Monday Musings on a Tuesday.. yet again

Monday musings in paper and ink

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I’m trying to give it more effort to actually write. The last post took all of almost 4 weeks to see the light of day, because I kept editing it and changing the flow. Over the weekend, I finally told myself I had to get on with the writing. So back to Monday Musings for a start – and sadly, I’m into Tuesday. Such is life. But on with the blurbs. (I try to make these mini-posts on a hodge podge of topics or thoughts currently front and center for me at the start of the week.)

Back to the stones. I have been making a mental note to actually set aside time to start creating again. In the last 4 weeks, I’ve made 2 sales which is a sad number given any retail outlet like my online shop – but what baffles me is the fact that the sales actually happened. This, even if I haven’t been doing any marketing push, let alone add new pieces to the shop. Is it a sign? I can only imagine how my numbers could be so much better if I focused on the shop. Recalibrating, I am going to be more determined to actually get more done with the shop beginning today. Starting with this post.

Earlier this year, I actually made a more determined effort to start getting myself organized. I went through my supplies and sorted my gemstones, pearls and findings. I almost succeeded not getting any additional supplies, except that I came across some rather eye catching accessories in my favorite retail outlets which called out to me. I saw them transformed into something else, given the chance to add my own touch to it. But they have been untouched.

Discovering China’s direct suppliers was a thing for a while, until my return to postcards came and totally threw my plans off. But I’m trying to get back on track. This is one of those times when I know I need to pay heed to the signals from the universe and actually strike while the iron is starting to fire up – just to get it to “hot”.

Reading again has been quite refreshing, and I am well on my way to hit my 6-book target for the year. I am still trying to get my posts on my very eventful Fourth of July weekend together, but one of the most concrete accomplishments that outing actually produced was a renewed fervor to read more. My two friends, Gedd and Jelaine, are actually voracious readers who shared with me an interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction favorites. As a result, I’m almost halfway through Stephen King’s “11-22-63” on Audible, and continuing to read the English translation of El Filibusterismo – yes, the one we were required to read in high school in Filipino. (This is the translation by Soledad Lacson-Locsin).  I am trying to line up my next reads, and as it is, I only need to finish this two and a third to make my yearly quota of six. I’m beyond happy that this part of my 21 for 2021 goal is on track to be completed for the first time in so many years.

For those who have all the time in the world to read, 6 might seem like a very puny goal for the year – but being that I’ve failed to meet that bare minimum the last couple of years, this is a feat as it is.

I’m making masks again. While we have been given the leeway to forego masks at work if you’re a vaccinated employee, the resurgence of the Delta variant and the newer Lambda variant makes me think that masks are not totally out of the Covid scene. As of today, 49 of 50 states are seeing an uptick in cases. I have been wont to take off the mask when outdoors and yes, sometimes, on the bus, but have become more careful in indoor settings or even outdoors when there is a lot more people traffic. Even as I walk out in the open for my daily routine, I carry a mask in one hand and promptly put it on when I see people approaching from the opposite direction. I am not taking any chances and the direction to wear or not to wear masks is up in the air for now. I had precut fabric that was ready to be sewn, and they are now ready to be finished for wearing in the coming days.

Writing those letters finally. I had thought I’d get to this sooner, but I’ve written three letters over the weekend and about to write my fourth. My son was asking why I was writing and not emailing or texting instead – well, it’s not quite the same. So there are letters heading out to surprise some people with something to read and hold for a change. I’m all for the advances of technology, but there are times when old fashioned letters can be more meaningful than that email you get on your laptop or phone.

When a hello from the past is a warm hug to the heart. Once upon a time, I came across a young medical student who was back in Manila, and who became a very good friend. We corresponded and followed each other’s blogs and shared bits and pieces of our lives. We lost touch, but I tried to keep track of him by looking at his social media feed. The medical student became a doctor and went back to his hometown in the hinterlands of Sulu. He wanted to serve his people in a place where sometimes, it would take hours of walking to get medical help. What could be more noble? He could have opted for a more financially rewarding career in a city hospital or in private practice, but he went home to serve his people. And from out of the blue, I receive a heartwarming email from him. The doctor is now married and still among his people. My heart is smiling as I write this. Some people enrich our lives just by living theirs – such as my young doctor friend. More about him and this special friendship another time.

Proud to be Pinoy: Thank you, Hidilyn Diaz! (Proud to be Filipino) Finally, a gold for the Philippines. I am proud of Hidilyn and the honor that she has brought to us Filipinos. It may be one gold which is dwarfed by the many chalked up by other countries, but for us, that is a major achievement that will forever be etched in our minds and hearts. What a way to start the week! Truly an inspiring athlete who stirs so much emotion for us Pinoys.

Road trip firsts on the MetroNorth

I don’t really ride the train — except the subway, which really is a local train ride as far as I’m concerned. The few times (as in 2-3 times) that I had ventured to take the Long Island Rail Road to visit my friend in Lindenhurst, Long Island, were still, technically, very local.

Thursday, July 1st, saw me actually doing my first interstate train ride, as I jumped on a Metro North train at Grand Central heading to New Haven to join my friends for the Fourth of July weekend.

