#40 Irish Pub on St. Patrick’s Day

What do you do on St. Patrick’s Day? Go to an Irish pub. A group of us met up at Flannigan’s Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda ( http://flanagansharpandfiddle.com/ ). The pub is rather small and it was packed. My daughter had friends who reserved a space for us. It was what I had expected. Crowded. Green everywhere. Loud and smiling people. There was even a band playing, including a fiddle player. I had to sample the range of Irish drinks. I had a Harp (lager), an “Irish car bomb” (Guinness and a shot of Baileys Irish Cream), and a “Black and Tan”. It was a fun time.

“Black and Tan” Note: In America it’s a popular drink poured with equal parts dark Guinness and lighter colored Harp beers. Since the two liquids have different weights they don’t blend and form an eye-catching display in the mug. In Ireland, though, Black & Tan has a different connotation. That was the color of the uniforms worn by the British paramilitary troops that were formed around 1920 to put down the Irish after the failed Easter Uprising. These soldiers had fought in the bloodiest trench battles of World War I and were not about to be put off by rebels wielding rusty hunting rifles and pitchforks. So, if you are in Ireland, don’t order a “Black and Tan”. Better to order a “Half and Half”.

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#39 Uber ride

On St Patrick’s Day, since we were going to an Irish pub and would be drinking, we needed to figure the best way to get there and back. We could either take Metro or drive. Metro could be time consuming and a bit expensive and driving would be unwise. So, we chose Uber to get down to Flannigan’s Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda. The only times I had taken a paid ride was in a taxi for business or a shuttle bus to an airport. This was going to be a new, different experience. Less than 10 minutes after requesting the ride, a Corolla arrived. True to what I had heard, the experience was pleasant. The driver was dressed nicely, he was polite, and the car was spotless inside. For a predetermined fee and tip included prior to his arrival, we went directly to the pub. On the way down, I had a chance to talk to him about this job. I found it interesting that he drives part time, earning up to $1,000 per week. In fact, he delivers evening papers (Chinese) such that he can pick up a ride at the same time. Not bad.

While I have not requested a ride with my Uber app on my phone yet, that time will come soon. A great way to get around, especially if there is some drinking involved.

Reflections of First Year in Retirement

How do you answer “So, how is retirement?” or “What do you do (all day)?”? It is hard to answer in a short summary. I have stated that I want to “Experience life”. But that is vague. Then I qualified it by saying that I want 937 experiences.

In my first year I completed 37 experiences. 900 to go. At that rate it will take me 25 years. It will take some creativity and dedication to achieve that goal. I hope they are varied and interesting.

What I don’t hear much is “Now that you have retired, how do you feel?” Maybe people don’t want to hear: “Great!” Or maybe they doubt that it is great. After all, a guy is often judged by what he does. His profession. His job. His career.  What happens when you no longer have a job?  Maybe I need to have business cards printed with “Kirk Rydland”  “Retired with time and a pick up truck”.

Some experiences were part of the travel that retires are expected to do. While we traveled every year while I worked, we did more traveling this year. We traveled to the Finger Lakes of New York to taste wines. We toured Iceland in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. We took a road trip to Maine to check out the lobsters. And we occasionally made beach trips.

Some experiences that I have found to be satisfying are not exciting enough to write up. So here is a list of some experiences that I may do often. While satisfying, they are not worthy of expanding in blog entries as “experiences” (Unless I need more to get to 937).

  1. Doing daily things during the daytime on weekdays. These may simply be chores but are better done whenever I want to do them. I am not constrained by doing them on weekends or evenings. I also can do these things when there are less crowds. For instance, I can go shopping when there are no crowds. I can hike during the best part of the day when there are very few hikers. I can also workout during the day. I can go to the gym in the morning for a couple of hours and still have the rest of the day. No more squeezing a few short gym workouts in the evening.
  2. Spending more daylight hours outside. I have always loved being outside. So what career do I choose? Computers. Indoor work all day, usually glued to a computer monitor. Now I have reclaimed those 40 daylight hours from Monday through Friday for myself.
  3. Relaxing. Not being rushed. Not being stressed. For instance, I can hang out in the yard all afternoon and enjoy a fire in our fire pit and read a book sipping on a cold one.
  4. Be active. Walk, hike, run, bike.
  5. Read books. Over this first year, I read 33 books. Not bad for a guy that has avoided reading for so many years.
  6. Do major projects, quicker. During the summer, we had a storm that damaged our back deck rails. While repairing, we noticed all the rails had rotted. It took us a full two weeks to remove and replace all the rails. If I had been working in an office, it would have taken more than a month. Now we are working on the barn.
  7. Enjoy beers. I am still on my quest to try 100 beers. Over half way towards that experience.

But the main thing is that I have more time. Freedom and time. Time for myself. Time to spend with my wife. Time to spend with my kids and grandkids.

So those are the best things.

There are a few downsides, too. I kind of miss the Air Traffic Control engineering work. Creating solutions is for the FAA was rewarding. Interacting with my coworkers and customers was fun. However, the schedules, deadlines, stress, performance plans, compliance training are no fun. Also, tasks that take days to complete hung over my head every evening. So, I miss it, but not that much. Then there is the wintertime. Since I like to spend a lot of time outside during the day, not only are the days shorter, but it is just too darn cold outside to really enjoy it.

