Here’s to Mt. Fuji

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‘My favorite “Nope-I-Don’t-Eat-Sushi” Sushi Place’

I was in the Liquor Store Next To The IGA the other day, looking for my bourbon—”Hey, where’s Jim? Are you out of Jim?”—when Maureen Who Works There, after directing me to the spot on the shelf where Jim Beam now resides—”You moved Jim?”—remarked that she had recently been to Zakura.

“Zakura?”  I asked, thinking this must be some sort of Buddhist retreat or something. “What’s Zakura?” “You know,” she said. “The sushi place.”

“Oh! You mean Mt. Fuji.” Another customer in the place nodded along, “Yup, she means Mt. Fuji.”

Hungry for sushi stories? Here’s a yummy Ad World story: “Radio Days

Maureen was actually right; the sign outside this place does indeed say “Zakura,” and has for fifteen years or so. But, before that—ages before that—it was called Mt. Fuji. And that’s what everybody who goes there still calls it, “Zakura” sign be darned.

Could this be a sign that sushi’s for dinner?

Now, Zakura/Mt. Fuji may not be the best sushi restaurant around—or maybe even the better of our family’s two fabled sushi haunts. The late, lamented Shabu Shabu, the very restaurant where The Dude and I had our first date (and where I polished off a plate of sashimi for the first—and only—time in order to impress him) was probably better. (He said he loved sashimi, so by gum I was gonna order sashimi, not actually realizing that I was about to be confronted with a whole platter of raw fish without even any rice or little wrappers to kind of mitigate it.)

My prize for being a good sport and polishing off that sashimi: Dude Man on our honeymoon

Well, “Mt. Fuji” is still in business, though takeout only these days. But Maureen said it was pretty good so we’ll probably give it a shot. You know, to help things keep going—though it won’t be the same till we can sit there by the fish tanks and order up some gold flake saki.

Gold Flake saki. Yup, it has actual flakes of actual gold in it. They keep a stash of it at Mt. Fuji (excuse me, Zakura) just for us

But just talking about Mt. Fuji, though, unleashed a whole passel of pre-pandemic memories.

In the Before Times, we would go there almost every Sunday night. His Dudeness—and eventually, when she got older, The Child—would polish off huge platters of sushi and/or sashimi. When she was little, Her Childness would order the same thing each and every time: beef teriyaki with no sauce, white rice on the side. The staff knew her—and her order—so well, they would have it in the works before we even sat down. And you who’ve had little kids know how important it is to get them their food—and fast.

Speaking of getting food into hungry children fast, sometimes, on our drive out to Amagansett from New York City, which can take anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, I kid you not, we would have to stop at Mt. Fuji’s Southhampton outpost (still called Mt. Fuji) in order to tank up. There too they would have that beef teriyaki in the making before we even scored a booth.

Mt. Fuji was The Child’s very first restaurant. Though she didn’t have the beef teriyaki that time. That’s the glow of the sadly-departed fireplace in the background

Mt. Fuji is a real locals’ place—hence my spotting of Maureen Who Works at the Liquor Store there on more than one occasion. You will find no glitzy entourage-encumbered Hamptonites within, even though the place has gone through three or four attempts to gussy it up. It had a fireplace when we first started going there. Then the rustic interior was scrapped for a minimalistic vibe, which eventually made way for rows of tropical fish tanks. Which I like a lot, though it’s somewhat disconcerting to watch people eating raw fish next to live fish—just think what it’s like for the fish.

The Child and I at another East End fave, Gosman’s Dock. It’s a lobster shack. No beef teriyaki, so she ordered the pork chop

In fact, locals frequent the place so much that the entire menu of rolls is named after the “regulars.” There’s the Ted Roll, the Roger Roll, the Sam Roll. By golly, I bet there’s even a Maureen Roll.

The Child, ordering dinner. It must be pizza, since we never ordered sushi. It was more fun to go out for it. And we could

I doubt if I’ll ever get a roll named after me, “regular” though I am, since I never order rolls—or even sushi, for that matter. I’m strictly a chicken yakitori and steamed shumai girl. Sometimes, if I’m feeling wild, I’ll get an inside-out California Roll. Yes, for a person who lists a sushi restaurant as one of her faves, I don’t like sushi. But I do like everything else about Mt. Fuji/Zakura. Including the fact that one time I asked them if they had a raw egg I could take home.

