Sixty & Way Beyond

My father at boot camp.

I don’t remember many of my birthdays. There was a neighborhood party when I was five. When I was 21, my big brother and I hit a couple bars that were open on a dull Sunday evening in Akron, Ohio. When I turned the odometer over at 40, I had just arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, but there were few people I knew, and those I did, not very well, so I didn’t tell anyone.

On the eve of my 60th birthday recently, I ran a little over two miles at the local track—running one lap in all eight lanes continuously. I’m unsure if I ever ran farther in the span of my 59th year. If I did, it wasn’t often and it couldn’t have been much farther.

I thought about my father during that run. Could he have run two miles when he was at the same point in his life in 1985? Probably not, but unlike me, I never knew of him to do any kind of long distance running—even when he was much younger and I was only a child. Regardless, he would have destroyed me in the bench press.

Thinking back a year from this time as I was turning 59, I remember being concerned that my partner Marsha and other friends might throw a big party for this 60th milestone. As it turns out, that worry was all for nothing thanks to the new norm of social distancing compliments of COVID-19.

I have wondered if I’ll be one of those looking back on the pandemic and thinking about those who were lost to it, or will I be one of the casualties. It’s odd how clinical I can think about this even as it could be residing just outside my window.

Getting back to my father in 1985, I think about what he was doing as a 60-year old. He was still working at Goodyear as a pipe fitter. And, much like me, he was starting to see his retirement on the horizon. And when he was 60, I was going back to school for my graduate work at Northern Arizona University—I was 25 then.

Further down the family line, my paternal grandfather, Emory Hansford Tyree was 60 years old in 1960, the year I was born—also working for Goodyear as a tire-building supervisor.

Another grim thought came to me recently regarding this milestone. If I live to be 100, I’ve exhausted 60% of my life and the remaining 40% should be anything but a joy ride. I reckon if I’m lucky, I have another 20 years of decent quality living. Past 80, surely I’ll be on borrowed time. Should I check out tomorrow, I can’t complain as I look back on the big picture of my life, it feels pretty complete.

Sixty-years-old is one of life’s fencelines. I see it as the official threshold between the middle-age years and the senior years. Although a bit grim as I consider my status, there is a small amount of consolation in that I’m a young and spry old man rather than a washed-up, middle-aged man.

* * *

Along with the pandemic of COVID-19 that is currently upon us, another unexpected, but delightful event has emerged during this milestone in my life… only a few months ago (late March) a comet was discovered making its approach toward the Sun and here in July of 2020, it is close enough and bright enough to be seen with the naked eye as it makes its way around the sun and back out to the periphery of the solar system. The comet has been named NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) after the orbit-based telescope (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Space Explorer) that detected it.

As I understand, the comet’s last pass by Earth was about 4,500 years ago. That would have been about 2,480 B.C. Recorded history is scarce that far back and what is known has mostly to do with Egypt and its “Golden Age.” This would have been around the time when the famed “Seated Scribe” was created. The Temple of Khafra had just been completed too—along with the second largest pyramid at Giza. What a great time for something as mysterious as a comet to show up in the heavens above.

In North America, little history is known while exact dates are only imagined. But it’s worth noting that in NEOWISE’s previous appearance, the Independence I people from North America had just arrived in Greenland, while the Aleutian tradition was emerging in Alaska along with Arctic Small Tool tradition around Bristol Bay.

From here, I went down another historical rabbit hole. If the great dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period were roaming the Earth some 145 million years ago, NEOWISE has probably made some 20,000 round trips in the solar system since that time—assuming its existence back then.

As a result of the comet’s close approach to the sun in this latest visit, its orbital period has increased another 2,300 years meaning that the next time NEOWISE shows itself near Earth, it will be around the year 8820. As it approaches the Sun, NEOWISE rises above the orbit plane of the planets, but not long after as it makes its way back into the outer solar system, it dips below the orbit plane at an angle of about 30-degrees.

As NEOWISE makes its way back to the darkest reaches of our solar system and beyond, moving at a speed of 144K miles per hour (or 40 miles per second), it will have passed a distance that matches Jupiter’s orbit by this time next year, and about a year later it will have passed a distance that equals the orbit of Saturn. In June of 2025 NEOWISE will be as far away as Uranus, and in a few months before my 70th birthday, it will have reached a distance that equals Neptune’s orbit. By the time my 80th birthday has arrived, NEOWISE will be some 40.4 astronomical units* (au) from Earth—as far away as the Kuiper Belt where Pluto resides. And should I live to see a century, NEOWISE will still be traveling away from Earth at a distance of 63.998 au—toward its origins in the Oort Cloud before it starts making its way back for that 8820 rendezvous with Earth.

By 8820—who knows—maybe short trips to see the comet up close will be possible or our descendants will have bridled the celestial traveler and placed it in a permanent orbit around Earth to be viewed indefinitely like the moon.

