Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking an Afternoon Off

I took a half-day of vacation today. It was a bright, sunny day with early autumn color on leaves resting in a breeze, the ground damp from recent rain, though the air itself was clear and free of humidity. I worked until lunch, then I drove by Pak-Mail and dropped off 40 Fed Ex small boxes. It is part of our latest marketing efforts at work.

Before I left the office I sarcastically told my boss (the company prez) that I had no interest in working this afternoon. He laughed and said if he didn’t have a demo he needed to see he’d be gone too. He and I are surprisingly close after 10+ years of working together. That’s my longest period with one boss in my career. Work has been extremely demanding for me lately, the brain-drain kind of demanding, and I need to take more time off. I still have eight days of vacation left and the year isn't getting any younger.


I stopped by my usual package store and picked up a 12-pack of beer for later in the day. It was lunch time and people were already bustling about in preparation for the weekend. I drove home with my windows down, enjoying the 50 mile per hour wind stream my Subaru created.

Jennifer would be home later. She was in Atlanta on business. When I got home, one of her assistants was in Jennifer's office (The upstairs of my house is split into quarters. One quarter is open space above my living room, giving it a full two-story openess with windows high above. One quarter is my personal space filled with my PC, my library, my gaming table, my reading chair and lamp, my other possessions of interest to me. One quarter is Jennifer’s office. One quarter is my only closet in the whole house, our upstairs bath, and our small bedroom.) shuffling a lot of papers.

I exchanged small talk with her. I changed into a fresh t-shirt, kept my jeans on, took my shoes off and wore flip-flops out with Charlie, our english setter mix, on a walk in our woods. Being almost three, Charlie was all over the place, running, dashing, on high alert, possessing lots of energy for not being given a proper walk yet today. He ran and explored the woods and the field up behind our house, our piece of property that sort of looks out over the 10-acre space, the view partially blocked with woods. The noise of the breeze was so great today you couldn’t hear any traffic at all in the distance, mostly what you heard was early-fall leaves dragging through the wind.

Before I wore my flip-flops into the woods I saw Nala, our 13-year old border collie mix, lying in our carport. I rubbed her a long time and talked sweet to her. She has this spot on her woolly, smelly back and another spot on the underside of her tummy that when you rub it or scratch it her hind-leg begins to run in place rapidly. It must be a wonderful sensation for her because she whines at me if I don’t do that enough with her. Often she whines in vain, I am too busy and simply can’t. But, today I was in no hurry and she got a good, long rubbing. She followed Charlie and me part-way into the woods.

A new wargame came in the mail today. Good timing.
No Retreat! 2 from a great little low-volume game company called Victory Point Games. The system intrigues me as it simulates a more strategic view of the North African Campaign from 1940-1942. After I came back in from the woods I spent some time reviewing the game components and rules, piddling with the first few turns of the campaign game on its VASSAL module a couple of times just to get a feel for the thing. The British can easily handle the Italians in the game's first scenario, the opening of the campaign game. This was historically the case. I really like the design.

Mid-afternoon I checked the markets.
A great day for stocks and everybody. Over what? Is economic growth suddenly going to skyrocket? All this debt go poof!? Come on, guys. This is a trader’s market. Almost the same as going to Vegas. I think gold has found a support level. It gave a buy signal September 26. I didn’t buy. Richard Russell and this other guy I follow at goldprice.org were both obviously expecting a big correction, even beyond what gold lost recently. So, I hesitated and did not trust my buy signal system.

But, I have come to agree with Jennifer about
dollar cost averaging. I should be putting some amount every month in to this market. Gold might go down to say, $1400, but then we’ll just buy some that month at that price. Keep the faith. On his website yesterday, Russell said “accumulate” gold and that is what I propose to do and have been doing since 2003. When it comes to my position on gold, everybody thinks I’m either a fundamentalist Christian or that I'm too obsessive about the collective economic reality of America’s and Europe’s and Japan’s debt. Gold is in a bubble, they say, or it is just not a "real" investment. No matter that I've made around 60% on my total gold position to date. I think gold and possibly silver will outperform the US stock marketing over the next 3 to 5 years.

Shortly after this, my daughter came home from school. We didn’t chat much. She is a teenager and discussions are generally viewed (by her teen self) as ordeals so I keep them to a minimum, striving to be meaningful to her when they do occur.