And you betcha, like any wonderful local hangout, they were happy to oblige.

The Egg and I. I’m ashamed that I didn’t take them some of the brownies. But, heck. They got “gone” real fast

New York City. January 2021

 

 

 

“Straight up from the warthog”

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‘Oh, how I miss those wacky birding trips.’

I know I’m really late with this week’s post. But just today New York lowered the age requirement for getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and I wanted to make sure I got a shot (haha, very funny) at it.

Among other reasons to get poked, like not getting sick or dying and being able to see my friends and family in 3D, we have a birding trip coming up.

Our last birding trip–last weekend, at Sagg Main Beach–was a wild goose chase. Literally. We went looking for the White-Fronted Goose and didn’t find it

See, last year’s all-bought-and-paid-for exotic birding adventure (to the Galapagos) was, of course–like everything else fun in 2020–cancelled. But the good news is it’s rescheduled for this summer. Except you can’t go if you’re not vaccinated. Being a physician, Dr. Dude got his shot a couple of weeks ago so he’s all set. But, unless I wanted him gallivanting off without me, I had to score mine too.

I was on that website for about an hour and a half. The slots kept disappearing while I was applying for them; I guess I wasn’t the only newly-qualified 65-and-up banging away on her computer.

Last March in Borneo. We were masked, not because of Covid, but in preparation for entering a bat cave. It was about as delightful as you can imagine

Anyway. I know that hiking through the rainforest in godawful heat and 100+ humidity while being swarmed by flies and/or mosquitoes, peed on by bats, and squirmed on by leeches isn’t for everyone — but I confess I absolutely heart those trips.

Sometimes you need more than masks to protect yourself from the local fauna

You hang out every day with a tight little band of people from all walks of life — biologists and doctors and teachers, career military and architects, and a guy who worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (hey, Larry!) You’re with each other pretty much every waking minute. You sit together, eat together, take bathroom breaks together (well, not together-together, at least not all the time). Come to think of it, it’s a lot like jury duty. There’s even the part at the end where you exchange email addresses and promise to stay in touch — but do you?

Merry band of new best friends boards plane

(I was going to say where else can you forget about makeup and your hair and not worry about what you’re wearing, but that’s been pretty much my house these past several months.)

You get to ride in pop-top Range Rovers and luxury houseboats and seaplanes and dugout canoes. You hike where no one’s hiked before, hear no traffic or planes, and see no one who looks like you for days and days on end.

You even get to walk across flimsy bridges — some so much higher than this that I could not let go to take a photo

And there are the colorful characters. The female birder with the perfectly-good name Deborah who insisted on being called “Raven.” (I, of course, pretended I couldn’t remember and kept calling her “Sparrow.”) There was the lady who fell in a pit of ants. There were the two guys who kept fighting and had to be separated. When I remarked to this guide, “Gosh, it’s a lot like kindergarten,” he replied, “No. Worse.”

Hipster Birder at work

This guide himself was colorful. He had lots of tattoos, shoulder-length hair he often man-bunned, and practiced a martial art called “grappling.” We called him “Hipster Birder.”

Hipster Birder at play

Oh, and of course I can’t forget Warren, more-or-less affectionately known as “Where Ya Lookin’.” As in: “There’s the spoonbill!” “Where ya lookin’?” “Red Bishop at three o’clock!” “Where ya lookin’?” And my very favorite: “Check out the elephant!” “Where ya lookin’?” “Straight up from the warthog!”

Nope. Warren wasn’t in this boat. But these were a pretty colorful batch of characters too

And yes, there were the birds. Technicolor ones a guide called “Fancy Birds.” Big ugly ones that looked positively prehistoric. And my favorite, the really sneaky birds it took a lot of time to find — so that, when you finally did spot one, it gave you a real rush.

Anyway. It’s getting late and I want to get outside. Even if “Outside” is a ten-minute walk down my driveway. At least I won’t have to fend off leeches.

