Sherrick Shindig 2022

I have always had a gratifyingly warm relationship with my relatives on my mother’s side of the family, the Sherricks. What with the older generation passing and folks scattering to the ends of the U.S.A., I don’t see any of them very often anymore. Fortunately, my cousins periodically organize a reunion, a.k.a. Sherrick Shindig, at some different location, typically not where anyone lives. This year is the first time in ten years I’ve been able to attend, and we are gathered at a lakeside house in Tennessee, which is a state none of us lives in. We’re having a great time. Swimming, boating, relaxing, talking…

That’s after calming down from the last six miles of the drive here (Allysen and I driving the Winnebago mothership). The road in to this location could very well serve as a roller coaster track for Cedar Point. Up, down, twist right, twist left, twist and climb, twist and drop. The mountain roads of Puerto Rico got nothing on this road. But we made it!

Here are a few pics.

My cousins Kianna and Lois, and me:

My cousin Bruce, with Allysen:

My cousin Stewart and his grandson Luke:

Some of the Sherricks gathered around:

Can you find me in this picture?

This is where we’re all staying:

A good time for all!

A Day at the Beach with the Carvers

We wanted to do something fun this weekend, and we had not yet tried taking the dogs with us in the Mothership (campervan). So we decided this was the time. We threw together some things for a day trip—mainly just food and dog supplies—and hit the road.

Hah! First of all, it took two hours longer than we expected to get ready (although part of that was going online and picking out a destination). We chose one of the loveliest beaches we know—Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester—propelled by the discovery that April 30 was the last day that dogs were allowed on the beach before summer rules kicked in. That settled, I needed to implement an untested arrangement of harnesses and cushions to let the dogs ride safely strapped into the third and fourth seats of the campervan. (Mixed results on that one.)

Finally, though, we really did hit the road. Ten minutes in, Allysen realized she’d forgotten her glasses. Should we turn around? No, not that important. Five minutes more, and I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Should we turn around? Yes. So we circled back, and I got my wallet. Also, Allysen’s glasses. Also, I shut the garage door that someone had left standing wide open. Back on the road.

Without further delay, we drove to Wingaersheek Beach. It was late in the day, uncrowded and gorgeous. There were some dogs there, off leash, so we let our guys run, too. Captain Jack had a ball, racing around, swimming in the tide waters, playing (peacefully!) with other dogs. He did steal one dog’s ball, but he gave it up and I threw it back to its owner. Even shy McDuff reveled in trotting free of the leash, though she never strayed far from us. By the end, they were exhausted. Or no, wait—that’s in the other universe. In this universe, they were ready and raring for more, and continued that way for the rest of the day. (Jack, you will recall, is an 11-year-old  cancer survivor.) When we got home, they absolutely had to be bathed, so we did that. By midnight, when they should have been totally zonked, they were still jumping around, Jack squeaking a toy in his mouth, looking for someone to play with. Who are these dogs, and where does that energy come from? Zero-point energy from the quantum flux?

Unanswerable questions. But that’s how we do a trip to the beach at the Star Rigger Ranch.

Department of Unnecessary Signs Department

After checking out of the campground, I crossed over the canal and parked at a park for a few hours. Wrote a couple of pages and did a bit of rollerblading—and ow, did I feel wobbly on the skates for the first time in a year. I did not fall, but I definitely felt that this sign on the path was totally unnecessary!

Writing Retreat Wrapped

It was all too short, but very productive. I made some good progress on stubborn chapters that had been bothering me for months. It was maybe a blessing in disguise that internet service at the campsite was crap, so I wasn’t tempted to kick back and watch a movie. Home now, but here are a few pix, looking back:

Four modalities of travel represented here: Walking, biking, barge and tug on the canal, and railroad bridge lifted clear for canal traffic.

Here’s the same barge not long after, going under the Bourne Bridge, which is one of two highway bridges onto Cape Cod.

