Friday, April 21, 2023


Aging comes for all of us. Being in denial won't shield you from its destruction.

My time has arrived. "Batter's up!" 

For several months recently I lived with profound existential dread. I pondered what my life would be like without activities that give me joy. No motorcycle-riding, no reading and writing, no outdoor communing with nature. I wondered what the point of living would be if I couldn't appreciate fine art, savor conversation with friends or see a small child's smile?

In hindsight that reaction was extreme but you'll be surprised where your mind goes when it feels threatened. Contemplating a future without vision led me to dark places.

This is not a woe-is-me personal essay; rather, I want to alert you to the certainty that at some point in your life you'll start losing your sensory abilities. It's inevitable and the result of natural aging. I asked my doctor yesterday why my eyesight has deteriorated and she confessed science doesn't always know. It could be residual effects of damage to my body caused by chickenpox a half-century ago; it could be biological changes from the COVID I contracted last September; it also could be viral impacts from the RSV I caught two months ago. Our bodies are complex, fragile systems that can endure only so much before, at a critical point, collapsing. My present condition is likely a multi-factored consequence of simply existing as a biological organism for six decades.

This fate comes for us no matter how much we try to prevent it. My persistent, long-standing efforts at maintaining health and strength through good diet (mostly vegetarian with lots of unprocessed food), regular exercise, etc. carried me only so far. It took me farther than neglect would have but not far enough to the land of immortality we all fantasize of reaching.

For three months last Fall I was almost completely-blind. I struggled with that condition emotionally as well as physically. I fortunately recovered most of my vision in November but then was whacked with RSV in Febuary. That illness plunged me again into complete darkness. Fully blind for a month, my eyesight slightly improved in March but then hit a plateau -- and not an adequate one. 

Currently I can see only about 20%, am blinded by sunlight and have clouds in my eyes obstructing vision. I can't see clearly beyond five feet. I can't drive or ride a motorcycle. I can barely read with the assistance of high magnification and dimmed brightness. 

Normal life alters starkly when your senses become impaired. Every day I spill things when trying to make a cup of tea or daily food. I got a bad burn on my hand while cooking. I bump into product-displays shopping local stores. I've come dangerously close several times to getting hit by cars walking outdoors. Experiences like this are new and unwelcome.

How do we react to life-altering change? Usually not well. Just before John Fetterman achieved his life's goal of becoming a U.S. Senator (D.Penn.), he suffered a stroke that affected his ability to hear and process words. That, in turn, caused him to fall into deep, clinical depression. Fetterman stopped eating, stopped getting out of bed and gave up on doing normal stuff. His family pushed him into month-long rehabilitation where medication and psychological care pulled him out of despair. Fetterman's now attempting to return to duty in the Senate. He still suffers sensory impairment but, with auditory equipment and familial support, is finding a way to enjoy life again.

Some of us can do that (with or without professional help), some of us can't. When I was young I couldn't imagine why anyone would ever kill themselves. Now I do. Viscerally. When what makes life meaningful and pleasant for you is taken away, cruelly and often suddenly, what's left to live for? It takes a lot of imagination and fortitude to forge past that gauntlet. Not all of us have it. You'll find out yourself some day and I hope it's late in life, like your 90s, and not earlier like your 60s (or worse).

This report from Down The Road We'll All Travel has a point: i.e., appreciate your good health. Today. Mindfully be grateful for your ability to do simple tasks like make coffee. Or watch a hockey game. Don't somnambulate through the good years or you'll regret it when good turns to bad. Sadly, it inevitably will. Taste and savor every day, starting now.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

More Hockey

I hope I've enticed you a little to watch some hockey. Playoff games start next week and they're always intense. Stakes are high, reputations are made, and the excitement is palpable.

One way into the sport is to learn who a team's star-player is and then watch him. Even when he's not near the puck he'll be doing something purposeful. You'll grasp this as you see plays unfold.

To "hit the back of the net" and not the "pipe" you should learn some hockey lingo. It's fun and you'll suddenly understand what the heck the announcers are saying.

- "Hit the back of the net" - Score a goal. You'll hear this said a dozen times every game

- "Pipe" - A metal goal-post. It clangs when struck by a biscuit 

- 1st/2nd/3rd "frame" - Frame means period; there are three, each 20 minutes long

- "Barn" - The arena where the game is played. Beloved home-ice

- "Biscuit" - The puck. "Please pass me the biscuit" is communicated by banging your stick on the ice

- "Bucket" - A player's helmet. Comes off during fights 

- "Chirping" - Talking trash to an opponent to disrupt his concentration. "Does the coach know you're out here?"

- "Sweater" - A player's jersey. Fans wear replicas which are absurdly expensive

- "Five-hole" - The space between a goalie's legs. An embarrassing place for a shot to go through. Oops!

- "Flow" - A player's long hair, gloriously cascading out the back of his bucket

- "Spitting Chiclets" - A player getting his teeth knocked out. Devils veteran Ondřej Palát had it happen to him a month ago. Ondřej caught a high stick in the mouth during the second period. He went into the locker-room, had his mouth stitched up and returned to the ice in the third period to score another goal. Hockey players are tough!

Wednesday, April 5, 2023


This has been a magical season for the New Jersey Devils -- they reached the playoffs for the first time in many years. During those years the team usually ended up in last place. (I rooted for them nonetheless.) Now the Devils are poised for glory.

At the start of this season odds for the Devils making it to the Stanley Cup finals were 5,000 to 1. Today, they're 6 to 1. Amazing play and surprising success changed everyone's view of the team. They're now respected for youthful energy, incredible speed and advanced skills. The Devils set an all-time NHL record for most wins in one month (eleven in November).

The regular season ends next week and playoffs follow. It'll be exciting so tune in and cheer with me.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

April Fool's Day Joke

Another April Fool's Day, another successful April Fool's joke.

Most of my past April Fool's jokes have been visual pranks -- a squirrel invading our home through an open window (plush animal), a scary man in a trench-coat and hat peering through a backyard window (mannequin), a four-foot tall pirate ship in the bathtub (inflated balloon). 

This year I thought it'd be fun to try something different -- an auditory prank. One using sound. You have to keep your target off-balance. Since Robin expects a joke today and is on high-alert looking for one, I can't repeat myself.

So I found a YouTube video of a cat meowing loudly. I snuck into the basement and put my computer under the stairs. Then pressed "play" and went upstairs to watch television.

Ten minutes later Robin walks into the room, stops and says 

"Do you hear something?"

"I don't hear anything."

"Really? Listen! I hear a cat. Don't you hear that?"


Robin checks the windows. Opens the front and back door. Then she narrows her search at the basement door.

"Ralph! There's an ANIMAL in the basement!!"

"Let's go down and take a look.'

I descend the stairs while Robin follows me. She tentatively comes halfway down.

"Don't worry" I say, "it's probably just an April Fool's joke."

Robin face turned from scared to agitated in an instant. Then the cursing started...