And so this is the new year, almost.
2022 feels like a failed attempt at returning to normalcy. On the plus side, I’m writing here and no one (or thing) has died. But, beyond that, much of the year felt like an attempt to get back to life before COVID, and not quite getting there.
We end another year reasonably healthy. It was a year of big expenses, mostly planned, that leave us the leanest since my sabbatical in 2016. I’m operating without “screw you” money, which I dislike. But there’s a path to be back there in Q1.
Work permeated everything, of course. We had two large trips this year, and I found myself on calls at ridiculous hours during both. Big changes take big efforts, and I'm OK with some interruptions, but they've become so common that I’m unable to fully disengage. Every time I try to balance things out I end up paying for it. Am I looking? Maybe a little.
I've never really lived a "do what you love" life, but try to make due with what I have. It's probably one of the reasons I get itchy after doing the same thing more than a few years.
Lisa sometimes says I work too hard because of my upbringing, being poor for long stretches growing up, or not really having real parental support. The real answer, if there is one, is alternately both much simpler, while also considerably more complicated. I will say are things I dealt with I don’t want Mathias to ever have to worry about.
That's an appropraite segue to expenses, I guess. Lisa finally wore me down about driving the old Corolla. We’re now a Chevy Bolt family. It’s small, sporty, 100% electric, union made, and free of anything having to do with Elon Musk. While the market is wonky right now, cars are a horrible, stupid investment, and I’m kind of embarrassed to be driving a new vehicle. It’s a fundamentally reckless financial decision. But I will say I absolutely love it. It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever owned.
The other expense was a new roof. We were planning on that, just not this year. But the roof decided differently. $15k out the window. On the plus side, now there’s just the AC, water heater, retaining wall, refrigerator, back porch, and flood-prone garage to worry about.
Everyone talks about inflation. With the exception of groceries, we haven’t seen it. With groceries, we definitely have.
Travel. We tried to get back on the road again. After last year’s fiasco of a road trip to Cleveland—one of the dumbest and most aggravating trips I’ve been on in my life—I was determined for us to get back in the air and the hell away from Minnesota. We hit Chicago for spring break—geographically close, but, you know, it’s Chicago—and San Francisco.
Chicago was fun, if habitually interrupted by work. Mathias is an urban native and measures cities based upon their transit, and by that it scored well, despite a train delay that required us to Uber back to the airport. We had some good food, saw a catastrophically bad Brewers loss against the Cubs, hit some museums, attended a hilarious play (that Mathias loved), and basically traipsed all over the place.
If Mathias found Chicago to be fun, San Francisco was a revelation. I don’t know how to say it—the city just fit him. The weather, the transit, the breakfast burritos. From the moment we stepped off the BART, he loved it.
The quiet business districts and pervasive homelessness led to all kinds of discussions as we walked around the city. He wanted to unpack the city in a way I haven’t seen him approach a place before. San Francisco had clicked with him, and he cared about it.
And he loved the water. He would’ve stood in the waves tumbling up on the shore all day if I’d let him.
For a variety of reasons, Lisa didn’t come along on the trip. Part of it was work conflicts, but also we all move at our own pace in the era of COVID. Five hours in airports and planes with KN-95 masks on wasn’t her thing. There were many moments I wished she was along with us, but the unexpected benefit of her not being there was a heck of a father / son trip. Aside from some minor trips, Mathias and I hadn’t really traveled by ourselves, and it was interesting on how our travel habits adjusted without mom around.
We did the touristy things one day, spent a couple of days going deep on neighborhoods, and on our last day rented a car and hit some of the parks north of the city. I finally saw a game in Oakland—against the Giants!—and as much as I wanted to love the stadium, it was easily one of the worst parks I’ve been too. The fans were awesome, though.
There were other trips. The aforementioned Bolt was purchased from a dealer in Kansas City, so the plan was for Mathias and I to fly down one night, buy the car the next day, and then drive it on back. But then our Delta flight suffered over 12 hours of delays, including multiple crews timing out, ending with the cabin crew getting “lost” at the airport for over an hour and a half after arriving on another flight. We eventually saw them walking slowly towards our gate—we were literally the only plane still waiting in our concourse, so we knew they were there for us—but showing absolutely zero hustle. Midway up the concourse they stopped, looked at their phones, turned around, and moments later our flight was cancelled. I heard the gate attendant mention the cabin crew was based in MSP, so my guess is they sandbagged to stay at home overnight.
Delta was booked out the next day to KC, and the options on the other airlines were multi-leg affairs that would’ve caused us to miss our appointment. So we rented a car the next morning and drove. In the end we spent less time driving to KC and back then we spent waiting for our flight at MSP.
I’m spending a lot of time on a trash experience with Delta, because I hate Delta and have ever since they stranded me in a sticky-floored hotel in fucking Kentucky in the early 2000s. We fly them because they bought Northwest, which of course was also a trash airline, but it was our trash airline. None of these airlines should be this big, and none should have a stranglehold on a market, even my beloved American. Break them all up.
Deep breath. OK. Anyway, Mathias loved Kansas City, particularly the streetcar and the barbecue. It was nearly two decades since I’d last been there, and the downtown in particular had a heck of a lot more going on. I’m sure we’ll be back on a real trip sometime.
We also did one of those ad-hoc trips up to Duluth, which somehow turned into a trek up the North Shore. And we did it in an electric vehicle.
Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, and Lisa and I actually have an event to go to, so I’m going to wrap it up for now. The biggest news of the year for us is the item I haven’t touched on yet, so there’ll have to be another entry soon.