Jennifer arrived only a few minutes later. She was very keyed-up from being in Atlanta. Then she started raving about her assistant, who had left at 3 pm, until she found three folders that she was looking for, prepared by the assistant. “Now you are less mad,” I said out loud. My daughter laughed. “Yep,” Jennifer admitted, zipping back a forth from the bedroom to her office.

But she wasn’t. She raged into our woods, shouting until she felt herself more satisfied. Tranquil as they are, our woods are big enough to yell into if you are pissed off. Jennifer is having a tough time with her business right now. Not because things aren't going well but, rather, because she is overly busy with details and can't do the selling she wants to do and is unhappy with the patch-work of three part-time assistants that are not getting the job done. We are coming up on Jennifer's busiest time of year. It is a good problem to have but today it is nothing but frustrating for her.


I tried to calm her down, unwind her from that Atlanta haste she was in earlier today. We spent some time in our woods talking as Charlie prowled around some more. We sat out in our carport in the breeze and listened to some of the "Healing Mix" of softer, easier Neil Young music I made for her when she was recovering from surgery in late-July. We sat and talked and had a couple of beers. I had had a couple of others earlier in the afternoon while sitting in the shade amongst tall fescue and clover on the new bench in our back yard. It has a big sky view along with the edge of our woods about 100 feet away and the pole barn in the foreground. A vast blueness overhead.

My daughter left to go see the remake of The Thing with her boyfriend and some friends. She and I spoke briefly about when I first saw
John Carpenter’s brilliant version of the original classic 1950’s sci-fi flick. We discussed how when Carpenter made it before computers, when there were no CGI effects. And we figured this version would have a lot more and "cooler" special effects. I told her I’d watch it with her when it came out on DVD. She smiled and said “OK.” She waved as she backed the car we bought her down to the turnaround area. Since she was driving to her boyfriend's house and leaving for the film from there (it was closer to the theater), I told her to be home by 11PM.

With the beer and the music and the beautiful day, Jennifer finally shifted gears and was going on and on about the art exhibit she saw in Atlanta this morning before her business meetings. She saw a preview of
the High Museum’s Picasso to Warhol exhibit. She accentuated her admiration for Henri Matisse, who was prominent in this exhibition.


She got a special invitation to attend a pre-opening event of the exhibit at 8:30 this morning. It was a rather intimate gathering, with about 50 people attending before the museum's doors opened to the public at 10am. Jennifer got the invitation because she is a member of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She goes to NYC once a year to service a major client she has there. She went on and on about the exhibit, parts of which (not especially the Picasso or the Warhol) really moved her. She and I will go together sometime in the future to see the exhibit again. I look forward to doing that with her.

For dinner we had leftover lasagna and homemade chicken pot pie warmed up in the microwave. It was clean-out-the-refrigerator night. Afterwards we sat in the post-sunset light and listen to crickets and frogs and dogs in the distance. Now and then a car went by. The wind died down and everything was bathed in a golden tinge.


As the twilight deepened and the baying of a few cows across the road receeded, we listened to the radio for awhile; a program on WSMC we enjoy on Friday evenings for its wonderfully relaxing and contemplative chamber music as well as often-poetic, sometimes naturalistic monologues from the soothing voice of Bruce Ashton.

Later, we watched Fringe, a show in its third season with
absolutely terrible ratings but to which we are nevertheless addicted. We call Friday's "Fringe Friday" when the show is in season. My daughter and I watched most of the first season without Jennifer. My wife joined us regularly about half-way through the second season. Now, my daughter watches it less and less with us because it has gotten very complicated for her and, apparently, for most everyone else in boob tube land. Only about 3 million Americans "tune in" (an antiquated term) each week. Still, it is a cult series and, other than Modern Family (which we three watch as a family on Wednesday evenings), it is the only series I watch regularly on TV.


Jennifer went to bed after the TV show. I went upstairs and listened to some classical music while reading. My daughter came home before her curfew. She is a great kid, really. She and I talked a bit about the movie and I quizzed her on what it was like, trying the get beyond the non-descriptive summary of "it was really good" and "it was so scary" into how the effects were and how the story might have changed since the 1982 version I have in my film collection. I asked her if she might want to watch the older version sometime. She shrugged, "Maybe."

Then she was off to bed, or rather off to lie in bed and yack on the phone with her friends. Jennifer was asleep when I finally turned out all the lights, closing out a relaxing half-day off from work and an otherwise fairly typical Friday evening. All rather simple really.

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