2552 West Wilson Avenue, Chicago.

Here are a few pictures of the 3-flat apartment building I am buying. All three units have two large bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen and bath. They are spacious and bright — the building faces south. There is also a not-so-nice finished basement and a very small patio and garage in back. It is a couple of steps away from the elementary school, and a block away from the Rockwell “L” stop, where you can take the train downtown. Nice shops and restaurants in the area. There are tenants in all three apartments now, but I will be able to move in come August.

Front door.
View from the living room of the first floor apartment.
First floor living room, stained-glass windows, gas fireplace.
Dining room first floor
Living room second floor.
Kitchen third floor.
Sidewalk in front.
Intersection by the house.

Los Angeles.

After camping in Montana, hanging out in Idaho and traipsing around Yellowstone, I took off for the left coast. After surviving a cancelled flight and mis-routed luggage, I arrived in the land of eternal sunshine to visit my daughter Natalie.

The house I stayed in was free. I had people staying in my apt. in Chicago, while I stayed in a nice bungalow a few blocks from the beach in Santa Monica using “homeexchange.com.” I’ll also be able to use some of the ‘points’ I got when I’m in Europe this fall.

I met Natalie’s boyfriend, Cade, a nice, easygoing fellow who has made a big splash on social media and is now working with a record label to make it as a pop singer. We all went out for dinner at a very nice restaurant. The next night Natalie and I went out to see a folk duo playing at McCabe’s guitar store, which has a very nice performance space in the back of the store. The music was good. A young couple going as the ‘Fellow Pynins.’ You might want to check them out.

Saturday, I went with Natalie for a photo shoot at a mansion in Malibu. Natalie is art director at the watch company MVMT and needed to be there to make sure all was going well. There were a couple of dozen people — make up artist, wardrobe, people from MVMT making decisions on what merchandise (watches and sunglasses) needed to be shown, three or four models, a photographer they had flown in to do the shoot, along with lighting people, assistants, etc.

Afterwards, Natalie and I went for a walk along Zuma beach in Malibu, busy on a Saturday, but still one of the prettiest beaches along the coast. Natalie has a way of asking questions in a spirit of mild curiosity, which opens up conversation and kept us going all afternoon.

We drove up to the top of the Santa Monica mountains nearby, and stopped here and there to catch the view or take a short walk. We had an early dinner at a beachfront restaurant, and talked about our plans for the next day (Sunday), visiting Big Bear lake. Natalie surprised me by going for mountain biking as an activity. She said she’d leave me in the dust.

At Big Bear the next day, Natalie didn’t leave me in the dust. We did have fun on our fairly short ride — the first time for either of us in mountain bikes. We had lunch in the town (an upscale little place for people quasi-roughing it), then took another walk before leaving. Getting to Big Bear Lake was an amazing drive up and a curvy mountain road with many views on the way there, and lots and lots of driving on the LA freeways. My music on the way there, Natalie’s on the way back.

Monday, I went down to Long Beach to visit Susan, a high school friend, and Rick, her husband. We ate at a brew-pub overlooking the harbor, with freight vessels lined up off shore. Back at her house, Susan and I played some music together. She is a french horn player who has played in several orchestras, but she is dealing with arthritis and is working on doing some things with drums and guitar that don’t involve her fingers quite as much. She also plays around with music production software and has put together several really good arrangements that I was able to listen to.

The next day Natalie and I had a late breakfast/early lunch, and then I caught the plane back to Chicago. Home by 1:00 am.

