Once led by fearsome warriors who conquered vast lands and ruled for hundreds of years, now a furniture category on Wayfair: The Ottoman Empire. It always seems like an empire will last forever, but it never does.
First, I’m very lucky that I haven’t contracted the virus. But I’m only a few degrees of separation from those who have. So let’s get that out of the way.
When my full-time employer issued the decree in March 2020 to ‘go work from home.’ I was pretty excited. It was starting to feel hinky out there. People were acting weird in the office, getting mad if anyone coughed, and then going out to raves, and then dealing with the side eyes when they returned. You get the idea.
I love working in my home office. I love not commuting. I love having lunch break on my back patio. I knew there weren’t going to be a lot of entertainment options in this new world, but even so … I could exercise every day! I could take walks every day! And so began Phase 1.
About four weeks in, when it was absolutely clear the ‘before times’ weren’t coming back anytime soon, exercising every day forever wasn’t so appealing. So ended Phase 1.
Then came Phase 2. Get back to reading books. I’ll read a book a week! As long as it’s fiction. Unfortunately I discovered that modern media has destroyed my attention span. Reading does calm the mind. Even if you’re reading a book about a British girl who can’t stop shopping, it’s still making your brain work better. But my internet brain barely had the patience for it.
After finishing about four books, I thought, who am I kidding with this book a week idea? Do what you can do.
Enter Phase 3. Cooking stuff I don’t usually cook. It’s a cliche, but banana bread happened, so did bagels, soup with cilantro, and brownies. There was a lot of baking. The pendulum had swung away from daily exercise, to lying on the couch watching tv and eating carbs.
Phase 4. Depressing Documentaries. Including Tiger King, The Vow, and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.
Phase 5. Home Improvement. That’s where I am now. Sometimes it’s just pushing furniture around, sometimes it’s extensive browsing on Wayfair.
The weirdest thing is, that once upon a time I thought this would end. It seems like a million phases ago.
These days I can hop in the ocean for a swim whenever I feel like it. This is particularly nice in the summer when the water’s calm and warm and the sea critters keep their distance.
So imagine my surprise the other day when I saw a fellow in full-on wet suit and snorkel gear, swimming back and forth along the beachfront. Wierd — because you hardly ever see anyone in a wetsuit here, even on those few surf-worthy days. What’s more, the guy was just slowly floating along, about 50 yards out, not really going anywhere.
Then one of the lifeguards started to blow his whistle at the guy and gesture in an agitated fashion. Who knew … I had never even seen the lifeguards move before. Kind of like those motionless iguanas who sun themselves on the rocks all day.
The snorkler started half-heartedly swimming downshore, but probably realized he was never going to outswim a rescue ATV. Accordingly, he made a dash for the beach. Dragging along, of all things, a fishing line loaded with what looked to be over 20 ocean perch or red snapper. Despite being loaded down with two dozen fish and wearing a full-body wetsuit, mask and snorkel, the perch poacher managed to elude the (now thoroughly amused) lifeguard.
I don’t know what rule the guy broke, if any. But I definitely felt like I had just witnessed the “ocean perch” version of the Seinfeld “lobster” episode.
If you never want anyone to pick up when you call, simply change your caller name to ‘Scam Likely.’
Red. No, blue! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Twenty fun points to you, if you get that reference.
No, but seriously, designers definitely have opinions on color. Some do everything in black, with hits of fire-engine red. Some stick with primary colors or with pastels. Some of don’t have favorite colors, but definitely do have least-favorite colors. (Mine is pink.)
Some of switch favorites with the trends, and some just never budge. I’m looking at you, purple people.
I’ve definitely gone through phases, but I will say that there are certain color combinations that I’ve always adored, and probably always will.
Brown and peach. Purple and chartreuse. Navy and white. But my all time favorite combo is charcoal gray and post-it-note yellow. I love that duo so much that I’ve got their hex codes memorized.
That’s right. Lennon and McCartney. Peanut butter and chocolate. Tom and Jerry. And #333333 and #FFFFCC.
