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I took this photo on a trip to Austria years ago and it’s always been one of my favorites. Just a loyal dog waiting patiently for his owner.

What a great dog!

This would never be my dog. My dog would have run away or followed me into the store or taken off into the store without me. Anything but what a good dog would do, such as this very good dog is demonstrating.

I don’t have a dog, but if I did, he would be an asshole. That’s just the kind of dog parent I am.

Last weekend we took a long weekend trip to San Francisco. We had this trip planned for some time and refused to cancel it due to COVID. After months of being shut up in St Louis, we needed out. I, at least, get out almost every day, my work schedule has not been affected by the pandemic. I haven’t missed a day. However, I do limit how much time I spend around people, particularly in public areas: fewer trips to the store, limited restaurant exposure, always wearing a mask, etc.

My wife, on the other hand, has been working from home for months and has been taking it rather hard. She is a social butterfly with an innate talk quota that she must meet to maintain general health and sanity.  This trip months ago as a replacement for a family reunion that was canceled. Neither of us had ever been to Frisco and had a long list of things we wanted to do. Alcatraz and the Winchester House and see the Redwoods and ride the streetcars… Basically, San Francisco had been on our list for years. We planned a five-day trip and booked an Airbnb.

But then things started to fall apart. Alcatraz remained closed. The Winchester House was closed. The National and State Parks were closed. And then travel was discouraged. We had reserved and even prepaid for some tours and tickets. What is California without a wine tour, right?!

But regardless of all the roadblocks, we refused to cancel the trip; we needed to get out of St Louis!

Our new plan was to do more hiking than anything else. The National and State Parks were reopened, so we headed to Muir Woods to see the Redwoods. They were INCREDIBLE!! Walking through a grove of thirty-story, perfectly straight trees is a very grounding experience. The stress of the last months melted away to insignificance.

In San Francisco, we focused on the attractions at Pier 39. We went sailing in the bay, into the shadow of Alcatraz, and even went whale watching out into the Pacific. Watching whales jump out an ocean that covers 70% of an entire planet, makes life’s problems seem rather insignificant.

However, COVID was still a concern, and California is considered a hotspot. However, unlike St Louis, 95% of the people around us were wearing masks. I found it encouraging and even comforting to see everyone watching out for each other by simply covering their faces. Rather than focusing on the inconvenience and uncomfortable aspects of wearing a mask, they just jumped on board and did it. I believe that once a majority of people are participating, there is an unconscious peer pressure placed on anyone not participating. San Francisco has reached that level of conformity. And that’s a good thing!

For me, our trip was less about getting away from home or seeing something new than it was about resetting my perspective. I live a rather stress-free life and have built it that way. But I do tend to get hung up on issues around me and tasks I still have to complete. I’m an engineer, so task lists and deadlines are part of the gig. However, in the end, they really don’t matter in the long run. I need to keep that in mind when things start getting to me.

San Francisco was amazing, and we plan to return to hit all the things we were unable to do this time. We rarely return to a place once we’ve hit the major attractions, but Frisco has enough for multiple trips. I look forward to it.

I miss the stars of yesteryear
Before the emotions
Before the tears
Before the memories
When they were cold and crystal clear

I have found that too much familiarity can be a bad thing. Much of our enjoyment in life comes from our wonder at and awe of the unknown. Exploring and experiencing is life and as long as we can continue to seek new unknowns we can continue enjoying the awe and wonder.

But once we reach the point where everything in our life is familiar or a ‘been there, done that’ moment, we can only look back at our past and remember feeling those things. Like most things, it’s never quite as good as the first time.

I am fortunate to still be in the wonder and awe stage of my life. My wife and I are still exploring the world and chasing new experiences and new knowledge. We like to travel to more and more exotic places and try new foods and activities. I always strive to remain in wonder of the world and of the people around me. I am never bored, there are too many things to do and experience. I don’t watch much television because I have things I want to DO and experience and NONE of them are on television!

However, the excitement of discovery and experience can only survive a limited number of cycles before familiarity sets in. The wonders that once took your breath away can become mundane and ordinary. For example: How many of the people living in Denver still look out at the mountains with bated breathe? I love the mountains and am still in awe of them every time I see them. However, I also don’t see them Every Day!

There are people that actually LIVE IN ROME. What….??!!?! How could they not be in absolute awe of their surroundings every single day of their lives? I mean really?

Answer: They could see them every day of their lives. That’s how.

As I said: Too much familiarity can ruin the surprise or destroy the magic, destroy trust, taint emotion, and temper the awe and wonder of youth. As I get older I sense my wonder slackening. I am surprised by fewer movie twists or horrible news events because I’ve seen so many others. I don’t want to be that cynical old grump that frowns away my last years. I want to explore and wander and look up at the stars and breathlessly wonder at the mysteries of the universe.

PS: My wife and I are traveling to San Francisco on Friday. I’ve never been and am excited to explore. COVID is certain to put a damper on many of the activities we had planned (no Alcatraz, no Winchester House) but there will be plenty of hiking and scenery. And maybe some wine… We’ll see.

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I’m sorry about the crappy picture, but I took this years ago on a trip on the Chicago subway system with my wife. Chicago has the best public transportation system in the US in my opinion. It is easy to navigate and doesn’t smell like piss at all.

But we ended up sitting across the aisle from this little button and speaker on one ride and my wife was fascinated by it.

“Could we really talk to the driver?” she asked multiple times.

“Uh, sure…” I said. “Don’t touch it.”

Which, of course, was the wrong thing to say, because now all she could do was stare at. I watched her lick her lips and reach out toward it.

“Don’t touch it.”

“But…”

“You still can’t touch it,” I repeated.

“But I just imagine a little train conductor sitting behind that grill waiting for someone to touch the button,” she said.

You have to understand that my wife and I both have very creative imaginations and tend to let them roam on occasion. Our travels are almost like improv theatre at times.  We let ourselves get crazy. So, I proceeded to play along.

“And do you know what he’s going to tell you?” I said. “Don’t touch the button!”

Yeah, people were looking at us weird, which I think is an accomplishment in Chicago.

She still wants to touch the button.

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