See you next week. Same place, earlier time.

Amagansett, New York. January 2021

Silver linings in a Covid Cloud

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‘I count my blessings instead of sleep’

According to my new Apple Watch (which, incidentally, does everything except the dishes), I slept 10.1 hours the other night. I mentioned this dubious figure to Dude Man the next morning.

“I didn’t go to bed until around 2, and then I got up before sunrise. So what’s with this 10.1 hours of sleep?” “It’s counting all the sleeping you do during The Crown,” he said, going on to explain that good ole Apple can tell when I “nod off” on the couch and adds that time to my total sleep. I, like my mother before me, am rather famous for my ability to “sleep read” or “sleep watch” without spilling a drop from the glass of wine clutched in my somnolent paw.

Latest creation-in-progress. Yes, I can do this while Crown-watching

And while I think Apple counting upright sleep is totally cheating, I suppose I should feel somewhat comforted knowing I’m getting more shut-eye that I thought I was. Ever since The Corona Craziness, I, like many others, have had trouble getting adequate Zzzzzs. All that wondering what the heck to cook for the 269th straight dinner, not to mention when in heaven’s name I’ll get to hug my Mom again will do that to a person.

Sometimes when tossing and turning, I try to think of some good things that have come out of this time of Conflict with a Capital C. Now, with New Year’s coming, it seems like a good time to count them up.

Here, in no particular order, are some silver linings, the first of which is actually silver:

(sings) Sil-ver Hair…silver haaaairr…it’s Christmas Time in the City

Embracing the Gray. Oddly enough, when I couldn’t get to my Hair Person anymore, and let it go, Dude Man didn’t even notice. So even when the Hair Care Ban was lifted, I decided to skip coloring. Which is awkward because Colorist Girl is married to Haircut Guy. Oh well. So I look like a silvery shaggy dog. No one sees me except on Zoom.

Embracing the Guy. I used to dread the time when Dude Man would retire and we would be Spending More Time Together. I had my life pretty organized, and couldn’t imagine how he’d fit in on a more-or-less 24/7 basis. But I’m happy to report that he doesn’t get on my nerves too much. Besides, he’s awfully entertaining. Mostly unintentionally so. (See photo of him at the top of this post blowing leaves in his wetsuit.)

Dude Man ignoring Danger Man while on one of our many Covid hikes

No more excuses. As you may know, “Lutheran Lying” means that you never lie; you edit. Back in the Before Times when a person I wasn’t particularly interested in hanging out with would ask, say, to have lunch, I would respond with something like, “Oh, I have plans that day.” Said plans could be eating a sandwich at home while reading a book. Now I don’t have to Lutheran Lie since nobody makes dates to do anything anymore.

Typical scene from our Family FaceTime calls. Thanks, Scott!

Last, and definitely not least, I’m spending more time with my family than ever before. True, this is not in-person time — see wish for Mom Hugs, above — but it is real. We five sibs gather on FaceTime every Sunday night to chat with our mother. At first the conversation was somewhat stilted; the technology was glitchy, the cameras pointed oddly, sound cut in and out. But as time went by, we relaxed to the point that we’d talk while cooking, while knitting, while walking down the street or riding in the car.

Well. I must say that wasn’t a very long list. But I bet if you think hard — sipping a glass of wine at the same time helps, though do try to stay awake — you’ll come up with a few silvery side-effects of your own Lockdown Life.

Staying inside has its upside

In the meantime, from my isolated little heart to yours — best wishes for a Happy (and Better) New Year.

New York City. December 2020

 

 

She had a hat

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‘Wearing headgear well runs in the family. Too bad I didn’t get that gene.’

As you, dear Reader, know only too well, we’ve been slowly and-oh-so-surely settling in to the new Ken and Barbie House. All the Big Stuff has found a new home, and we’re on to clearing out the Little Stuff. (I am having nightly horrors about the Junk Drawer.)

We Henrys have been holding regular Family Facetime Calls with our dear Mother every Sunday, and on one of these, not too long ago, I happened to be in the middle of clearing out the coat closet. (How many mismatched gloves can one person have?!?)