It is said that the human mind would be pure chaos without language. Language provides structure and solidity to our every thought. It’s strange to imagine that without language, we would have no thoughts. Just raw needs, physical sensations and emotions. We wouldn’t even need a spoken or written language to corral our thoughts, just some sort of symbolic representation of concepts, objects, actions, emotions, memories. Sure, we could find our way to the center of the maze so we could get the cheese — because of pattern recognition. But could we imagine what the cheese would taste like, plan what we would do after our cheese-fest, or tell our friends about our cheese find? Prolly not.
And every time we think we’re coming up with a new word or expression, we’re prolly not. We’re just renaming a concept that’s been around for a long time, or mashing together several previously existing concepts. So take that “lit”, and “salty” and “O.G.” You’re only the latest version of “groovy”, “miffed” and “eminence grise.”
And that’s my final word on the subject.
If quarantine time has taught us anything — and it’s taught me many things — it’s that we humans are inherently driven to make things. When gazing at our little goggleboxes grows tiresome; when we are limited in our ability to gather at restaurants, bars, gyms, or offices and distract each other, eventually we will say to ourselves, “I would really like to make something.”
Maybe we will start small with a loaf of banana bread; maybe we will aim a bit higher with sourdough. Maybe we film an elaborate tiktok with our family. Maybe we will tear up all the carpet in the upstairs bedrooms and refinish the hardwood floors. Maybe we will design an app for timing the maturation of a sourdough starter or create a home-built drone out of Lego blocks and a kit bought online. Maybe we’ll finish the scrapbook we started two years ago or take up knitting.
At some point just sitting there and taking it all in just isn’t enough. You got to make something. What is satisfying about creating things, even if they’re not Martha-Stewart-perfect? I’m not sure, but it feels so elemental, it must be encoded in the human genome. “I made this!” cried the cave-person who painted on the walls in Altamira. “And so did I!” shouted the much-later human who created the wheel and axle. “As did we!” said the various people who invented and improved the telescope. Leaving aside questions of who got there first, and whether these creations were solo or group projects, or even whether these creators knew their work was going to be problematic for the “higher ups,” you just know that they felt fantastic about what they had done.
Same thing with banana bread – on a slightly more modest scale. The endorphins are released, and the baker feels, “I am here. I have forged rotten bananas into sustenance for myself and those around me. Huzzah!”
When our distractions and entertainments are whittled down to a precious few, we realize that life is better when you’re making things.
So let’s go make some stuff. Even after we get vaccinated.
Some time just before Thanksgiving I read an article about Aaptiv, an audio-based training app. Aaptiv has pre-recorded training sessions for different activities: some in the gym, some outside, some strength, lots of cardio, and tons of coaches. There is also a real music (not muzak) soundtrack behind every session. Truthfully I think I had subconsciously been trying to create this app on my own for years. I would make workout ‘mix tapes’ and then write down training routines I had seen in magazines. Then I’d plug in and try to do them without dropping my cheatsheet in the grass or just losing my place and giving up.
I signed up for a month-long trial membership with Aaptiv, and was pretty much hooked after two weeks. To my surprise I committed to a six week program called ‘Walk to Run One Mile’. I am not a runner. I probably hadn’t run a mile since junior high school. But I did it. The feeling of elation when I completed the program was overwhelming. I had run almost two miles without stopping, no asterisks! And the reason I did it was because of the coach’s minute-by-minute instructions and encouragement. Even on the days when working out was the last thing I wanted to do, I would remember the rewarding feeling of the coach saying, “You are a-MAY-zing!”
I have never met an Aaptiv trainer I didn’t like, but so far my favorites are Ben, Ackeem and Jade. Ben is like the energizer bunny and was particularly good at getting this self-doubting athlete to “just try.” Ackeem is like a spiritual drill sargeant. You definitely don’t want to let him down. Jade is no-nonsense mellow, and always helps me to reboot my mind. In every workout, whether it’s walking or yoga or meditation, I am grateful for the the positive messages I can take into the rest of my day. They are almost more important to me than the workout itself.
I am not shilling for the app, although I am obviously a fan. TBH, the strength workouts are harder for me to follow. I don’t always know what the moves are, and the verbal descriptions can be confusing. (A half turkish get-up, wha?) but I flail around anyway and google it later.
So what are the results so far? I’m still working out with Aaptiv three or more times a week. I’ve lost some weight and toned up a bit, but the biggest change is in my confidence. I definitely look forward to the “me time” of working out. Deciding what session to download is almost like shopping for shoes!