Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Life in the Time of Corona: The Five Time-Tested Rules of Backpacking

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Hi Emily and Jim! Thank you so much for your candid and entertaining interview! You are both big readers so I’d love to start there. Then we can proceed to the deeply personal questions and your excellent advice…

Today’s correspondents in the field, Emily & Jim Flautt

Emily, I can’t wait to hear what you’re reading! I know your reading habits and interests have changed…

I am (like you) reading mostly newspaper and magazine articles because I seem to have a short attention span right now and I’m trying to learn about the virus and its effects. I have a few books going at the moment, some of which I have gotten from your Bacon blog, so thank you for your wonderful posts! I recommend Bill Bryson’s The Body: A Guide for Occupants, which is an often funny “head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body.”

I have also recently read The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, White Fragility, and Just Mercy.

My true comfort reads are any Agatha Christie novel or the Lord Hetheridge detective series by Emma Jameson.

And my favorite distraction watching is “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” on NBC, or the series “Bones” or “Castle” on Amazon, or any English detective series.

 

Oh Emily, I thought you said you weren’t reading much? I’ll just say you are reading a LOT compared to me!

Jim, how about you?

Here’s what I’ve read over the past few weeks, most of which have been re-reads:

Re-read lots of books/journals from folks who thru-hiked the 2650-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail:

Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn

A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard

Hikertrash: Life on the Pacific Crest Trail by Erin Miller

Also re-read (for the umpteenth time): Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. This is the Walden of the 20th century and the Southwest.

Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers. All the creative ways people have figured out to die in the Grand Canyon.

Re-reading: Justice by Michael Sandel. Should we optimize society’s utility, freedom or virtue? Well, that is the question, ain’t it?

Re-reading (constantly): Ultralight Backpacking by Mike Clelland. Know-how, experience and confidence weigh exactly 0.0 grams. Metaphor for life: when you are unsure or anxious or inexperienced, you “pack” your fears. And we all know this: we can all make do with whole lot less than what we currently think.

Ok, you may be asking yourself: “Wtf, Jim? Please weave the thread thru these books given the times!” (Haha yes! I’m often thinking Wtf, you know.)

Well, these all have elements of self-deprivation, the ultimate social distancing (as measured in tens, if not hundreds, of miles), self-isolation, essentialism (what you need is in your backpack and nothing more), western-cowboy-anarchy (gotta love Edward Abbey), living in the moment (e.g., where’s my next water source?), despair (e.g., where the eff is my next water source!!!), contemplation on what life is about (e.g., life without water sucks), how to live a good life and hope. Basically, all the mental and physical ingredients for an average day during our zombie apocalypse.

Add to all of that: 1) my fantasy of doing a super long thru-hike at some point; 2) the fact that days before the shutdown, I had just done 5 days of hiking in Yosemite with my sons; and, 3) in Feb I did a Winter Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim backpacking excursion in the Grand Canyon with 45 lbs. on back (that has forever turned me into an ultra-light evangelist).

First ever selfie…on the North Rim of Grand Canyon with the South Rim and Mt Humphries in the far distance

On the North Rim; not pictured: 12 blisters, 2 destroyed quads and the funk of 5 days without a shower

Yosemite Valley with me and sons, Mitchell and William

Vernal Falls

At the top of Nevada Falls

How are your spirits?

Emily: I feel pretty good overall, despite a steady, low-level undercurrent of anxiety, and I am fortunate because I get to stay home and only go out once a week to the grocery store or pharmacy.

Jim: I am running low on Japanese whisky…

Despite what the picture shows, I have many friends who would consider this shamefully “low”; we have plenty of bourbon and gin, so not to despair.

Figurative answer: doing fine. As an ex-submariner, I am acutely experienced with isolation, toilet paper hoarding, canned foods, working 3 feet from where you sleep, seeing the same darn small group of people all day long, optional showering, etc. We have our college freshman and senior at home, so the house is a combination of a dorm, cafeteria, library and fitness center these days. That’s on top of the normal state of affairs, ie elder dog assisted living facility. So, all is good.

Elder doggos Molly (12) and Dusty (16)

What’s the best thing about Life in the Time of Corona? The worst?

Emily: The best is having Jane (college freshman) and Mitchell (college senior) home.

 

 

This is a gift of time with them we would never have had otherwise, and while I am sorry for what they are missing at school, I am happy to have them here and safe. The worst is the uncertainty and the widespread hardship. My optimism kicks in, though, when I think of how many smart, dedicated people are working hard to get us through this. This is uncharted territory, but I have faith in people’s ingenuity and in the leaders (not the federal gov’t, sadly) who have stepped up to face the challenge. What a time to be alive.

Jim: Best: Top 5:
-Re-connecting or different-connecting with friends, family, co-workers. Have re-kindled multiple poker games from different crews in my past using Zoom and online tools. How we missed starting this years ago is a complete failure of technological abilities and creativity.
-Eating fresh baked bread every day courtesy of my wonderful wife and son.
-Getting the garage to “peak orderliness”
-Having plenty of time to write my quarterly (ish) Live Music Missive to my music peeps
-Taking the opportunity to completely overhaul my workout routine which was in a groove in terms of dedication (rarely missed) but, to be frank, was in a rut in terms of impact. Doing rucking (~15-mile hikes over hill and dale with 25+ lbs. on my back) every other day and lots of core/weight training on non-hike days.