My Oldest Younger Brother looks over my Facetimed shoulder and says, “Hey! There’s the Hat!” And goldarnit. There it was.

The Hat. Basically, the only one I wear. And not for “fashion”

It was easy to spot because not only is it large and furry and rather assertive and unmissable on a closet shelf, it’s pretty much the only hat I wear — being as how I only wear hats for function, not fashion.

Don’t worry, I do not own this Keebler Elf hat. I borrowed it when we were up in the Catskills last weekend.

Not that I am not interested in fashion. Oh no. I love dressing up, dressing down, even dressing medium. True, like most everyone I know, I am a pandemic-pants wearer. But I wear these really cute Tory Burch athletic pants I got on sale. I have my standards, even when in self-isolation.

All dressed up for a Birthday Toast. Wearing a Birthday “Hat”

But, darn it, I have never been able to wear hats well. Not fashion-y ones. And not even functional ones. Maybe it’s my Swedish Head. The Swedish Head Thing is real, and pretty interesting. I wrote a whole post about it (See “What’s that in the road — a head?“) back in the good old days when I wasn’t downsizing or having shots in my spine and things like head shape seemed very important. (Quick update: shot — actually two shots — not as bad as I thought. Though I certainly wouldn’t want to get one every day. And, yes, my back feels much much better.)

Oldest Younger Brother Scott rocking a fashion hat at the wedding of his nephew — son of Middle Younger Brother Roger, who looks pretty darned snappy even hatless

But other members of my family — and not just the Whitmores — are champs at hat-wearing. Check out the picture at the top of this post, par example. The Child doesn’t even look silly in that sombrero.

She doesn’t look silly in the fake fur number I wore intermittently for years, much to Dude Man’s amusement. It was not flattering. Not on me, anyway

The Child, it should be noted, takes after her father, Dude Man, in many extraordinary ways: math prowess, piano playing, fearlessness at sports. I take that last one back: fearlessness at anything. She’s hiked the John Muir Trail — alone and jumped out of planes — on purpose.

Dude Man checks to see that his daughter has indeed inherited his lovely round head

Yes, she, like The Dude, looks terrific in hats. Functional, fashionable. No matter. He/she look amazing with any kind of topper.

This doesn’t bother me too much. I still wear a hat — when I need to. And I get to watch them wearing hats because they want to.

Tillamook Head. Times two. Note how my hair — and ears — stick out. Sigh

Oh — before I forget. The title of this piece comes from one of my Mom’s favorite jokes. It seems this crusty little ole gramma (probably about my age, hah) is in charge of watching her little grandson at the beach one Sunday. The little guy’s, oh, about two, and he’s happily shoveling sand into a pail when a big rogue wave rolls in and sweeps him out to sea — pail, shovel and all.

The gramma leaps to her feet, clasps her hands, and entreats the heavens, “Oh please, O Lord! Please take mercy upon your humble servant and return my precious grandson to me! Please, O Lord, I beg you!”

Well. Another wave rolls in and deposits the boy right back where he was, completely unharmed, pail and shovel in hand.

The gramma looks up once again at the heavens and says, “Hey! He had a hat!”

Yup. She even looks good wearing the equivalent of a bucket on her head

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

And now for something completely different

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‘Trying desperately to distract myself from thinking of tomorrow’s (gulp) shot’

Last week I promised to come up with something fun today, in spite of the fact that it is Injection Eve. (For those of you who didn’t read last week’s post, here it is, but basically it’s me whining about having to get a steroid shot to help me deal with herniated discs. To say that I am “nervous” would be like saying Trump is “unpleasant.”)

“Please fill out one form per body part” Um, okay

Other than filling out forms and sweating bullets, there’s nothing more to be done to prepare myself for this procedure. So I’m just going to try to distract myself by thinking of nice and/or silly things. Like being at my Mom’s 90th birthday celebration last year, which was both silly and nice.

Two of my very favorite women: my Mom and my Personal Child

Speaking of nice things to think about, just try not to smile and/or “awwww” over these little guys. (Yes, I made those sweaters. And already posted pictures of them. But now you can see how much better they look with cute babies filling them out.)