Mission Unlikely: Writer’s Block

On another topic, I have sailed forth in the Mothership on a three-day mission to challenge writer’s block on its own turf. No, its turf isn’t here on the edge of Cape Cod; it’s in my head. But here I’m hoping for a more level playing field. No more worrying about tax returns, troublesome batteries in the cars, or any of that. Just me and creative difficulties, mano a mano. We’re going to start with “productive conversations” at the writing desk and see how that goes. If it comes to blows… well, let’s just hope it doesn’t.

Some people say writer’s block isn’t real. They only say that because they’ve never experienced it. Someday I may talk about various factors that lie behind my struggles to write over the last couple of years, but I think not today.

By the way, the photo above is an illustration of a misguided effort to protect the space around the entryway from predicted rain. The rain started around midnight. I poked my head out after a bit to see how things were. I found the awning sagging about a foot down in the middle, full of rainwater. I hastily lowered the corners to release the dam. SPLOOOOSH! Throughout the night, the unexpectedly gusty wind periodically whanged the awning up and down and sideways, soothing the sleeper inside. I wasn’t sure I was still going to have an awning by the time I was up today. But amazingly, it was okay. It is now rolled back in.

Below is a trio of Guardians of the Canal that I spotted while on a brief bike ride yesterday.

In the Cold Shower, No One Can Hear You Scream

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Spongebob screaming, from Spongebob wikiNo, I haven’t turned to writing horror. But cold showers, now… surely there must be a tale hanging from that. Starting with this: I hate cold showers. Hate hate hate cold showers. But I’m, well… here’s the thing: I’ve been seeing a terrific massage therapist for chronic, painful muscle tension in my neck, shoulders, back; well, really just about every muscle I own. The massage is great, and I love it, but the tension is persistent. And Stef, the massage therapist, referred me to Steffi, an acupuncturist, who had successfully treated Stef for deep muscle tension very similar to what Stef was trying to address in me.

I’ve seen Steffi a few times now, and being poked with needles is downright weird, especially when electricity is applied—but on the other hand, it actually seems to be helping with the chronic tension. And Steffi says, you need to start ending your nice, warm showers with a good cold shower blast. Reduces inflammation and promotes circulation and like that. Also, do a bunch of breathing exercises, which can help with your pulmonary fibrosis, which is the other thing I’m contending with, which causes shortness of breath and poor oxygenation. (I guess I’ve never mentioned the pulmonary fibrosis before; it was fairly recently diagnosed, and its cause is idiopathic, which I think means it was brought on by idiots on the internet. If it’s not that, then we don’t know the cause.)

Anyway. Steffi, affirmed by Stef, says I ought to subject myself to icy conclusions to all my warm showers. I’ve been trying this, for not quite a week now. I hate it. It’s making me dread taking nice, warm showers. And yet… And yet, after I yank off the cold water, I feel strangely energized, invigorated, and—dare I say it—renewed. Also, cold.

I don’t know how this will end. But if it doesn’t kill me, perhaps it will make me stronger.

The Ponce Chronicles 2022, Coda

One final thought about our trip to Ponce. And that is to extoll the greatest invention since fire: the zap racket. Can anything be more satisfying than the snap! of a mosquito being electrocuted? Or the aroma of barbequed mosquito? I don’t think so. Even from another room, that sound brings ringing cheers, especially when it’s snap! snap!…snappity snappity snap!

Here ends the reading of The Ponce Chronicles 2022.

 

The Ponce Chronicles 2022, Part 6, The Final Part

My chronicling got derailed by a week of relentless activity. A pair of workers started showing up at 6:45 every morning (we are not morning people!!) to do concrete and brick repair, and to rebuild a pair of custom folding doors to the laundry area. In Boston, workers bring the materials they need, because for one thing, they know what they need. Not so in Ponce, where I repeatedly found myself clutching a hand-written list (in Spanish, which I do not speak) of materials I needed to buy at Home Depot. Kudos to the helpful employees of Home Depot Ponce, who deciphered my needs and filled my cart.

