Friends of mine know that I’m all about “FIRE” – Financial Independence Retire Early. When I switched over to software engineering I finally made much more money than what I tend to naturally spend per year. FIRE became a goal that I’ve been working toward quietly in the background (I mean there’s only so many times you can say ‘oh yeah I just throw everything in index funds and wait’).
I’m not sure when… maybe in the past year or two, my friends started to talk about the future as well. The reality of life without children means that we’ll have to be more strategic about what our old age will look like. It was proposed that we basically pull a Golden Girls and try to live nearby so we could help each other out. This would ideally be on a large plot of land where we would have plenty of space for hobbies and animals. Somehow it got the name “The No Kids Roundup Ranch.”
I’d been curious about Asheville for a while now, but this particular visit became a little bit of a scouting mission to see if the city would be a nice place to retire.
Things one can do in Asheville:
Join a drum circle – every Friday night in downtown Asheville, quite a scene!
Birdwatch – Not really my thing but a few of my friends really enjoy identifying birds.
Visit a brewery – A few months ago Ryan and I were at our neighborhood brewery and happened to sit next to a friendly man who raved about Asheville’s beer scene. We promised the man that we would drink lots of beer on our trip. Regretfully over the course of a whole week in town, we only made it out once – and it was a cidery too.
Sunbathe on top of a mountain – We met a retired couple from Wisconsin on this hike. They said retired life is great, which was a relief to hear.
Do nature – Blue Ridge Mountains, nuff said.
Cocktails – If I lived in Asheville I would definitely be a regular at Antidote. It’s in a former pharmacy, and while I didn’t want to get my hopes up, I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting and tasty their drinks were. The staff were super friendly too! A++
Hunt for ghosts in the graveyard – I skipped this one, but my friends went out to see the lunar eclipse.
I’m happy to report that the food scene is poppin’ in AVL. Most everything we ate was tasty, and thankfully there were many options outside the usual Southern fare. Even the hot chicken place we went to had veg options.
Trendy tacos and queso at The White Duck Taco Shop. They have taco fillings like banh mi and Thai peanut chicken, lamb gyro, jerk chicken. You get the idea. Quirky!
This could be a nice place to retire (we saw so many people of retirement age having a great time). It’s a little bit sleepier than I’d like, would require driving, and I had forgotten how it felt to be the only minority in a room. Also, houses are surprisingly expensive near the city. No place is untouched by the housing rush it seems…
2022! Here we are! Due to the pandemic 2020 and 2021 have melted together into one great big fuzzy blob of time in my mind. But I wanted to think back and appreciateÂ all the great things from last year. 2021 > 2020, and I can only hope that 2022 is even better…
Highlights from 2021…
Seeing Live Shows Again
Our first show since the start of the pandemic was in October with Big Freedia – an auspicious start! Since then we’ve been able to see Rufus Wainwright, the Magnetic Fields, Talib Kweli, Bob Dylan and John Waters.
Ryan got a car! He had his sights set on a Prius, and when we went to the Toyota dealership everything we saw was sold out. So Ryan bought the single car that was available on a boat coming over from Japan. We named it Yoshi.
The lovely fall weather got me in the mood to pick up the needles again. I spent an afternoon inputting my yarn inventory into my Ravelry account, and I can’t say that it’s any better than having an excel spreadsheet, but I’m glad I did it.
I decided to knit some of my holiday gifts this year, and stumbled across this hat pattern which is definitely a holy grail for holiday presents – fun to knit, fast, low yardage, and very cute.
I had to block the hat in order to get the lace to pop. I don’t have a mannequin head, so I tried using a kettle bell. Worked out ok, lol.
I kept running after my 10k, and ended up running the Rocky 10 mile race in November. Now that I’m running decent distances (up to 12 miles), I’ve been able to take more interesting routes. I’ve been running down by the historical stuff, all the way across the bridge to Camden, but usually down to Fairmount Park, where all the races are normally held.
I’m done! But nobody told me I have to wear retainers at night for the rest of my life. Oh well.
New Restaurants in the neighborhood
In the fall the floodgates burst and a slew of restaurants that I’ve been excited about finally opened. Mostly I’m excited about having more lunch options.
Goldie Falafel – Vegan falafel place. The falafel has been solid, but the tehina shakes have all been divine. I’ve got to get one every time.
Middle Child Clubhouse – A local outpost of a popular sandwich shop. They’ve got a vegan sandwich called the Phoagie that tastes like pho in a bun. Very satisfying.