Cute Baby Francesco

Cute Baby Paul

And if cute babies are not your thing, here’s another smile-inducing shot. (Oh no! I said “shot.”) I can’t imagine any of my readers being this way, but maybe there is someone out there reading and smiling along who actually is kid-averse. Just don’t tell me, okay?

Wombat tests the next baby sweater-in-progress for comfiness

Want more cute kitties? Here’s something I saw on Instagram that made me not just smile, but laugh out loud.

Okay, enough with kitties. Here’s another baby. Mine. She may be all grown up, but I think she’s still cute as a button. I’m limiting myself to just two adorable photos, though it pains me to ration them.

As you may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck,” she and her BF are out exploring the country in a camper shell perched on a Ford350. Way to go, kids, way to go. Literally.

The Kids perched on the edge of the Badlands. Look closely and you can glimpse BF brushing his teeth in the doorway of their RV

Before I forget, the photo at the top of this post was taken earlier this year (note snow). I can only assume that the person who dumped this dinosaur was also downsizing. (See “The Tunnel at the End of the Light” for purging details.) At least I hope that’s the case and he/she wasn’t just a mean baby-hating toy-tossing ogre.

Another happy photo. Because why not? This was taken Sunday in the Catskills. If you look closely, you can peer into my sleep-deprived bloodshot eyes

Update on downsizing and purging: we’re definitely seeing the tunnel at the end of the light. We have a few more closets to empty, some artwork to move, and then there is this plant. Those of you who know me know that not only do I not have a green thumb, I am averse to houseplants. Don’t get me wrong–I really like plants. I just think they belong outside, and not in the house where I have to fuss around with them.

Our one blooming plant

But. When Wayne and I got together he already had a plant. One he inherited from his mother when she (sadly) died in 1985. So we have had this plant for quite some time. And guess what? A couple of weeks ago, it bloomed. Dude said it had never bloomed — not in all the years he’s had it. Now if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. Unless it’s this cartoon. Which captures my pre-injection state of mind perfectly.

Until next week. Gulp.

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

As my Favorite Sister says, “The only way I’m leaving this place is toes up!”

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‘Only she doesn’t say “toes”‘

I’m really sorry I didn’t do a post yesterday. (This apology is for those of you who count on and eagerly await my Tuesday missives. Bless you.) But I have a good excuse.

Where I am resting in the photo at the top of this post: our new “Eames Chair.” It’s a reproduction; so sue me. Have you priced the real ones?

Yesterday the guys from Big John’s Moving came to move our old-apartment stuff that’s too big to fit into the Ken and Barbie House. (Which is pretty much everything we own that hadn’t already been “disposed of” by the stagers — see ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ for tales of staging woe.)

Ready for you, Mover Guys! The tip of the iceberg, box wise

Three intrepid (but, oddly, not really very big) guys showed up promptly at nine. Then packed, trundled, dollied, and hoisted unwieldy furniture and sundry boxes all morning then drove the load out to Amagansett.

Where they did this all over again, only backwards and up two flights of stairs (sometimes three if the stuff was destined for the attic.) The rest of the house was already pretty darned stuffed from having been lived in for 25 years.

So most of it went to the attic. The heaviest stuff for sure, like around a zillion shelving units involving metal poles and thick wood planks. 

Said shelving units being taken down a few months ago. They then went into the basement storage room — and now they are in the attic in Amagansett. Why? “We might need them.”

Me: “Can’t we get rid of all those extra poles and shelves?” Dude Man: “We might need them.” 

Important Note. When you are sorting belongings for a move, divide things thusly: 1. Things you need. 2. Things to give away. 3. Things to trash. Trust me; you really don’t want a Number 4. Things you might need. 

Guess which category this chair fell into? (And I do mean “fell”) It was literally the only place to park while the movers toted, wrapped and trundled

But if you’re married to a Dude Man Type, you’re going to have skinny wiry moving guys straining up three flights to an airless attic bearing seemingly countless loads of iron and wood like little ants bearing loads of leaves. (They didn’t complain; I tipped them generously.)

