Spring has sprung!

Currently drinking: G&T (Hendricks)

So it’s another Tuesday! If you’ve read my previous posts you would know that I can’t stand Tuesdays. I find them difficult in the best of times to get through. As we continue with the shelter-in-place order, I have been really trying to take stalk of all the the things that I am grateful for. I am, frankly, grateful to be alive during this time. The weather has started to turn (finally!) and it’s now in the 70s outside with not a cloud in the sky. It brings me joy when we can have the windows open and smell the fresh air coming into our apartment. Somewhere in our neighborhood we have jasmine growing. For me, it’s one of the best smells that I have ever experienced.

This won’t be a super long post. I just wanted to check in to wish you all the best and I hope you are staying healthy, happy and sane during this time!

Day 23

Well, it’s the end of the day here on Thursday, 9 April. It’s been 23 days since the shelter-in-place order was issued for our area. Sometimes, at night, it doesn’t feel like we are living in the middle of a pandemic. We can hear the freeway from our window, planes are arriving and taking off from the airport nearby. People are in their apartments watching TV. Perhaps there are more lights on in our complex, but, it feels normal. Then the day hits, and it’s the same routine. Wake up, brew the coffee, take a shower, turn on the work laptop and then work. And even after writing this down, it sounds pretty normal. But then I have moments at random throughout the day where I am reminded that this is not normal.

10:23am – a meeting has ended early and I get up to go to the bathroom. I am able to stand on my balcony for a few minutes and savor the cleaner air.

12:45pm – I am able to lay in bed and read a book for a short time after lunch and in between meetings.

4:00pm – I clock out, crack open the gin or the wine and my work day is pretty much over.

These are all things that I would not normally be able to do. I am savoring these little spaces of quietness. I know people throw themselves into their work partially to escape and partially because it gives them meaning. Not me. I am increasingly becoming tired of the work that I am doing. It lacks meaning for me and I am increasingly realizing that my heart is no longer in it. And, rather than be depressed or upset or even angry, I am finding myself more determined than ever to make a change. I know that when this is over, or at least in a state where some semblance of normal returns, that I am going to quit. I am going to spend a few months finding what it is that I really want to do. Maybe focus on writing and mentoring. The bottom line is that I am tired of working for other people and trying to meet their expectations when mine are not being met.

I suspect a lot of us are feeling this way due to COVID-19. The world may not fully reset from this pandemic, but there is nothing stoping me from resetting on my life and myself. I feel hopeful. And that’s a nice feeling when its so easy to feel helpless in the world.

By the way, as I get into the swing of writing on this blog, I will actually get better at posting coherent and musing-like posts. If you have read this far, cheers! Stay safe and stay healthy.

Tuesdays are the “Worst”

Tuesday. What comes to your mind when you think of the word Tuesday? For me, there is a plethora of meaning. Of course there is the simple, it’s the second day of the work week (for people in the US). I sometimes associate tacos with Tuesdays; who hasn’t heard of Taco Tuesday? It also is one step closer to the coveted Friday and the weekend. But it also has other meaning for me. Tuesdays are usually the hardest days for me. Whether it’s work related or anything else.

I remember when Mondays were the days working folks “dreaded” as it was the first day back to work. Commutes and school drop-offs make traffic snarl and its a rude awakening to have to wake up earlier and get out of bed into the routine. But over time, it feels like Mondays have almost become a shadow-extension of Sunday. Shadow in that you’re still working and commuting and dropping the kids off at school but it feels like the universe is still waking up. It doesn’t know for sure what to make of itself. Almost like it’s holding its breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Have you noticed that?

Maybe the universe is still in shock that the weekend is over?

Maybe the universe is trying to plan the rest of the week and didn’t want to bother on a Sunday night?

What if Mondays don’t actually exist and Sundays are just double days?

Maybe I should stop talking about the universe in these terms as 1) it has no concept of human time and 2) it’s subjective who who and where you are in the world. This is the last time I write while drinking a G&T…on a Tuesday…at 4:34pm…in 2020…on April 7th.

But I digress. I have noticed that people whether they be family, friends or colleagues at work, are much more alert and less laid back on Tuesdays than they are on Monday. It’s like the week REALLY begins then. People become more harried and stressed as if they are only remembering that they are supposed to be doing something and that they have deadlines. And of course, those deadlines always seem to happen on a Friday afternoon at 4:30pm. Regardless, Tuesdays just generally suck. I am on a project where everyone meets for 90 minutes from 9am to 10:30am. And it’s painful. Not enough people are taking ownership of their own work, nor are enough people stepping up to the plate to stretch themselves. To make matters worse, we lack coherent structure and goals which make it even harder to execute successfully.

