Posts Tagged ‘quiet living’

There’s a song that’s been on my mind lately. It’s called “Sunday,” by Les Friction†, a group that’s been on my tight rotation playlist‡ ever since I discovered them in 2011.

I love this song for several reasons. It starts out with a distinctly “Eleanor Rigby” vibe—a string octet playing a clipped ostinato with a tin-can percussion back—a lovely ariose melody drifting downward from the opening notes, singing of how “she” always wakes up late on Sunday mornings, takes her coffee, and heads out the door to a street populated by flower vendors and serenity. The lyrics take a turn toward longing, a searching for love, and feelings of hope, as we wander (at least in the music video that plays in my head) the streets, down from the Pantheon toward Notre Dame. And then BANG!, a chorus with full orchestra, chimes, and a pulsing rhythm section. Another verse and back to the chorus, followed by a 4+2 instrumental bridge that throws in strings and brass (clarino trumpet!) and even a glockenspiel (I’ve always been a sucker for a well-placed glockenspiel part), all building building building to a climax that breaches heaven before it stops . . . and the Rigby octet returns, recapitulates the quiet opening notes, and fades out to silence.

At its heart it is a love song, complex in structure and orchestration, but simple in its message: two souls seeking, destined to meet, to find, and to share the rest of their allotted time, to “live like every day is Sunday.”

Yeah, I’m fond of the song.

It has been, ever since I first heard it, how I’ve imagined my retirement. Living like every day is Sunday. Lazy Sunday. Sleepy Sunday. The Day of Rest.

But ever since I broached the T-minus one year mark toward my impending retirement, that outlook has changed. Sunday? Every day like Sunday? No. The closer I get to my last day of work, the more I have come to appreciate not Sundays but rather, Friday afternoons. (I mean, let’s be honest. Sundays come with some baggage. Sure, it might be a day after all the errands and have-to’s are done, a day when you can sleep in a bit, but it’s also a day that comes with the knowledge that the morning brings a return to work, a malaise we here call “Sunday-night-itis.”)

Friday afternoon, though—especially if you get off work a tad early—it comes with a feeling of freedom, of release, of celebratory drinks and the promise of the whole weekend ahead. If you manage it right, a properly used Friday afternoon can make it feel like the first day of a three-day weekend. Yeah. Friday afternoons are great, and while I won’t complain of the occasional lazy Sunday type of day, given the choice, I’d like to live each day like it’s Friday afternoon, with all the joy and hope and expanse of future time that it brings to bear.

Oh, I still love the song “Sunday,” and I’ll listen to it over and over in the coming years, but it is a song that speaks to the time-sense of the working stiff.

And in relatively short order, I won’t be that.

So, I’ll take Friday afternoons, please.

And thank you.


† Les Friction is an outgrowth of the group E.S. Posthumus (also on my tight rotation playlist), formed by the Vonlichten brothers, Helmut and Franz. The sound they created was heavily orchestrated and driving, used for many movie trailers and the NFL on CBS theme. After Franz’s sudden death in 2010, Helmut eventually returned to music and created Les Friction.

‡ Other similar groups on my tight rotation playlist include Two Steps from Hell, Thomas Bergersen, and Jo Blankenburg. Just sayin’.

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I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. However, as someone who’s been developing software for thirty-five years, I am one for retrospective reviews, and just like deploying a new app to a production environment, hanging up a new calendar on the kitchen wall has always seemed an appropriate time for retrospection. After all, by this time the holiday hubbub has dissipated, the gardens are still asleep, kids are back in school, the days are short, the nights cold and lengthy. What better time to look back with an eye toward the future?

But, rather than setting goals, I look at trends in my past behavior and decide whether I’m on the right path, or want to implement a course correction.

For instance, last year I read a pitifully small number of books, less than one a month. Looking further, I see that this is a downward trend, and I want to correct it. But why did I read fewer books in ’22? The simple fact is, I was busy. With all the renovations and events and projects I had on my plate, I simply did not have enough time to sit back and relax with a book. Also, ’21 was COVID Lockdown year, with nothing in it by way of travel, family events, or DIY, so I had plenty of time then.