It was an 8 hour drive back across Idaho and western Montana to the north edge of Yellowstone park, where I stayed with my sister, her family and a friend.
I was there three days, and each morning we piled into a car and went in search of views of landscape and wildlife. The weather was unpredictable. We got caught in some serious snow the first day (May 22!). Because of the mountains, it could be sunny one place and snowing a few miles away. We got a frigid view of Old Faithful, saw bears and bison, and ate a very bad lunch in West Yellowstone (have you ever had tater tots with Velveeta sauce?).
We went on short hikes here and there. Yellowstone gorge and the falls were breathtaking, although the path at the top there was snowy and muddy. We saw geothermal pools and steam vents, and hiked up to a small lake. There was lots of driving through the huge park, but we were out and walking around enough to make it tolerable. The air was crisp and cool.
A lot of people visiting the park are there to see wildlife. Along the road there are occasional clusters of cars parked at a place where a bear, wolf, or mountain goat was spotted. People have tripod-mounted scopes and cameras with massive telephoto lenses. Everyone is friendly and will often let you take a peek. Some have been there for weeks and come back time and again to capture it all. It seems incongruous to have crowds watching these animals go about their lives.

We caught one scene where a couple of wolves were prowling near a herd of bison. You could see an antelope or elk sprinting away. The bison were unperturbed. One wolf went down along the river bank, maybe looking for an element of surprise. But then it headed back, probably because there wasn’t anyone to attack. No way it was going to get the better of a grown bison, and the herd was sticking together.

We watched this unfold for a while, although it was hard to make thing out from our distance. Then we pushed on, went on one last short hike, caught sight of some bighorn sheep and went to the rented house for a good dinner.

The next day I drove to Fargo (11 hours) stayed in a hotel, and drove the next day to Chigago (10 hours). Now I’m back and finishing off plans for my visit to LA in less than a week.

On Wednesday, I drove the final leg to see my friends Dave and Lynn in Moscow. I took the alternate route through Lolo Pass, which was fun.

Clearwater River was choked with rain and runoff, and pouring down the steep slope over a rocky bottom and occasional wild rapids. A few people were rafting despite the light rain. I had plenty of time, so I enjoyed the winding drive down from the mountains.

I spent the next couple of days mostly hanging around at Dave and Lynn’s house. They are also retired so it wasn’t hard for them to work me into their routine. One day we went just across the state line to Pullman and had dinner there by the Washington State campus. Nice brew-pub type place, and nice to get out and have conversation.

Dave and I took a walk up a nearby hill.

We had a nice view across the palouse, which is the word for the rolling hills that spread out over a good portion of northern Idaho and eastern Washington. They are formed of sediment from a glacial lake that became large dunes and are now good land for farming wheat and lentils.

Dave does woodworking and has started a project to build a guitar for me. I saw a version he had that was a little farther along than mine. He made it with a beautiful redwood top, and a nicely patterned rosette. Just as impressive was the inlay, which featured mother of pearl feathers on the fretboard and a nuthatch with light and dark inlay for the headstock. I’m really looking forward to seeing how mine turns out.

I have always been clumsy about keeping up with friends. I am always worried about my tendency to keep to myself and get caught up in my own world. Do people get offended? Do I have it in me to do the little things that you need to do to keep up friendships? I don’t know. I’m just happy this visit went well, and maybe I’ll start to get better at this.

I made it up to Salmon Lake state park shortly after noon. I didn’t have reservations because they weren’t taking them yet this early in the season. I chose this place because there is another park nearby in case this one was full. Not to worry, they had plenty of open sites, and I was able to pitch the tent and get settled quickly.

This was a great place to stop. Only drawback was it being close to a trafficky road, but I wasn’t bothered. This was the only day on the trip that I didn’t spend the day getting exercise or driving. I hung around, looked at the lake, and played guitar. My original plan had been to go south of Missoula and hike in the Bitterroot mountains. Very happy to do this instead.

This was definitely the worst day along the route. The drive wasn’t bad, but I was exhausted and sore from my hike. I hadn’t arranged camping in Montana, so I booked another motel in Whitehall, pretty close to Butte.

The countryside was flat grassland with mountains in the distance. Huge coal trains headed east as I was going west. One of the open pit mines was right outside the city of Gillette, Wyoming. The juxtaposition struck me as odd, but it sort of fit in with the general pattern of towns and cities through the area, with storage sheds, rusting vehicles and equipment, and just plain junk scattered around. I think land must be cheap, and in the flat treeless landscape, there’s nowhere to hide things.