LMNO – Baja cuisine. Really sexy spot with delicious food that tastes clean. Unfortunately it’s pretty expensive, so more of a special occasion place?
Hook and Master -It’s a seafood/pizza place with 3 different styles of pizza. But more importantly, there are tiki drinks on the cocktail menu! While I don’t think it truly qualifies as a tiki bar, I’ll take it. As people have heard me complain before, wtf with the lack of tiki in this city. There are no tiki bars here.
Primary Plant Based – I was sad when Cadence closed, but this is a replacement that I’m much more likely to frequent. Cadence was delicious but also more of a special occasion spot.
Making new friends
In Austin we made a friend. We were only there for a long weekend!! It was then that I knew that we had to up our friend making game in Philadelphia, Covid awkwardness be damned. One strategy that we’ve been implementing has been to become “regulars” at a local bar. We looked at the bars in the neighborhood and picked one that felt like somewhere that locals would go to during the week. Then we just kept going, at least once a week. We’ve met some interesting people, and nothing exactly has panned out from that, but the bartenders now recognize us and we aren’t carded anymore, so we’re becoming regulars. With the latest wave of Omicron we’ve tamped this back, but we’re going to keep trying.
We’ve also met nice folks at the dog parks, and have even gone so far as to exchange numbers. But it’s really taking that next step where it can fall apart…
We got to know our neighbors when Ryan wrote a post on the NextDoor app complaining about illegal dumping in our neighborhood. Our neighbor responded, and next thing I knew we were out having dinner with them.
We’ve had much better luck meeting people through other people we know. Cool people know likeminded people, I suppose. Best of all is that a few of these people live only a few blocks away from us, making it much more likely that we can bump into each other in the neighborhood and make casual hang out suggestions.
I have gotten better at putting myself out there when I feel like someone might be receptive to friendship. It doesn’t feel so awkward anymore to just say “Hey I think you’re cool, let me give you my number. We should hang out sometime.” But like I said the next step of scheduling something… well that’s been trickier to navigate. I am trying not to take it personally when a potential connection peters out/doesn’t take.
Spooky season was back in full force this year. We went with our new friends to the newly revamped “Halloween Nights” at the Penitentiary. Ryan went on a bit of a spree buying museum memberships, and we’re now members of the penitentiary. Love that place.
We also went to a terrible karaoke bar full of college kids in order to meet another friend, but the manager of the neighboring bar came up to us and whisked us all away to a Squid Game themed bar! I felt like a celebrity.
Last but not least – Travel / Family Friend Time
In March Pravi came and visited during her holiday leave. Restaurants and bars were still not open at the time so we didn’t do anything crazy. Just hung around and drank and watched silly movies. It was just nice to have her around. Oh, actually I guess we did sensory deprivation tanks for her birthday. That was wild and kind of messed with my brain.
In April we popped over to NYC for Ryan’s birthday. I can’t believe that I live so close to New York and never go.
Then in May we went down to Austin to visit Pravi since she’s at Fort Hood. Austin was magical as usual, but this time I did feel sad for the locals. Their city is ruined by partiers. I’m sorry Austin!
In June we visited Jill and Brett in Georgia. Jill always seems to find the good in where she lives. Hyper local stuff, historic spots and such. Makes me feel like I should try harder with Philly.
In September my mom visited. I was worried about Delta mucking up her visit, but the stars aligned. Everything was open, the weather was beautiful, and Philly was on its best behavior. I felt a small sense of pride being able to show her around, and the trip definitely left me feeling a little more positively about the city. One of my favorite things about my mom is that she will roll with most situations. Now I will never forget taking her to the local burlesque and seeing Flintstones striptease. And Ryan will never forget either, no matter how hard he tries… 🙂
For Thanksgiving Jill and I visited San Francisco together. Amazingly everyone I hit up was around and available to hang out. Miss my friends there, but San Francisco was still pretty much the same. I ended up making a vegan Wellington for Thanksgiving, which turned out really nicely.
For Christmas I went to Los Angeles. Finally got to see my mom’s new house, and it’s really nice! I also came home with a suitcase full of classic video games, Pokemon cards, and beanie babies to sell on ebay.
Jill and Brett visited Philadelphia again. More things were open than when they visited last year, and we had a small cocktail party. Then we drove up to Maine for a few days to celebrate the New Year.