But all in all, it has been a great year.

Winner of the 937 contest

We have a winner! It took almost a year for someone to guess. And it took someone who wasn’t even a follower of this blog to solve the riddle. Of course, to get the promised gift, she had become a follower (Shameless bribing to increase my followers).

(Note: Look at the “About” selection on the blog for the contest and selection of 937 for the blog name and goal for my experiences…    https://937experiences.wordpress.com/ )

Frannie guessed that 9:37 was the time that we would all meet at Shakey’s on Wednesday night during the summer.

Back in the 70’s we did not have the best forms of communications. We had land line phones or US Mail or face-to-face meetings. So the best way to get together with friends was to ‘know’ when and where we would meet up without trying to coordinate at the last minute. It was the summer of 1976 and many of my friends were swimmers and/or lifeguards. We wanted to get together sometime during the week to have a beer, talk, and have fun. I am not sure who the original instigators of this weekly event were. I think it was Tim, Terry, and Jeff. We got together on a Wednesday night after the swimming pools closed. We decided to do it again and had to figure out when to do it again. We decided that Wednesday would be good day because it was the middle of the week. Then we had to pick a time. Couldn’t be 9:00 since pools had just closed. 9:30 gave us all a chance to get there from whatever pool in the Montgomery County they worked. But 9:30 seemed too vague. A time like that meant anytime around 9:30 within a half hour or so. So, we humorously said that we would pick a time to the minute so everyone would know it was an exact time to be there. Not 9:30. Not 9:45. We said, “How about half way between the two?” 9:37 was the agreed upon time. We would spread the word that 9:37 would be the time to arrive. It was agreed upon that those who would arrive at 9:37 would all pitch in for the first pitcher of the night. Everyone who arrived later, as a matter of rule, would buy a pitcher and share it with everyone else. So there was incentive to be there on time. Being the cheap a** I was (or still am?), I would be on time. Also, we would order arguably the best pizza ever! Shakey’s pizza!

For some strange reason, this weekly meeting became a summer tradition. The numbers of attendees that showed up grew weekly. What started out as about 3 or 4 of grew to be 20 to 25. It took on a life of its own. Friends were bringing friends. We went from a small table to a whole row of tables. I believe we continued this on to the next summer and may have even got together during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays… on the Wednesday night at 9:37. We just knew.

So Frannie you won! I will get you a gift. No, it won’t be a gift certificate to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, as they are no longer in the Washington area. Gone, but not forgotten.

Important Disclosure: This was pre-Internet and we would have to rely on our memories to separate fact from fiction. I think most of this is fact. But we were teenagers. This was over 40 years ago. We were young and foolish, and we were drinking beer. Because it was before the Internet we can forget what we didn’t like and we can embellish what we did like.

#38 Casino and spinning the wheel

On March 3, 2017, I went with my buddy, Mark, to the MGM Casino in National Harbor (Maryland, just across the Wilson Bridge off I-95). I don’t recall ever playing roulette for money so this was a new experience for me. The tables had a minimum bet of $25. It seemed pretty steep for me, but what the heck, I planned on spending some money for entertainment. The downside is that it could all be gone in 10 minutes if I didn’t win.

So what to bet on. Being a rookie, I looked at the results of the last 15 spins and saw that it was completely random, but in peoples mind they think they see a pattern or algorithm. There is none. But you can hope and convince yourself. I looked at where everyone else placed their bets. Were they random placements? Did they have a method? Whatever it was they placed them with confidence. Haha. I just randomly placed each of my five $5 chips in strategically random locations. Hedging my bets by placing many of them on the line between 2 or 4 numbers. How do you beat a random spin? Maybe it is being just as random (and then being very lucky!)

Of course I lost the first bet. Then, of course, I lost the second bet. On the third bet I did win a few chips. That kept me in the game. Then I lost one or two more rolls. I was a big risk taker, placing the minimum $25 bet each time. I watched other people win hundreds/thousands of dollars and others lose hundreds/thousands of dollars. Then on what would be my last spin, I strategically, randomly placed my bets as usual, including placing $5 on the border of “0” and “00”. When she spun the wheel, I watched the green “0” the whole time, just as Mark was. Hoping it would fall on it. Willing it to land on “0”. Stunned, it did! Haha. Luck upon luck. I won about $100, tipped the lady, and walked away with $125. It may not seem big, but it was a lot better than the guy next to me who placed, according to Mark’s count, $3,500 across the board (of course with more confidence than me.) He lost it all! I thought to myself, I walked away a (lucky) winner and he walked away a loser. Wohoo, I kicked his ass! Yeah, I know, big 25 bucks winner. Big deal. Oh, well, it was an experience.

As for retirement experiences, it was good to be able to go on a weekday instead of weekend. It wasn’t crowded. However, it did make me wonder why younger people were there on a weekday. Don’t they have a job? Then all those older people. Most of them are going to lose money. Kind of sad. To me it is just entertainment. How much entertainment money are you willing to pay for the experience?