* * *

Two days following my birthday, I planned a solo overnight trip to the light-depleted expanse of Polecat Bench—only eight miles from my home town. I arrived well before sunset waiting for the comet to appear. I laughed so loud when I finally saw it as if someone had let me in on their joke. I even danced a little as it was pure joy.

Turning 60, may have been my best birthday ever.

*One astronomical unit represents the distance from the center of Earth to the center of the Sun—approximately 93 million miles. NEOWISE’s location on any given day, HERE.

Medical Minutiae, Ch.1

duplicate medical forms sent on the same day
Four duplicates of the same correspondence from eviCore Healthcare.

At a healthy 59-years-old, I’m not an expert on all things medical yet, but I think my education on this subject is going to be coming faster than I ever dreamed. And, a good part of that education will likely have to do with the exceptional waste and overpricing that we hear about on this subject, on any given news day.

Recently, I received four identical envelopes in the mail on the same day, and in opening them, wondered if the content was the same as well. “Nah, couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “Surely there’s a different correspondence in each of the alike envelopes,” yet I couldn’t imagine what they were.

Anyway, whoever these people are at eviCore Healthcare, located in Franklin, Tennessee, they did manage to send me four identical letters with the same message about an upcoming MRI. The only contrast I could find in these four correspondences was that two of the letters had a time stamp of 9:54 a.m while the other two were stamped at 9:54, but all four were dated February 11. Go figure.

I’d like to think that this little anecdotal account isn’t representative of a glaring incompetency in the medical/insurance profession, but one has to wonder. I can almost understand getting two identical letters in this case, but four is something that makes you pause—and write a blog entry about.

Be a responsible calendar event scheduler

Office geeks: take notice.

Isn’t it nice that in the “busyness” of the world we live in, we have calendars that are integrated with our personal computers that help us stay organized and up-to-date with whatever is happening—on any given day, week, month, year, etc.? It certainly is helpful for me. That said, it’s not quite as euphoric as it sounds.

Not only can we schedule events on our calendars and be reminded of their impending happening, but often others (within the same group/organization) can invite—and thus schedule—events on one’s calendar too. Again, this is a great thing with the exception on one little oversight.

When I get a calendar invite, I typically only have to accept and the event is put on my schedule and I never have to worry about it again until the event is upon me—say 15 minutes upon me. You see, almost every person I know who has scheduled an event on my calendar has done so by not considering how much alert notice time is needed before the event arrives. By default, Microsoft Office Outlook’s scheduling of an event defaults to 15 minutes in the “Reminder” pop-up menu. However, there are many choices that are certainly better than “15 minutes.”

Microsoft Outlook’s default alert notice time. Go figure.

You may be thinking to yourself, “What is so bad about the “15 minutes” reminder of an upcoming event?”

In short, what are the chances that I’ll be sitting in front of my computer 15 minutes before a scheduled event to be reminded of it? And even if I was, who wants to be reminded with only 15 minutes notice of a meeting or event that might require 10 minutes just to get there—never mind whatever preparation is needed before arriving.

Consider the more and better options than a 15-minute default reminder.

The naysayers of my critique here will say something like this: “You can change that reminder notice on your calendar.” This is true, but I might as well schedule the event myself if I still have to go to the event on my calendar and edit it. And even when I do, I get this notice: “You have made changes to this meeting. If the organizer sends an update, your changes will be deleted.” And organizers changing their events is not exactly a rare occurrence.

I’ve lost count of how many meetings/events I’ve missed because I wasn’t in front of my computer 15 minutes before the alert reminder kicked in. And, it really takes the wind out of your sails when you finally do sit down in front of your computer to see one of those reminders staring you in the face knowing the event started 30 minutes ago or has already passed.

So here’s my proposal to all you office geeks who like to send out invites to meetings. Change the default “Reminder” time to something that is at least civil—say two hours. Personally, I prefer four or six hours, that way it is on my mind for a good chunk of time before I actually have to be there and I’ll be able to schedule any prep time that might be required as well.

It’s a simple request and a simple solution to a problem that can be way more complicated than need be. 

Everyday Dissidence: Reboot

“You are in a continuous cycle of renewal, where all you comprehend doesn’t stay unchanged for long.” 

Steven Redhead, Life Is a Dance
Drone image of Sheep Mountain Anticline near Greybull, Wyoming

This is the first post on my revamped blog. Perhaps you’ve visited the original site at everydaydissidence.blogspot.com. If so, you’ll find that all my older posts from blogger will eventually be migrated over to this site (so no content is lost), and I’ll be adding new content as well—hopefully on a more regular basis.