Unfortunately, this year is going to be a busy one, too. We’re still consolidating parts of our life, still fixing up the house, the gardens need upkeep. And I have to get serious about my coming retirement, figuring out what I need to do with Medicare, talk to our financial advisors, and wade through tons of info from HR. We’re also taking care of some medical stuff while we still have top-grade insurance.

So, seeing all that ahead, am I going to make a resolution to read a book (or more) a month? No. That’s setting myself up for failure, as too much can happen that might devour my free time. However, I am going to try to correct that trend, which means I need to apply a bit more discipline as regards my unstructured time.

This will seem silly to some, and as serious anal-retentive overkill to others. I don’t mind, though, because another trendline I’m fostering is not giving a damn about the opinion of others. It works for me, and I’m the only one for whom this needs to work.

Despite what Yoda says, I think trying is a worthy endeavor because life is rarely binary, and incremental progress is still progress. So while I’m not going to “resolve” to lose weight, learn Italian, or give up playing video games, I am going to encourage myself in certain directions, to wit:

  • Continue to Improve
    • Weight loss program
    • Healthier food choices
    • Regular exercise (workouts or garden)
    • Household improvements
    • Writing letters closer to monthly than quarterly
  • Course Corrections
    • Read more books
    • Read less news
    • Employ more social media “fasts”
    • Visit more with people IRL

May the new year bring you all much happiness.



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In 500 days, I will retire. In more ways than one.

I will retire, as in leave the job I have held for lo these decades past.
I will also, for a time, retire, as in go to bed and sleep (I hope) for more than 5 hours at a shot.
I may also retire, in that I may allow my naturally reticent nature may be more the norm.

Either way, in 500 days I will have, for the first time ever, a long stretch of time where I do not have a day job.

I began working in my teens. During my college years I had to hold down a job. Even when I was studying in Jerusalem, I cleaned flats and played in the symphony for extra cash. After I dropped out and returned home, at age 21 or so, I began to work full-time. Vacations, if I had them, for the first decade or so were at most one week long. In the late 90s, I had enough seniority to afford my first two-week vacation and, in the early “oughts,” I had my first  three-week vacation (I’ve only had one other, in the mid-2010s). I’ve had a full-time job for over forty years, and have been at my current company for over three decades.

I’ve been lucky. I lucked into a good profession for which I had no schooling at a time when learning “on the job” was still a thing and aptitude combined with hard work carried enough weight to balance out the lack of a degree. I got lucky with a spouse who is good with money, contented more by daily kindnesses than by flashy acquisitions, and who truly is a life partner in every sense. As a result of these lucky breaks (and my perseverance), I can retire in my mid-60s, rather than having to work until I’m in my mid-70s.

Advice on making the transition from work-a-day-monkey-boy to curmudgeonly-semi-hermit is plentiful (although perhaps not that specifically tailored to my expectations). I have friends and relatives who’ve made the transition, have seen a shift in my news- and article-feeds toward the topic, and am in contact with professional advisors on how to handle the various mechanical and financial aspects of it.

More to the point, though, I’ve begun to mentally prepare. Work takes up a large chunk of my waking life (and a not insubstantial chunk of my sleep). What time that’s left over is usually spent with chores, errands, time with my spouse, with slivers left over to spend with friends, books, and this blog (really my only writing outlet, these days). When I get back that chunk of work-time, I know I will have to apply a level of discipline to my schedule that is currently handled by my desire to receive a paycheck. Not everything will change, but a lot will, and knowing that ahead of time seems crucial to a smooth phase-shift.