Road trip: on the metro north

While I have avoided riding much of public transportation during the pandemic, I thought this was different being that it was not a regular commute to just anywhere. I was heading to Maine for the Fourth of July weekend and had to join friends who were based in Connecticut, hence the ride. Two hours and something to New Haven, we then drove a few hours to Augusta, Maine where we spent the night. We wanted to do the remaining 3-4 hours to Greenville before noon so we could make it to our destination without killing too much of the day on the road.

This was a trip of firsts for me. It’s literally my first road trip on my own without family. It came together rather spontaneously over lunch two weeks before, and things took a while to arrange until everything fell into place. So when all was said and done, I hied off not knowing what to expect.

I just wanted to spend the long weekend doing something different. Beyond the road trip, being away on a planned hike was something totally new for me as well. I had my apprehensions about the whole thing but decided that it was a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I did my research on what I needed to bring, bought the minimal gear needed (hiking sneakers with good traction), borrowed a Swiss Army knife, and assembled my weekend wardrobe. I researched and pulled together my own hiking essentials, skipping the head lamp for light flashlights and worked out an elementary first aid kit. Since there was no electricity except in the main lodge, I also bought a solar charging power bank. (More on all of this later.). I had a light backpack already and at least one water bottle. My friends had promised to bring me towels, an extra pillow and more water bottles. They were the seasoned outdoors people— so I listened and just did some extra research about where we were headed.

I hurdled the first task of packing my gear after two attempts, reminding myself that it had to be done in such a way that I could lug everything in and out of the train, both ways. I didn’t really want to take an Uber to the city, and even if I did, I had to make sure I’d be able to make it from the car to the train platform. News flash: there are no trolleys at the station. From the initial 4 pieces, I trimmed it down to three. I had a roller luggage, a full back pack and a casual tote. I decided I would not bring my laptop even if I meant to work part of the first and last day on the road. I also chose my most battered tote so that I wouldn’t feel bad about setting it down on the floor if I had to. This was roughing it out for me.

I had ordered postcards to bring and send back on the day we confirmed I could be added to the reservation, so I packed my return address labels, stamps and airmail stickers along with the right pens to use. I have always made it a habit to send postcards back home from my travels, either addressed to me or my son. I would also send to a select few fellow postcard collectors or friends— sent straight from where the postcards were coming from or were about.

Postcards for the road trip

While I would normally be more conservative with the shoe allocation, I had to keep in mind that this was a hiking trip. I was told to bring shoes I was already comfortable in, plus the optional water shoes and slippers for the shower and the cabin. All check. My hike sneakers arrived a few days before the end of the month, so I “broke the pair in” by using it during my 10,000 step walks at least 2 days before. I could’ve traveled with the hike shoes from the get go, but wearing comfortable shoes while traveling (by air or land) meant slip ons. I went with my leather TOMS which would’ve been lighter in the luggage if I packed them, but I walked in them instead. The sneakers — both pairs —went in the suitcase with the water shoes and the slippers. 5 pairs of footwear, on any given trip, was actually a lot for me..

I looked up the schedules way ahead of time, and coordinated with my friends in Connecticut. We finalized schedules the day of, and I hopped on the train that would get me there just in time for my friend, Gedd, to pick me up at Union Station closer to 5pm. On the way to Connecticut, I purchased my off peak ticket from one of the many kiosks in Grand Central, then looked up the track information from the boards.

On the train, most people observed social distancing so it wasn’t terribly packed. Besides, I slid into a 2-seater and put the roller in front of the second seat beside me so nobody could take it. Unlike the express MTA buses I was used to riding which had USB ports for charging, the train had actual electric outlets to plug any hardware you might want to charge. My first ride was uneventful, and it helped that I got on the train at the originating station and got off at the last stop. You can’t go wrong with that.

Upon disembarking from the train, I followed the crowd as they exited into a modern tube that then led to the more classic Union Station. Road trip: on the metro north As it happened, Gedd was running late and that gave me time to stop by the lone convenience store which had a postcard rack. (Happiness!) I picked up some (more) postcards and a snack and sat until Gedd showed up. How lucky could I get? Postcards of Connecticut right there at the station.

Road trip: on the metro north

Our ultimate destination was Gorman Chairback Lodge in Greenville, Maine. They had plotted the trip so that we broke it up in two by spending the evening in Augusta. This meant driving from Connecticut to Maine through most of the evening, and then heading out the next morning in time to reach Greenville just around lunch time.

As we made our way back to Connecticut, I bought my return ticket via the Metro North app, activating it as we approached the front driveway. Once on board, I just flashed the QR code to the conductor and I was off.

The train ride to and from Hew Haven and New York was pretty uneventful but memorable for the first it was. That might seem like such a shallow thrill for people who commute on the MetroNorth or LIRR on a regular basis, but not for me— more so in the time of Covid restrictions. Strange, though, it may be for someone who has been in the US for almost 21 years now — and stranger still that I have been in New York all that time. Like I always say, I learn something new everyday. It’s really a convenient way to travel for shorter distances, or when you want to take the so-called scenic route. I’m already planning my next trip which might be a longer ride, but definitely to a destination close by.

Grand Central the night I came back on July 6, 2021