I don’t have any travel pinned down yet for 2022, but I’m hoping to be more intentional about it, and really make an effort to see people this year.
I’m not a running blogger but I tried finding information about this race online and only found old Reddit posts, so I thought I’d share my experience.
A couple of months ago races were starting to open up again in Philadelphia. Covid has made everything sound attractive,Â I started thinking about signing up. I’ve done plenty of 5ks and a half marathon in the past, but never a 10k. If you think about it, it’s an ideal distance for a race. Half marathons are a commitment, and 5ks are so short it’s not even worth it to get up so early, pay money and do all the run morning logistics just to run for 30 minutes. 10ks are a manageable distance that you don’t have to do intense training for, and they’re long enough runs to be worth getting up early, but not so long that you get bored. Also you probably burned enough calories that you’ve justified a nice meal after 🙂
The first race I found during my research was the Philly 10k, and I kept coming back to it. It’s a locally managed race in the heart of South Philly.
I am a slow runner and it’s summer, so my goal was mostly “do my first 10k with the least amount of running possible.” I was already running 3-4x per week, with a max distance of 4miles. I had 8 weeks before the race, so a training plan wasn’t necessary.
I’d used Hal Higdon’s training programs in the past, and now he has an app, so I downloaded the app and made a “custom” program while I was still on the trial period. The app unfortunately is crap. It’s glitchy and unintuitive. For example there are days that call for cross training. But when you try to log your training for the day, you have to put it in as a run with a pace. Makes no sense. The value really isn’t there, especially since the basic plans are all free on his website.
I reviewed the plan from the app, and the novice plan from his site, and came up with this general outline for every week:
Monday – 3 miles base
Tuesday – 45min cross training (yoga, swimming, cycling, strength. Really whatever I was in the mood for that day)
Wednesday – 2 miles fast
Thursday – 30 min cross training
Friday – 60 min cross training
Saturday – Long run day, starting at 4miles and working up to 6.2 in .5mi increments. <– I repeated a couple of times
Sunday – Rest
I ran rain or shine, mostly in 90+ degree and mega humid temp. Summer is really unfortunate here. I ran 10k about a week before the race in 78 minutes, so I knew that I could do it.
I waited until the last minute to register. Summers are stormy and hot in the city, and I just kept waffling because I thought the race experience might be miserable and gross. The race was on Sunday. On Wednesday I looked at the weather forecast, and it looked cloudy so I signed up online. It came to about 75 bucks, which I felt was pricey for a local run, but whatever. One nice aspect of the registration is that you had 15 minutes after the transaction to cancel. All you had to do was click a big “CANCEL” button. A few hours later I checked the forecast again and it had changed to rain. LOL
There’s normally a kickoff party, but not this year. During my lunch break that Friday, I took the el downtown to pick up my race packet (bib, t-shirt, clear bag for bag check, commemorative poster) at the Philadelphia Runner shop in Center City.Â Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test were required and checked, which I appreciated. I didn’t spend too much time there, but it was HOPPING on a Friday afternoon. I’ll have to head back next time to try some shoes.
The Day Before
It poured rain all day. We didn’t even take the dog out. I was stressed out about work, so I was on the computer all day and night. Didn’t drink, didn’t do yoga like I wanted. Ordered a pizza for dinner and it was glorious. Went to bed at 11, didn’t get to sleep until 12:30am because my brain was still stuck on a work problem.
Woke up at 5:30, showered, ate a yogurt and a nectarine, sipped a little coffee. Took the 6:08 el down to 5th st, then walked about 15 minutes down 5th to the race area. Arrived around 6:35am. There was no line for bag check or for id check (for the after race beer). It was quiet and peaceful. I stretched a bit and walked around the festival area. People hung out and warmed up here and there. Masks were required everywhere except during the actual run.
Around 7am it started getting busy. The starting line was at 8th and South, but with 6 corrals, the last corral (mine) was around 12th st. There were plenty of porta potties around.
The weather was about 70 and overcast, kind of misty. I lucked out! It was perfect weather.
The race started at 7:30, but with 3,000 runners they staggered the start time for each corral, so I didn’t actually get running until about 7:50!
I went to the porta potty again right before and OMG there was some explosive diarrhea in there. Seriously, in the 4 porta potties I went to throughout the day, all except the first one (I went to before 7am) had crazy poop. What in the world is going on with these runners???? It’s not that long of a race!!? Like an hour only… Race nerves?? Too much coffee? Poop at home like the rest of us!