But there are some questions that cannot be answered before I reach the promised land. Currently, I am a morning person, but this is primarily because at 4AM, my brain often clicks into gear in order to prepare for the work-day. Absent that impetus, will I still be a morning person? Or will I join my wife in her night-owlishness? And what of reading time? I’m not a fast reader, but part of that is because my mind is distracted and focus is often difficult to achieve. Will that change when I don’t have on-call duties or inter-office politics niggling at my attention span?

Naturally, one thing I plan on doing more of is writing, but what shall I write? A while ago I turned my hand to a mainstream/literary novel, but it’s been a struggle; is that what I really want to write? I have other ideas for series and sequels in genre fiction, and I think they might be fun to write. I have also been enjoying experiments in poetry (though the drive to create them comes and goes like a tide). So, will I finish the work-in-progress, or just move on to other projects?

I feel that it must be better to recognize these “known unknowns” than to get blindsided by them. I’m sure there are plenty of “unknown unknowns” out there, lying in wait like tigers in the bush. Best to have my head in the game.

I’ll be spending these next 500 days in preparation: downsizing expenses; selling off the unused, unneeded, unnecessary aspects of our life; learning about what needs to be done, and by when. I’ll be listening to my friends who’ve “gone before,” and reading those dry-as-dust articles about asset allocation and required minimum distribution strategies. All exciting stuff, to be sure (not).



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the ether screams
headlines blare
so many voices

warning taunting
upscale vaunting
always wanting

to fear to hear
to see to go
to buy to know
as if

my happiness
my meaning
my purpose divine

their secret their special
their proven hack
their inside track

what I really want to do is


lean back, feet up
feel the cat’s rumbling purr
taste the wine’s memory of summer
smell the coming rain
hear my lover’s laugh


Kurt R.A. Giambastiani

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When I was in my early twenties, I moved house a lot—different roommates, different apartments, different towns, different states, different countries—and it quickly became obvious that there is a peculiar arithmetic attached to the process of changing residence.

No matter how much you have when you begin the move, you always arrive at your destination with less. It’s not so much that things get lost in transit (though that is a factor); it’s that when packing up, you tend to evaluate every object. Do I need this? Do I want it? Do I even like it anymore? Items that fail to make the grade are sold, donated, given away, tossed, or just plain abandoned.

For my first move out of my parents’ home, I took several pieces of furniture, four instruments, a rack of clothes, and a dozen boxes filled with household goods, papers, books, LPs, letters, and memorabilia. By the last of my youthful relocations, though, I had pared it all down to a mattress, two instruments, a suitcase of clothes, a backpack of toiletries, and three ratty cardboard boxes (one each for kitchen, books, and memorabilia). If pressed, I could pack up and be out the door within three quarters of an hour (faster, if I decided to leave the mattress behind).

Since then—after I married and found steady work—the pace of the moves slowed until, back in 1997, we moved into our first non-rental home and vowed never to move again. This new-found contentment did not, however, stop us from repeatedly culling the herd. The thing about owning a home is that you always accrue sufficient belongings to fill it (and then some), so periodically we still reevaluate and downsize our possessions.

I’ve written before on these pages about household purges, and we’re in the midst of one now, a big one, as we simultaneously prepare for retirement, redecorate and renovate the house, cast off clothing that’s way too big, and clear the shelves, cupboards, and cabinets of anything we no longer use or no longer want. In almost every way, we’re simplifying, and there’s a liberating feel to it. It’s rejuvenating, filled with all the excitement of a move but with none of the anxiety. And because it’s such a big effort, I’ve been digging deeper into the closets and storage spots than ever before, which led me to discover something interesting. Through all of these—moves and purges both—there is one area that never gets downsized: memorabilia.

To be fair, my habits regarding the accretion of memorabilia have always been austere, allowing only the most pithy of tokens to be added. As a result, I have only a small cigar box of ticket stubs, a tiny box with remembrances of cats now deceased, a shoebox of old love letters, and a wooden case designed for three bottles of wine that now holds a collection of disparate objects: shells from the Mediterranean, marbles won on my grammar school playground, my old wind-up metronome, a collection of keys from every place I’ve lived, a coaster from a London pub. Very little accrues to this potpourri now—ticket stubs are things of the past, my wife and I generally text “I love you’s” rather than send them via snail mail, and my marble-playing days are long behind me—so when I went through them last week, it was a jolt to the senses. The smoothness of a river-washed stone, the faded delicacy of a love note written on fabric, the scents of pipe tobacco and patchouli, the dull notes of brass keys.