I don’t blame my leadership, or at least, I don’t place all the blame on them. This is partially because I happen to be a “leader” now; it’s implied in my title. I am observing some very interesting things about leadership and team dynamic. Mainly, how do you motivate people? How do you keep them focused on multiple things and help load balance them. Now that I am one step closer to the “top”, I am certainly more aware of the vulnerabilities and pitfalls of trying to navigate this path. It’s a fascinating thing to see. I don’t yet know what I have learned nor have a perspective on how to address this. I operate very much in an observation mode and then attempt to jump in and mitigate once I understand the flow and dynamic of a team.

Right, another tangent, but one that I felt was important. I was also going to talk about day UNKNOWN VALUE of COVID-19 but I think I’ll save that for a post later in the week. It’s been a stressful time and this is the moment of truth for the US in terms of our response to the virus. This deserves its own post and I need some more time to come to terms with some things that have happened to people that I know and love.

Until then, stay safe and healthy!

Finding the light

So it’s day I Have Lost Count of the shelter-in-place for us. I think we are just coming up to the half way point for week 3. Surreal, bizarre and unprecedented are all words that I have used over the last few weeks to describe the scenes near where I live and what is going on in the world. But, another word is starting to enter into my lexicon; eerie. As if the word itself isn’t strange enough. It perfectly sums up exactly what I experienced today. I went out with my partner to pick up groceries and for the first time, our supermarket had the monitored queue out front. I was struck by a few things:

  1. The parking lot of this particular grocery store was surprisingly empty for its location and for the time of day. The previous times that we have been at this store it was much more crowded. And that was the case even after the shelter-in-place order was announced.
  2. The line was orderly and people seemed to be pretty good about following the directions (I noticed this inside the store as well). In fact, two people left the line because they had reusable bags and were told that they couldn’t bring those inside the store. The people in back of both of them kept their places in line. I was actually touched by that. It showed me that there is still a sense of common decency still left even if it was small.
  3. The line moved surprisingly fast. There were probably 10 to 15 people in front of us which doesn’t seem that many. But, when you factor in that it was a supermarket (where you never have to wait to get in) and that we were maintaining at least 6 feet between us and the next shopper, the line seemed large. I don’t think we were waiting for more than 10 minutes outside before we were allowed in.
  4. The interior of the store was very orderly and well maintained. There were these red placards on the floor down the outer lanes and at the bakery and deli counters that people were supposed to stand at to maintain 6 foot distances; I thought that was pretty neat.

So, this is all positive. So why did I feel uncomfortable (eerie)? This is the second time that the COVID-19 crisis hit close to home for me. The first time was when we were alerted that someone in our building complex had tested positive. Since then, we’ve had no additional information from our building management. Today, seeing the people in line and everyone wearing gloves and masks struck me. Things are not normal. And it’s not like I didn’t know that or wasn’t already experiencing that. But, today, it just felt different. Seeing the lines outside of a place where I’m used to being able to walk in and out as often as I want was jarring. This is the new normal. And it might be this way for the next few weeks or the next year. And maybe it just struck me today. The culmination of all the stress from the last few weeks hit a new tipping point for me. Stress is cumulative after all. It’s not like your counter resets to 0 at 12:00am every day.

But, I want to talk about some things that are not all doom and gloom. We’ve had some absolutely gorgeous weather the last few days. It’s been in the mid to upper 60s and we’ve had picture perfect blue sky with only some passing clouds on occasion. That has helped my mood majorly in the last few days. I spend time out on our balcony and I love it. We are on the top floor and west facing so we get a good amount of afternoon sun. In the summer it can be a little extreme. Luckily we have a very good air conditioner when that happens! But during the winter, early spring and late fall periods, it’s great. It’s usually 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding air temperature. I find the sun very therapeutic and I know that there is research that indicates that as well.