Same Material, New Location

Field Trip to Apollo 15 “Laboratory”

This site has at least three objectives. First, it is a laboratory for this author to learn WordPress. Although I have been dabbling around for years with various web-site-building tools, I’ve decided to jump completely in to the world of WordPress given its wide level of acceptance and usage in the profession of web design.

Secondly, in my current position as a junior college instructor of graphic design, we have revamped our web design course with WordPress as the primary tool for web design. I will confess here that the first offering of this class Spring of 2020 will be downright rough given my limited experience working with this particular software. But, I’m the only qualified instructor available at this time, so forward I go. Hopefully my design and technical background will aid somewhat in taking on this task.

Thirdly, as I come to learn more about WordPress, ultimately I will be migrating my content from Blogger to WordPress—or some other provider via the WordPress interface. In this particular case (site), my Everyday Dissidence blog. Ultimately I will also migrate my other blog on small town high school football in the same way, except that is probably even further out. For now, you can still view that site here.

But, again as far as the content of this particular site goes, it will involve quite a bit of migration and some new content related to all things suitable for “Everyday Dissidence.”

Success in the arts: it’s more than just downright talent.

Art patrons stand before Seurat’s famed “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” in The Art Institute of Chicago.

Struggle. I’m no different. I have a good job, but I can’t take it for granted. And, many (so many) struggle much more than me… and you might not know even though you interact with them everyday. But, worst of all are those who don’t struggle, but put it out there as if they do. They seem to have plenty of leisure in their life, but avoid talking about how they do it. And, when pressed about how their lives are abundant with leisure, their answers are often rather vague or convoluted. Sometimes they’ll even throw in a smokescreen of complaints for how some things are so unaffordable. Yet, if things get bad enough wherever they are or in whatever they’re doing, they always have the ability to walk away without any repercussions. Most bothersome to me is that they aren’t nearly as self-made as they project—more like they’re just damn fortunate, but will make every attempt to claim otherwise hiding behind labels like “successful artist.”

The phrase “successful artist” (“successful photographer,” or “successful designer”) is extremely commonplace but, as of late, strike me as ambiguous and questionable. Attend an artist reception or photo lecture and you’ll likely have one of these descriptions thrown at you during the introduction of the artist/photographer. In such cases, I always wonder, what do they really mean by “successful?” Is this something that is measured in financial gain or is it simply a form of recognition for an impressive body of work?

My suspicion here is that most folk think the term “successful” used in this context is that of financial success or at least making a living from their works, and for that reason I believe such introductions or use of this term need to be more specific. Will we ever see a day when a “successful” artist or photographer provides some kind of proof (copies of their tax returns, billed accounts, etc.) that back-up such claims?

With the opening paragraph in mind, I suspect that many of these “successful” individuals are simply backed by some kind of big money—typically coming from wealthy families, or have tight connections to such families that can fund their expenses. I believe the proper term is “trust-fund baby.”

This will likely make me unpopular, but—for illustrative purposes and to fortify my last paragraph—I have wondered often about the success of the late and highly-touted Cody photographer Bobby Model. Reading his obit, he seems pretty straight-forward in terms of his dedication for photography and no doubt, he was a decent guy who had his heart in the right places. Yet, I’ve often wondered did his photographic work truly keep him afloat given his world travels as a freelance photographer? He has often been wrongly associated as a National Geographic photographer. Even in his father’s Wikipedia bio, it says, “He was the father of the late Bobby Model, who was an internationally known photographer for National Geographic.” However, Bobby Model was only published in National Geographic and in 2006 was selected by the magazine as a top “emerging explorer”—I’m pretty sure he was never on NG’s payroll.

So then, just how did Bobby Model actually fund his photo gigs if he wasn’t employed as a regular shooter for some major media outlet? Search the internet and you have to dig a little to find out that Model’s father is Robert Model, son of Faith Rockefeller Model. That’s right, Rockefeller… and not just any Rockefeller. Bobby Model is the great-great grandson of the Standard Oil tycoon, William Rockefeller. For whatever reason, this little gem of family information isn’t included in any of the glowing biographies about the talented photographer. Do you suppose that some of this family money might have assisted Model in his world travels when the paying photo assignments were thin? Think of what you might do if Rockefeller money was backing your artistic endeavors.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe Bobby Model really did gut it out on his own without any assistance from the family trust. But let’s face it, when one is an heir to a family called Rockefeller, such doubt will always exist.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably concluded that I don’t have much love for someone like Bobby Model, or those who have financial resources to back their projects whether they’re successful or not. I’d admit to jealousy more than simply disliking such individuals. But the truth is, such scenarios have existed for ages. Influential and history-changing names like Gutenberg, Columbus, Du Pont, Kennedy and Bush had financial backing from the beginning without having to do much scrapping to access the cash they needed to get their projects off the ground. And many of these individuals did great things from their financially-privileged status. So, I’m not here to condemn such lives. I just don’t think misleading the public about one’s “success” is cool. There’s nothing wrong with being a recipient of such wealth, but at least own it. I certainly would.