A Billings, Montana company had a billboard saying “more jobs, less government,” which somehow got under my skin. I spent hours driving and thinking of snappy retorts, feeling exhausted, aching legs, grouchy. I finally got to my hotel, and it was dirty, sloppily built, hard on the freeway, next to a big truck stop. I got some greasy KFC from across the street, played guitar in my room for a little while went to bed.

Magically, I was able to get a good night’s rest and awoke feeling refreshed. I had a short 2 hour drive ahead, to a campground north of Missoula.

Saturday was a long drive across Minnesota and South Dakota. I was feeling tired from my bike ride and my knees were sore. But I didn’t feel too bad outside of some private grumbling over government funded highway signs marking the residence and the hometown of Senator John Thorne. If I didn’t already know he was an ass I would have figured it then.
Here is the campground. I had a little time after pitching my tent to play guitar and take this picture. A light rain in the middle of the night brought lower temperatures, which kept me awake part of the night despite me putting on layers, warm sweater and jacket inside my sleeping bag. It was rated at 30 degrees but I was cold at 40. Ah well.
The road up to Sylvan Lake at the North end of the park was spectacular.
I hiked up to the top of Black Elk Mountain, a popular route, with younger people passing me — a couple even jogging the route. The top is 7,242 feet, making it the highest point east of the Rockies. The stone lookout tower was built by the CCC in 1938 and was used for decades. They put a dam up there near the peak to make a little reservoir. Hikers with dogs were letting the latter enjoy the splash.

The hike was a bit much for me, with my 68-year old knees still not recovered from Friday’s bike ride. The whole thing was 6 miles round trip, with a 1,000 foot climb. I was glad to get to a motel in Newcastle, Wyoming just west of the park, poised for the long drive to western Montana.

Southwestern Wisconsin is called the driftless area. Unlike the rest of the state it wasn’t plowed over by drifting glaciers in the last ice age. Farmland on the broad hilltops and the narrow valleys. Lots of wooded hills. Some of the most beautiful countryside you’ll ever see.
Stopped at the dollar store in Viroqua, which I shared with a Mennonite family doing a little shopping.
This is a view across the Mississippi River just west of Viroqua as I was leaving. Viroqua is a town of around 5,000 with a mix of arty and hippy types and farm economy workers. It isn’t far from the headquarters of Organic Valley foods. I camped in a county park two nights and went out on a rented bike on the well-maintained, low traffic roads in the area. Next stop Black Hills of SD.

Another rainy day here. It seems as if it has been wet and cold all Spring.

All my travel plans seem a bit out of place. The trouble with retirement, at least for me, has been setting priorities. Work kept me from doing a ton of things I would have liked to do. Now the fact that it was a ton becomes apparent. Travel was on the list for sure, but so was reading, exercise, working on postponed research, practicing guitar, writing songs, learning to record music, visiting my old friends in Madison, making new friends in Chicago, international volunteer work, and probably a few other things I’m not thinking of at the moment. The time that’s opened up for me is not enough to cover all that.

Retirement should allow you to be lazy, and don’t worry, I’ve learned that skill pretty well. But I am also haunted by the realization that time is short. So there. What can I do? Is it wise to add all these upcoming trips to the mix? No real answer there. I’m just doing it.

My apartment

This starts from my couch, in my apartment in Chicago. I moved here from DC in Spring of 2021.

I have three trips planned between now and the end of summer. The first starts next week, when I take off for the West in my car. I’ll go up to Wisconsin (short drive), then to western South Dakota, to the Bitterroot mountains of Montana, to Moscow Idaho (my friend Dave), then to Yellowstone to join up with my sister and family before heading back to Chicago. The whole thing will take close to two weeks.

My second trip is to LA, almost as soon as I get back home. Not so much driving around this time. I’ll see my daughter, look up an old friend, and hang out.

Once I get back, I’ll start packing up my stuff and put it in storage, spend the month of August with my other sister north of Philadelphia, and get ready to move to Bordeaux, France from September through February.

This should make for a change from spending most of my time on that couch since I retired at the beginning of January. I hope to post pictures and add commentary as I go along. Let me know what you think.