Some other good things is that my partner, Chris and I, have never been closer. We both have pretty long commutes to our jobs and my Saturdays are usually fairly busy so we only really spend about 3 hours together each day of the week (barring sleeping) and most/all of the day on Sunday. So, when this shelter-in-place began, I was a little nervous that we would go stir crazy in our 1 bedroom apartment. But, the reality of it couldn’t be further from that. We have gotten into a really good routine. We have the places that we stakeout during the day for work and spend lunch together. It’s actually been wonderful. It also makes me incredibly grateful that I have someone during this time. If I was living by myself and was isolated, I don’t think I would be doing well. His work ethic is also great and I am finding inspiration from him to work harder as I am working from home.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that we are spending a lot more time cooking and grilling at home. That’s probably unsurprising given what is going on. But, we would frequently order take out/delivery or go out especially on the weekends. Aside from one meal a week – usually Friday nights – for “date night”, we cook. I feel pretty good about this, but, I also feel a little bad. Right now, a ton of restaurants are open doing take out and delivery orders during this crisis. Given how hard it is to make ends meet where we live, I do feel some responsibility to support these places. But, at the same time, I know that by severely limiting contact to only essential activities, we are doing our part to stop the spread of this virus. And that outweighs anything else, easily. The other thing that I wanted to add about the cooking was the cleaning. I am normally responsible for cleaning the dishes and the kitchen. And I hated it. I hated it because after work and dinner (with wine of course!) the last thing I wanted to do was clean dishes. My evenings were already truncated by my commute. But now that I don’t have a commute, I don’t mind cleaning at all. Having time back is a great feeling.

So, all in all, things could be worse. The world is in a precarious spot. But, I am doing what I can to help my community by not spreading the virus. I am spending more time writing, cooking, reading and spending time with the man I love. So, this crisis has taught me that it is ok to focus on the things that really matter. And isn’t that what we are all striving to understand?

A glimmer

So it’s now Day 9 of the Shelter-in-Place order. Compared to yesterday, I am feeling better though still unsettled. Whether it be work or my personal life, things just don’t seem normal. I am being bombarded with inane text messages and posts from family. Pictures of Trump or of dinner and other random things. I know they are trying to lighten the mood and that they are dealing with this in their own way. But, sometimes you just need to wall yourself off from all that.

I do happen to find it annoying when my phone and watch constantly ping. You look down and you have 30 messages in the span of 5 minutes. And yes, while you can change the notification and alert settings, there’s something deeper. Deeper than just the superficial annoyance of being reminded of the plastic and glass device on your wrist or in your pocket. There’s a deep sense of still not feeling ok. Since this whole virus has swept through the world and shut it down, I am finding myself increasingly detached from the world. This is the case for most of us. We are all practicing social distancing and to an extent isolation. And as we have each become an island, we are left to think. And this gets into the heart of something that I have struggled with my entire life. Depression.

Depression eats at you. It sucks away your will to do anything. It makes you into a shell of the person. An exterior that, if chiseled or shattered would reveal an abyss. The core of you is so distant that it feels like an echo… or a memory of what you once were. It’s a nefarious and pervasive invader in your life. You try to hide it as best you can. You force a smile or feign interest in a conversation or try to look at things of beauty. But, you feel as a fraudster does. Knowing that you can lie to others but you can’t lie to yourself. It’s the mental equivalent of skin cancer. You can hide it under layers, but it slowly eats you away. You feel it in your mind. It gnaws at you. Your brain feels like someone is slowly stretching it out, twisting it into perverse shapes, and then stretching it out further. And like hate, it’s smart. It knows the best time to strike. When you are alone and feeling helpless.

And that’s how I feel now. Helpless and alone. I don’t even have the opportunity to go out and be with family and friends in person because of the Shelther-in-Place order. I want to be clear, I am not complaining about what is going on. We all need to do our parts to stop this virus in its tracks. And while I can rest somewhat easily knowing that. And that gives me some strength. Sometimes, when I am in a depressive state, a small glimmer of hope is all I need to start getting back on track. The abyss becomes a pit, with a bottom. And I find myself present again with my mind and body in my surroundings. Sometimes it comes from the anticipation of something huge – a holiday or a vacation. And other times, it can be a simple “Thank you” and a smile from a stranger. That’s one of the other tricky things about depression. But, I think I’ve given it enough time.

Today, the sun came out. After several days of cold, dreary and wet weather, we have clear skies. I can even see a sliver of moon hovering over a building from my window. The air is cleaner than I have seen it in a long time. We can certainly “thank” COVID-19 for that. The sound of traffic both in the air and from the nearby freeway is a little less. There is a breeze and the air is brisk. And while the world still feels like it’s holding its breath, I can find peace in this moment. I will see another day. And perhaps, the glimmer of today will become a reality for tomorrow. It’s certainly worth sticking around for.