I suppose being some kind of “recipient” is relative. I may not be receiving financial backing from the Sam Walton family, but whatever merits I would receive as a “successful” artist (should that day come), I would be obligated to at least acknowledge my income as an educator because that has allowed me to be active in the arts, while it has also provided me far more art contacts than if I was a stocker for the local grocery store.

In short, if financial backing was their from the get-go, a “successful” artist should acknowledge it rather than project an image as if they are cut from the same cloth as a self-made success like Phil Knight (the guy who started Nike).

Considering all the great, undiscovered artists and photographers that are out there right now, surely any one of them could be a household name if they had the financial backing from someone like the Rockefellers.

This kind of thing happens at all levels of affluence too. A few years ago, there was a young photographer working the sidelines at local sporting events. He paraded around at these venues with camera equipment that matched or exceeded what other professionals carried around on the sidelines. Yet, his classmates on the yearbook and school newspaper staff were shooting with very modest equipment. Why did he get the nice equipment while his classmates were limited to the low-end equipment? Simple, because he is from an affluent family—one that owns a newspaper and is relatively wealthy. Is he a better shooter than his peers? Maybe. But, until his peers have the same opportunities to work with the same equipment, we’ll never know. Yet, because he was given the “inside track” during his development, I’m sure he’ll be promoted as a fine shooter and in time, even take his place as a photographer for his family’s newspaper (if he so desires).

To take this subject-matter one step further, even fame from other areas can benefit an aspiring artist. Actor Jeff Bridges (the son of a the self-made, famous actor Lloyd Bridges) comes to mind for his photography and music. Prince Charles, George W. Bush, along with actors Jim Carrey, and  Steve Martin are also known for their paintings. Yet would we know of their artworks if not for the initial fame?

You hear a lot about White privilege these days, but what we’re talking about here is quintessential privilege.

Even in our smallest communities, there are many talented and worthy artist out there that we may never know only because they aren’t famous for something else, or they’re not trust-fund babies.

Related: Confessions of a Trust-Fund Baby

146,810.3 miles

The 1983 Honda in its final resting spot—Zier’s Auto Salvage near Deaver, Wyoming.

Deaver, Wyoming

We bought the ’83 Honda Accord in 1990. Considering the amount of rust on the body, it’s safe to say the car had spent most of its time on the salted roads of Northeast Ohio. I don’t remember the final price, but the monthly payments were $105 for three years.

When it came to reliability, the yellowish-tan import never let us down; however, like most used cars, many of its more dispensable features were just that—dispensed. The air conditioner never worked due to an electrical short somewhere between the control panel and the A/C itself. And the cruise control was extremely temperamental, sometimes staying on for hours as we cruised down the interstate; other times, it would disengage after a mile or two—never activating again for the remainder of the trip. I would guess that both defects were attributed to coffee spilled on or near the dashboard by its former owners.

In ’91 the car was towed behind our pick-up as we moved to Flagstaff, Arizona—never to see salt again, though the rust continued to spread like a cancer without a cure. While in Flag, we photographed the salt-free import the day it turned over 100,000 miles—as if it had graduated from some institute of higher mileage.

Before another year had passed, we were on the move to Northwestern Wyoming and the Honda was riding piggy-back again. From Wyoming, the Accord made two trips back to Ohio and a side excursion to Tennessee. By this time original parts were being replaced on a regular basis.

Zier’s Auto Salvage just outside of Deaver, Wyoming 20-plus-years after the Honda’s arrival.

We finally sold the car for $800 to our best friends’ daughter. Though I never expressed my true feelings, I felt reluctant to depart with the Accord. I pictured it as my second car and driving it into the next century. Two months after the sale, the Honda’s teenage owner lost control of it on a dirt road, causing the destruction of the entire front wheel drive and suspension. There was talk shortly after the accident of rebuilding and replacing the damaged parts; but in light of the vehicle’s age, a retired family mechanic suggested taking it off life support. Arrangements were made with a local junkyard to park the Honda one last time—in its final resting place—a junkyard outside of Deaver, Wyoming. There it has embarked on a journey toward extinction—a trip where tune-ups, oil changes or other maintenance-related work are no longer necessary. I wonder how long its identity will stay in tact as parts are stripped off and cannibalized for other ’83 Accords still in service? Perhaps one day it will be crushed like an aluminum can under a heavy foot, then shredded to bits, and finally used for re-bar soup.

Until it does meet the diabolical auto shredder, I’ll likely stop by for a visit on occasion to see how our old car is holding up to the turbulent Wyoming weather. And who knows, maybe Accords will someday be considered classics, like the early Mustangs, drawing me back to Deaver—to reclaim its tattered remains.