This was the first big Philly race post Covid, and it’s a fun run, so the energy was super positive. It was crowded for the first half mile or so, then I found a bit of space. Like all races you definitely had to stay aware though and couldn’t zone out. Sometimes runners in front of you would just dead stop and walk, without moving to the side of the road. Some runners were livestreaming????!! Ugh. And oh, the Philly potholes. I almost bit it once, but managed to flail and catch myself.
The course itself was mostly flat and on skinny neighborhood streets. My experience of South Philly has been of insane stop and go traffic and asshole drivers, so honestly the fact that this was a neighborhood run was what appealed to me most. I hate the drivers here with all my heart, so blowing past all the red lights, and laughing at the lines of drivers who were stuck cursing us was incredibly therapeutic. There were also loads of people hanging out on their stoops and drinking their morning coffee with their kids, cheering us on with signs… but what really fueled me was the hate.
It was also fun running past Pat’s and Geno’s, and the Italian market and Little Saigon. There were water stations and porta potties about every 2 miles. About 4 miles in, I started getting stabbing stomach cramps. I wasn’t sure if going to the bathroom would help, but then I remembered the horrors that I’d experienced in the earlier porta potties, so I held on. I was still pretty uncomfortable, but I made it through.
My time: 1:12:38 / Pace: 11:38
Right after the finish line there were ice cold towels, water, and granola bar snacks. I snatched those up, but headed straight to the beer line. It was so long I almost didn’t bother, but I wanted my beer so I sucked it up. It took maybe 15 minutes?? The beer was from Brewery Ars, a South Philly brewery. I’m not sure which beer it was, but it definitely was delicious and I didn’t feel it at all. I might take my mom there when she visits.
For snacks I had a choice between French Toast bites and popsicles from Weckerly’s (fancy ice cream shop in my neighborhood). The line for the bites was too long, so I happily got a mango popsicle, and dunked it in my beer.
There was a band, and everyone was just hanging out having a good time. Among the thousands of people I saw folks from a local running club that I’ve been meaning to join.Â Maybe it’s a sign?
Originally I’d planned to have Ryan meet me down there for breakfast, but we’d already planned lunch with a friend a few hours later, so I finished up my beer and headed out.
There’s no medals, but I always want to throw those away, so I’m happy about that. I did hear people grumbling about the medals at the race.
Bib – The bibs had your name printed on them. For people who collect bibs that’s kind of cute. I registered late so I have TRACY in Sharpie on mine.
The women’s shirt is really soft and flattering! I will actually wear it for day to day stuff. It’s not performance material.
I think previous years prints were better, but this is cheerful and original at least. I framed it and put it in my office.
It was a well organized race that felt pretty laid back and fun. Knowing what I know now about the staggered start times, I would show up way later and just not check a bag.Â I would also probably bike to the event as well. There was plenty of security and places to park.
What’s next? I wanted to do the 10 mile Broad Street Run in October, but apparently that’s a very big deal race. It’s like 40,000 people and there’s a lottery to get in and they’re all booked for this year since they deferred folks from last year.
I think I might train for the half during Philadelphia Marathon Weekend in November? It’s sponsored by a local deli meat company, which seems very Philadelphia.
There’s also 10 mile and half marathonÂ options of the Rocky Run, which is the weekend before. But that race seems like a branded cash grab, so meh.
I dunno, I guess I’ll just keep running and see how I feel.
This morning I received an email from Chewy.com telling me that today is National Pet Parents Day! Apparently it’s some holiday dreamt up to be like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Alas, the animals can’t get me brunch or flowers.
Anyways, time flies – it’s been more than a whole year with Seymour! I was so cautious about being tied down by a cat again, but this is a life decision that easily tips over into the PRO category. His presence is worth the trouble of the litter box and the price of the cat sitters. It’s been fun to get to learn his personality over the past year.
10 Funny Things About Seymour
After taking him to the vet for an initial checkup, a specific caloric intake was recommended. Well, he’s been on and off his diet for an entire year and he’s gone from 17 to 15 lbs. The vet says he should be 12. That’s my bad of course as the owner, but I swear this cat just wants to be large. I mean, his previous owners actually named him “Fat Cat.” Maybe we should move toward acceptance, as long as he’s healthy.
