Into Autumn

I got my shot the same day I flew into SeaTac airport at the end of July. It was at one of those all-purpose drug stores which offer pharmacy and health services amidst aisles stocked with junk food. All I had to do was walk in, make an appointment, then show up at the anointed hour. As I mentioned, I elected to go with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to avoid having to get a second poke in the arm.

For next ten to fourteen days, until the J & J became effective, I tried to keep my distance from people, especially the ones using mass transit. I always wore a mask, something that has never been an issue with me — unlike many of my fellow Americans. Nor did the constraints prevent me from going about the usual tasks that accompany my arrival in the Emerald City: Visiting my storage unit to swap wardrobes, seeing the dentist, and spending special time with old friends. Not anything out of the ordinary, though I decided to forego the annual Amtrak ride down to Corvallis, Oregon. Did not want to be sitting next to someone for over five hours.

Nevertheless, I did end up doing some traveling, flying out from Seattle to my home state of Iowa for family obligations in August. I also hooked up with a high school friend I always see and we drove around the old home town, saying hello to a couple classmates and reminiscing about lost loves.

The highlight of my time in the Hawkeye State was a family reunion in Des Moines with nine cousins from my father’s side of the family, many of whom I had not seen in over twenty years. They are by and large a gregarious bunch and it was a real delight catching up. All of us have fond memories of spending summers together on our grandparent’s farm and we ended up recounting often hilarious stories about our grandfather.

I was back in Seattle by mid-September and booked a reservation at an Extended Stay America Hotel in the city of Everett, some thirty miles north. This would serve as my base while I waited for Thailand to relax its Covid entry restrictions. It was a mile and a half from the home of a pair of friends, Gail and her husband Steve. (Gail and I go back over thirty-five years.) Two or three times a week I would make the long trek over to see them. We watched a lot of American football, munching on cheddar cheese and popcorn, often with an Oregon Pinot Noir (Gail is wine connoisseur.)

A couple years ago, I had loaned my ancient Celestron telescope to the couple, allowing Gail (who shares my love of the night sky) to do some occasional viewings. Now I was able to join her, spending the cool, late summer nights on her back deck taking in the moon and other sights. There was some extra work needed to get the scope set up and properly aligned (with Steve doing the heavy lifting), then re-learn how to first locate, then track the planets. But it was all a labor of love, especially when we were able to identify Jupiter’s four Galilean satellites, then find faint Titan — the largest moon of the ringed planet.

Since stargazing is one of my passions, I did not find myself missing Thailand. This was a refreshing change from my overseas life and the two of us tried to get out anytime the sky was clear — all the way to Halloween. Then the winter rains began moving in… But I was not concerned. With the tourist season fast approaching, the Thais would surely be opening up their country for business: Come one, come all, and don’t forget your wallets! I figured I’d be resettled in a comfy Bangkok apartment by Christmas at the latest.

Yeah, right.

Be it ever so humble…

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