I like Lake Placid a lot. Plenty of coffee shops and restaurants, a chill vibe, a cute indie movie theater, and proximity enough to the mountains to go do outdoor stuff. We’re here for a couple more days and will definitely be back in the future.

two ridiculously good-looking people