Seymour is so fat that he has to go up and down the stairs in one big burst of energy, lest he lose momentum. To go up the stairs, he crouches, his butt wiggles a bit as he prepares mentally, then he huffs up the stairs in a flurry, with a little “mrowwwww!” of effort all the way up. When hurtling down the stairs, he can’t control his speed, and his tummy fat waddles left and right.
Going up the stairs is such an annoyance to him that he does something Ryan calls “Seymour Sonar.” He’ll sit at the bottom of the stairs and yowl plaintively like he’s been hurt, waiting to see if one of us will respond with “Seymour??!!!!”. Then he knows whether it’s worth the effort to go upstairs.
Despite his girth, he’s an agile and ferocious hunter.
He loves to play with string,Â and if I’m ever flossing anywhere in the house (4 times per day now that I’m doing Invisalign), before I’m done, Seymour will show up to watch me floss. To get a better look he’ll stretch up against the vanity and try to bat at the floss. How does he know that I’m flossing? I think that maybe the floss I use is squeaky and sounds like a bird?
He fits a lot of cat stereotypes. He loves boxes, has hairballs, and pops the dog with his paw when annoyed. Just like Garfield!
When it’s cold he sleeps between my legs for warmth. Once he falls asleep, he snores the cutest little kitty snores.
He’s like a litterbox version of the fairytale “The Princess and the Pea”. If there is but one smidge of poop hidden in the litter, the whole box is tainted, and he’ll wail angrily for me to clean it up. If I wait too long to take care of it, he’ll poop outside of the box in protest. Because of this, we have 3 litter boxes – almost one on every floor of the house. Every day I’m running all over the house checking each box, just in case. It’s ridiculous, really. He’ll also poop outside of the box when he’s angry at me. When we went on vacation back in October, he had perfect litter box manners for the sitter for a whole week. I come home, and within 30 min there’s poop on the carpet waiting for me to clean up. What the hell.
I can walk into his room (my office) with a bowl of wet food, set it down, and he’ll sit outside the doorway staring in. He loves dry food, and sometimes he will wait for me to add dry food before he’ll come over and start eating. I’ve figured out how to trick him by just lightly crinkling the kibble bag. Just the sound gets him running!
He is a good cat-brother to Bogie. TheyÂ tolerate each other 🙂
Here we are entering month 8 of coronavirus times. Looking back over my photos there isn’t much to share, but here we go.
At the beginning of the month we’d rented a car for our trip to the Poconos. The rental period was by the week, so we had an extra day or two before we had to return it. Having a car allowed us to finally go to a drive-in movie theater! The Philadelphia Film Society recently set up shop down by the navy yard. We saw Tenet there, and while the movie was not one of Christopher Nolan’s finest (honestly it was a hot mess and not even in a fun way), I really enjoyed the drive-in experience. I was dressed cozily and had all my drinks and my snacks. What’s not to love?
I really miss going out to see movies.I don’t think I realized how much a part of my identity it was until I moved here and just stopped going due to inconvenience. I’ve been keeping a running list of movies I’ve been watching this year, and I’m averaging about 15 films per month. Unfortunately I am behind on watching AFI’s top 100 movies, but at this point who cares? Time is meaningless.
One day while I was out on a run on the path by the water, a swarm of dirt bike and ATV riders came through en masse. I’d seen them plenty of times before, but this time they literally held up traffic for like 10-15 minutes. It was wild. When I got home I did some research, and it turned out that it was “Dirt Bike Rell Day” – basically a memorial for a local dirt biker who was gunned down back in 2014. According to the Citizen app, there were about 3,000 riders out and about. Wild. Here’s a news video from 2018 that explains it a bit more.
Recently a new group of bros moved in to the apartments across from our house. Now we have vocal bros to the left, to the right, and across from us. Not to mention the group of women who live underneath New Bros. Everyone likes to party, but the new bros are the most insufferable. They have really loud parties at least two nights every week, let’s not even talk about the lack of social distancing. But for some reason whenever they party they leave all their doors and windows open, so it’s incredibly loud late into the night. Finally one night our Neighbor Bros to the Left climbed up to their roof deck and had it out with the New Bros. I was in bed at the time, and once the screaming started the dog, the cat and I all bolted right up. Then we each looked at each other. It was a strange moment.
I don’t know how we ended up surrounded by so many partiers, but it’s still not as terrible as Ralph, the burnout living for the 90’s tweaker who lived above my bedroom in San Francisco. I don’t think I will ever be woken up at 4 in the morning with the walls shaking to “Thriller” ever again, so that’s progress.