And, when all was said and done, they got done. And sooner than I thought they would — though it was around 6 PM. I’d had nothing to eat all day but a pricey Starbucks banana (no wonder it’s called Star “bucks”), scarfed mid-morning while “supervising” the movers — and a granola bar I gnawed during the three-hour drive, left over from our trip to Borneo in March. (Who knew those things got so stale? I almost broke a tooth.)

I was starving, but I made myself unpack a few boxes before I showered and ate. (I thought about combining these activities, I was so tired. But I did not relish eating soggy food, no matter how hungry I was.)

Instead, I poured myself a bourbon, put my feet up, and thought cheerful thoughts about the Ken and Barbie House and about how I am never ever moving again. Cheers! And I promise to be on time with a new story next Tuesday.

Amagansett, New York. September 2020

“Can’t we just pretend we’re dating?”

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‘There is such a thing as being too comfortable’

I was glancing through my notes looking for something fun to write about this week—yes, I keep a list of things that might go into a blog post, a practice The Child finds, for some inexplicable reason, hilarious—when I came upon this fragment: “The lady who’d take her teeth out to scare us.”

Now who would want to scare a cute little girl like this one?

See, when we were very little–little enough that a woman pushing her false teeth halfway out of her mouth would scare the bejesus out of us—we were allowed, nay encouraged, to run around our neighborhood. We respected no boundaries, rampaging across front and back yards with impunity. Apparently, this one Neighbor Lady didn’t cotton to us free-ranging around her magnolia trees (we would use the buds as ammo in our “wars”) so she used her partial plate as ammo against us.

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“I’m the Sheik of Araby”

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‘Everybody sing: “with no pants on”

So my Mom and I were on the phone the other day and I happened to mention that while The Child and her BF were playing some card game she (The Child) kept singing “Do your ears hang low” with (intentionally, I gather) the wrong lyrics. As in “Do your ears hang low…do they dangle on the floor” and so on and so forth.

But, instead of driving him quaran-crazy, she just got that song stuck in her head.

So then Mom and I started talking about those songs she’d sing when we were little and how they would get stuck in our heads: “Ay yai yai yai…O, My Sombrero” was one, and so was “On Top of Spaghetti.” (Ask your mom; she’ll probably know these too. Just don’t ask her to sing them — they’ll get stuck in your head.)

Then Mom happened to mention “The Sheik of Araby, ” which is the one where you insert “with no pants on” after every line, comme ca: “I’m the Sheik of Araby (with no pants on)…at night when you’re asleep (with no pants on)…into your tent I’ll creep (with no pants on)”

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Love in the Time of Corona

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‘Stir Crazy After All These Years’

Yes, that’s a picture of Dude Man and me with underpants on our heads. It was taken during a somewhat-normal-for-Whitmores Christmas celebration way back when. I’m not sure we were even married at that point.

This one was for sure taken before we got married. Bonus points to me for going through with it in spite of that stache

Speaking of “married”, today is our wedding anniversary. Yup, 36 years ago today we said our vows in front of a grand total of four people (five if you count the Unitarian minister). Seems we were way ahead of our time, crowd-size-wise. Though we broke the social-distancing rules, big time.

Me, dewily-newily married, with half our wedding guests. Touching was okay back then — even encouraged

We may have had a teensy wedding (see my story “Winning the Dude-A-Thon” for teensy details about the Big Day), but it seemed to have “taken”, since we’re still together and still (mostly) having a grand old time.

Hanging around Malcolm’s house on our honeymoon

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Birders gotta bird

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‘Even if it’s from a rooftop, waiting out a plane delay’

Today I almost wrote about the trials and tribulations of dealing with a major renovation on a somewhat minor apartment. But just thinking about it was making me exhausted, not to mention bored.

What I wake up at 3 in the morning and think about

So instead I’ll write another story about our last birding adventure — the one where most of the spine-tingling moments happened wondering when and if we’d ever A) get to the birding location, and then B) get home once the trip was over. (See “Paradise Lost” for excruciating detail.)

What I wake up at 4 in the morning and think about

See, we’ve been on a bunch of these birding trips, but this was the first time we had any problem with the to-ing and the fro-ing. Still, the inbetween-ing was pretty sweet.

What I wake up at 5 in the morning and actually do — at least on these trips

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