The view from our balcony taken this afternoon after the sun broke through the clouds. It’s not much, but it’s ours.

Day 8 of Shelter-in-Place

It seems like everything we are reading, hearing, watching and talking about revolves around COVID-19. Whether it’s family, friends, or colleagues in the virtual office, it’s the singular topic on all of our minds. For myself and my partner, we have been under a Shelter-in-Place order for the past 8 days. We live in California which was one of the first places in the US to have positive cases of the virus. If we are able to successfully flatten the curve, the Shelter-in-Place order may be lifted on April 7th. However, I think this will last longer. The virus is showing no signs of slowing down. To add to an already stressful time, we are also seeing people (both young and old) ignore social distancing. More on that later.

To say that this is a stressful time seems like the understatement of the year and decade. It might be the understatement of the century as well though we still have 80 years for something even more monumental to take the crown! I certainly have never seen anything like this. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a guy in his 30s so I appreciate that I am still young and have a lot more future (hopefully!). Prior to COVID-19, 9/11 was the biggest single event that I could remember. I remember when my father walked in telling me that the country was under attack. It was even more poignant since he grew up just outside NYC and lived/worked there for a number of years before migrating to California. I remember the streets being completely empty and the uncertainty of what had not yet happened. There were rumors that the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was a target among many others. And even though all the events happened on the other side of the country, the sense of fear, unease and total helplessness was palpable.

But, that was just a day. A day that transformed the US into something different. It was no longer the same country as it was on September 10, 2001. There are myriad things that changed. Increased airport security, the TSA, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq just to name a few. But, for me, my day to day life didn’t change. I still went to school, hung out with friends and procrastinated on homework until the night before. Family gatherings, while more tense, still happened. We still went on vacations to places. I was certainly more politically and geographically aware after September 11th but I was still pretty much living my life the way I always had.

COVID-19 is not just a day in 2020 to remember. My life, the life of my family and friends and colleagues have all been upended. The entire world has been put on pause, and as if that wasn’t hard enough to grasp, there is no end date. Sure, we are hearing about China (Wuhan in particular) lifting the lockdown orders and Chinese officials ordering the country to go back to work. Time and ultimately history will judge if that is correct. Hong Kong recently did the same thing and they have seen another uptick in cases. It’s been several months for Asia and it is still unclear whether or not the region is over the curve.

The West (most of what I am going to talk about relates to news in the US) is just starting to go through this. While it would be great to think that we will be over this by early April or even Easter, I am thinking this will easily go into May and maybe as far as June. I have no data to back that up and I don’t claim to be an expert. This is what my gut tells me. If it does go into the summer, then what does it mean about the country and our society? Could we have done more to stop the spread of this? Should we have taken this more seriously than we did initially? Again, watching how this unfolds across Asia compared to the West, or just the US, will probably be the only way we could draw a comparison. What I can say is that I am dismayed by the cavalier attitude that some people are showing. Even people close to me are making light of the Shelter-in-Place order. To me, it shows a clear lack of empathy and love towards others and the community at large. I have elderly family and friends. I am very worried about them. I am also angry that other people are not making the same sacrifices that so many of us are making to try and fight this.

All of this being said, the virus still felt a little distant. On the one hand, it’s an invisible enemy that does not discriminate who it infects. On the other, all the cases happening around us have been statistics reported on the news. Until today.

We received a notice from our apartment complex’s management that there is a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. Out of respect and law, their name and unit is not being released which I understand and appreciate because of the panic factor. Still, you have to wonder how safe you are. Each of our units has its own HVAC system, but, our unit faces a courtyard and the virus can survive in air for a little bit of time. Our maintenance and cleaning team has closed all public spaces and removed all furniture within the courtyard to prevent people from gathering. My parents and family are understandably concerned, and I am concerned. Knowing that the virus has become a “neighbor” changes things. Any tickle in your throat, any slight shiver, any small, minute, “off” thing is now making me wonder.

But with all of this, we have to still look on the bright side. I am feeling fine right now. I know that we will get through this crisis. It’s brought me closer to my family and to my partner. It’s making me take stock of what is really important in my life. I created this blog as a way to cope during this time. But I love to write as well. So, in a way, while I am coping, I am also doing what I enjoy. I am looking at this situation as an opportunity to do more self-discovery and to determine what I want to do with my life and career. After all, we only get this one life…you may as well make the most of it.