Allysen, meanwhile, went shopping for art to put on the walls to liven the place up. What she came back with astounded me: most notably an assortment of gorgeous x-ray photographic images of flowers, sealed in glass, by a remarkable artist named Albert Koetsier. Here are a few, up on the walls:

Trust me when I say that my photos do not do these pictures justice. In real life, they are stunning. And where did Allysen find these pictures? At a gallery? Nope. At a classy art emporium? Nope, although you can get his prints in places like that. Where, then? Marshalls. Yes, that Marshalls. We spent many hours hanging them in the right places. (I didn’t get around to taking pictures of them until we were in the throes of packing to come home, so no nicely staged pictures of the rooms, I’m afraid.)

Meanwhile, I closed off (for the third time) the Ho Chi Dog trail. I also channeled a jack-hammer operator and drilled inch-wide holes with a hammer drill through five-inch concrete in an attempt to drain a fish-pond area that cannot be kept filled (long story). It currently serves as a mosquito-breeding area, thus my attempt to keep it drained. Guess what? Five inches down through concrete apparently just put me into bedrock. No drainage! Aughh.

We made many other repairs (and failed to make still others), with occasional respites such as enjoying wine and cheese with our friend Cheryl, who is now director of the Museo de Arte de Ponce, a world-class art museum that is still rebuilding from earthquake damage from over two years ago.

We pulled an all-nighter the night before returning home. Final repairs, cleanup, packing, etc. I am somewhat north of my 20s and do not handle all-nighters the way I once did. (Okay, I am north of my 40s, also. Somewhat. And my 50s. And, er…) We watched a gorgeous sunrise over downtown Ponce and the ocean, complete with an exquisite sliver of crescent moon that you could just barely see here if I could figure out how to make WordPress display the full-sized image.

Then we got an hour’s sleep before heading for San Juan, rental car return, JetBlue, and total collapse after being greeted joyously by dogs and daughter at home. Three days later, we’re still recovering.

The Ponce Chronicles 2022, Part 4

Past time for a few framing shots. Here’s the kitchen/dining section, looking from slightly up the hill down toward the pool. That deck on the far side of the pool is the one that I built last July. It hasn’t fallen down yet!

Here’s the living section, with an almost invisible Allysen inside at her computer.

Here’s Allysen working on a deadline. We spent hours trying to get her reliable internet at her usual place at the dining room table, but finally had to settle for a rickety card table inside, to be closer to the router.

The place is quite lovely, looking up from the pool. That’s a cork tree in the middle.

Is there a sight more, er, stirring than the writer trying to remember what the hell he was thinking when he started this novel?

 

By the way, here’s a quick view of all of The Ponce Chronicles, through the years (in reverse order).

The Ponce Chronicles 2022, Part 3

Cutting off the Ho Chi Cat Trail. That was yesterday’s project. Just me an’ my rat wire.

A frequent complaint from visitors in the last year was that stray cats would get into the kitchen and steal their food. True! There is a multitude of stray cats (and dogs) on the hill, which is sad for many reasons. They stroll through the property at times, though I tried last year to close the Ho Chi Dog Trail for good. (Unsuccessfully, as it turned out.) But the cats manage to get into the kitchen—a separate structure from the rest of the house—even when the door is locked. If you ever watched the series Leverage, they were like Parker, dropping in by wire, from who-knew-where.

Actually, we did know where. Part of the idiosyncratic construction here includes skylights over the back part of the kitchen, which were added, or replaced at various times, using whatever materials were at hand, in true local style, with odd gaps and overlaps. The supporting structure looks like something out of an M.C. Escher drawing, mostly out of steel. Sturdy, but challenging to work with, after the fact.

Enter me and the rat wire, known less colloquially as hardware cloth. (Some guys who worked on our own house many years ago referred to the stuff as rat wire. Just for fun, I entered rat wire in the search box on the Home Depot website. To my surprise, it took me straight to hardware cloth. Anyway, armed with that stuff and some aviation shears and a bag of zip ties, I attacked the problem yesterday. I think I’ve managed to close all but one of the openings for the clever kitties. I saved the hardest one for last. That’s tomorrow’s problem.

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