In truth, there’s nothing in there but junk. There is absolutely nothing of any value in these boxes, nothing that could be sold or donated or that carries any meaning to anyone but me.

But they are sacrosanct, unpurgeable, pieces from the museum of my life’s story.

To paraphrase Spencer’s character in Pat and Mike, while there ain’t much there, what’s there is cherce.


PS. Items in photo, examples of said junk/treasure, anticlockwise from lower right:

  • Buttons from my first visit to the National Gallery, London; my first Ren Faire; and my first job
  • A pair of hand-made spectacles (for a medieval feast)
  • An acorn from Devil’s Den, Gettysburg, PA
  • Two first place ribbons from a jazz competition
  • A pair of dragons from my model building and RPG gaming days
  • A long-stem hobbit pipe
  • Wooden interlocking Escher lizards
  • A wooden car pilfered from the Toy Museum, Camden, London
  • A miniature brass Cupid, a gift from an old friend
  • A pocket copy of The Merchant of Venice, ex libris Vera Roads, West Australia, 01Jan1906
  • Stage fairy dust, given to me by the man who “flew” Mary Martin in the Broadway production of Peter Pan
  • Hand-painted pewter figurines, from our wedding cake

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Or, in other words,
A Home, when multiplied by a Renovation raised to the power of the Affected Area and divided by the Unity factor, equals the perceived level of Serenity.

As I sit down here in my basement, above my head Thor is wielding Mjölnir in a fierce battle against giant angry wasps.

Or so it seems.

And yet, I am at peace.

We are having new windows installed, replacing our old 1960 single-pane aluminum frame rattletraps (emphasis on “rattle”) with updated double-glazed, gas-filled, smooth-sliding jobs. Three windows, two sliding glass doors, and the pièce de résistance, a bay window in the bedroom, overlooking the gardens. It is a huge job, by our standards, and the saws—reciprocating, circular, oscillating/elliptical—plus hammers from small to monstrous and compressors and sundry other tools of destruction/construction are creating an acoustical landscape that makes one think of banshees, murder hornets, and alien warfare.

It’s the kind of chaos that would stress me out, worry my wife, and send Portia (the cat) running for her panic room (my closet).

And yet, my wife is happily alternating between watching her reality TV and napping, Portia is comfortably settled up beside her, and I am taking a break from my workday to compose this blog post.

It’s our being together, an island of mutual strength, that allows us to weather the storm that rages above-stairs. Though planets are being torn asunder, down here the clock ticks, the walls remain firm, and though the lights flicker each time the massive chop saw kicks in, we are surrounded by warm and comforting light.

Unity, reaffirming familial bonds, is a powerful tool. When we separate, we are weak, but when we join together, that makes us mighty. In a crisis, unity is crucial, but our ability to join forces against the world is made even stronger when we practice it, be it in running errands, making decisions, sharing a meal, or planning an event. Sharing the little agonies improves our technique and readies us for when the big agonies come along.

To be sure, this isn’t a big one, but it isn’t a small one, either. Seeing us here, though, calm and unruffled, gives me confidence that when a big one does land on our doorstep, we’ll be better prepared.


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the fraught world
    in the face of
        recycling boxes
        tidying the garage
        fixing a broken chair

global tensions
    against the power of
        weeding the garden
        harvesting tomatoes
        clipping summer’s last rose

folded laundry
   smooths global supply chains
clean countertops
    muffle rattled sabers

they’re not solutions
   but they ease my pain
        for an hour
        or a minute
            and sometimes
            that’s all I need
                to continue


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