So, if you made this far, congratulations and thank you for reading. I know this post meandered but I needed to get some things off my chest. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Talk soon.

Gehenna: Where Death Lives. Get the hell outta there henny!

So, in between my first introductory post and this one I cleaned out the lint trap in the dryer and threw in a load. But I’m sure that’s NOT why you came here. Earlier today, I rewatched a horror movie, that I admit, I was intrigued by when I first watched it. Gehenna: Where Death Lives is a horror film about time travel and coming to terms with ones sins. It starts out hundreds of years ago (before there was even a ‘MURICA!). A group of scantily clad men – my favorite – are standing around some old white man who is tied to a rock alter. A little chanting followed by some magic powder leads to a great scene that would make Ed Gein and Leatherface proud. Let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for the white guy.

Fast forward about four hundred years and we’re now in modern day Saipan. Fun fact, Saipan is the second largest island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. You may have heard of its larger sister island, Guam. “Funner” fact, I thought Saipan was in the Philippines. “Funest” fact, I am a white American male, so, are you really surprised? But I digress. So, we are treated to a bunch of white people (mostly American with an Aussie thrown in) commenting about wanting to turn this lush tropical paradise into the next Daytona Beach. To help add in some authenticity to the film, Lance Henriksen (Aliens) makes a cameo as an executive/mentor to the main character…whose name I have already forgotten…again. #thankyouwine

Anywho, this group, being your stereotypical bunch of westerners, disregards the locals and customs. They are attempting to develop a plot of undeveloped land to turn it into an Instagrammers wet dream. But they run into a slight snag. You see, this undeveloped paradise happens to be an ancient site. The same site that we may have seen in the very first scene? What do you think?

Beautiful clear waters and white sandy beaches around the stunning Bird Island in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Doesn’t this look absolutely beautiful? I wonder how much plastics are on their beaches?

So, they get to this plot of land. And wouldn’t you know, they run into an elderly local man…who happens to be wearing the face of the dude from the first scene hundreds of years ago! And wouldn’t you know, he has a warning for all of them. Basically, stay around here and bad things will happen. Of course they ignore it (I mean, did you want the movie to only be 20 minutes?). A little bit of foreshadowing later the group stumbles upon an old Japanese bunker from WWII. Being of sound minds, they decide to go into it even though there is NO mention of this bunker on any official documentation. They soon discover a bunch of bodies. As if that wasn’t horrible enough, they enter one particular room and are attacked by what is described as a “living corpse”.

Image result for Gehenna: Where Death Lives
This is the “living corpse”. Do any of you wish you were this skinny? #bodypositivity

Now, at this point, I have to admit that I am somewhat intrigued. But, we are already about 30ish minutes into the film. What follows is a tale of judgement for past sins with a bit of time travel thrown in. I won’t divulge any other information on that because it would count as a major spoiler and I don’t think I am that kind of turd. But this blog is young so you never know. Suffice it to say that this film is a slow burner with some cliche J-horror scares thrown in. The director is Japanese and the film is an American-Japanese collaboration. And while the scares are good (I have a soft spot for J-horror), it ultimately comes across as too little too late. So, what would I rate this as… well, I’d give it a solid half-bottle of wine. Don’t judge, I literally came up with the wine bottle rating system right now and have yet to even define what it means. Or judge, I don’t care.

This review was brought to you by a lovely Petite Syrah.

First post…let's hope this doesn't die on the vine

HELLO! Welcome to my first post! I’m a guy in his 30s who lives in a one bedroom apartment (with his partner!) in a very expensive place who spends most of his money on rent and wine with a sprinkle of travel and gaming mixed in. I have a lot to say and I for some reason, you were either lucky enough, or most likely, unfortunate enough to stumble upon my musings. I am planning on this blog just being my random thoughts on various things.

I love to communicate with people. So, if I happen to get some interaction on this site then HOME RUN! In a more serious note, I am starting this in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the globe. All of my friends and family following various shelter-in-place orders from various governments. I am feeling isolated and a little lonely. I figured it was time to use all this technology to reach out to the world and see if anyone wanted to talk.

I have not set a goal or objective for this blog. I’m not planning on selling products or generating leads. I wouldn’t mind a handful of likes and maybe the occasional comment every now and then, though! Let’s see if this blog blossoms or dies on the vine (I know, very original especially since it’s in the title as well). I think that’s enough for an introductory post.