AKA the big yummy fat pill

Worst:
Preface: this is mostly tongue in cheek or at least far down on the scale after the obvious toll on human life in terms of health, safety, economic distress, etc
-Embarrassed to say, but gosh, I REALLY miss live sports.
-I miss meeting friends or new acquaintances over an early morning coffee at The Well Coffeehouse
-I miss being with my teams in Asia… miraculously, they are flourishing without the gentle hand of my leadership. We will just chalk that up to coincidence 😉
-Not going out to live music… although the online concerts have been a ray of sunshine
-The complete lack of competence and empathy from our President

What has surprised you about yourself or the people around you?

Emily: I thought I would be plowing through my book stack, but I have trouble keeping focus on the topics I was reading about in depth pre-Covid-19. I am hoping this feeling of being discombobulated will eventually fade. Also, I am not usually a fan of talking on the phone, but now I enjoy daily conversations with family who are far away.

Jim: Really not a surprise, however it is completely re-assuring to see communities coming together and pull through this which Nashville is showing as well as anyplace.

I put myself in the camp of the apocaloptimist. Yes, things are going completely to shit, but I am confident that we will not only get through this, but that things will be better and brighter on the other end. (I just learned a new word, thx Jim!)

One surprise about myself: I am not watching that much TV/movies or binging on series. A few quick recs though:
Season 3 of Ozark: worth it
Season 4 of Brockmire: couldn’t get past the first episode… first three seasons are so good that my expectations are sky high. Sorta like the last season of Arrested Development: the spark and the witty/punchy dialogue are gone.

Will this experience change you forever? Our world? Emily, I know you have a passionate interest in WWII. What similarities and differences do you see? Ok that’s a really big and probably ridiculous question. Just do with it what you will. Jim, I’d love your perspective as CEO of Asurion’s Asia-Pacific team, and the ramifications for global business…

Emily: It’s a good question, because my interest in WWII stemmed from my work on a biography/photo book of my grandfather, Warren Bonnett, who was killed on the first day of the US Invasion of North Africa on Nov. 8, 1942. I loved researching where he was posted and the training he and his Army division went through. But learning about his life and experiences has even bigger ramifications. Warren was 28 years old when he was killed, and my mom, his daughter, was almost 4. Warren’s deep love for his family during his too-short life, which is clear in his letters, impacted all the generations that have followed, and it is a reminder of how valuable, how priceless, a loving family is. And, that everyone’s story is worthwhile and should be saved and shared, so those stories do not disappear forever. We never knew much about Warren’s war experience because it remained too painful for my grandmother to talk about, even decades later, and so being able to delve into military history to recover some of his story was a gift. And now I am working on my grandmother’s story, which gives my mom and me another good project during quarantine, even though she and I are in different states.

Jim: We will not go “back to normal”, rather we will go forward to a different normal. Even if we got back to exactly where we were months ago, we have all changed (for better or worse). Our perspectives, our connections with people, our empathy, our tolerance for risks big and small (i.e.: we will even shake hands?), our ability/courage to challenge assumptions (about how we live, what we think, etc.) and our views of so many things have forever changed.

Additionally, many of the changes we are seeing right now will continue… which should not be surprising as most are just accelerations of trends that have been going on for a while, e.g.:
-Moving to a completely global workforce not limited by proximity
-Digitization of every aspect of our lives
-The death of retail… it’ll come back, but it won’t look like it does today
-The rise of tele-health as always the first option
-Every aspect of our lives moving to super convenient online experiences
-The demand for more sidewalks 😉
-Addressing the digital divide within our communities
-Addressing the health care insecurity in our society
-Addressing the fact that many of the “essential” folks who are keeping things completely together for every single one of us are some of the most vulnerable folks in our communities (pay, benefits, health coverage, political clout, job security, etc).

These are just a few. And those last three, like most, were with us well before the pandemic, but because of these unprecedented times, they are amplified, highlighted and underlined in bold and cannot be ignored and must be addressed in one way, shape or form.

Jim, you’re the Board Chair of KIPP Nashville. How is this affecting the students, the teachers, everything?

Think everyone can imagine the challenges of distance learning (for first grader, a high school senior and everyone in between) as most folks are either going through it with their own children or reading about. Add to that the extra challenges that many of the KIPP students and families have: digital access, computing ability and family/economic/health uncertainty among just a few.

Despite that, KIPP (and many of the other public charter school operators) are well ahead of the curve in terms of keeping in touch with students/families (e.g., every student/family gets a minimum of two live personal calls with their teacher every week), moving the students along in learning, creating a sense of fun, community and normalness to the work. Like so many in the educational field and healthcare industry, the KIPP teachers, staff and supporters are doing heroic work to ensure our kids and families are fed, are online, are learning and are cared for as much as possible. I couldn’t be prouder of the team there.

Strategically, the KIPP board and leadership team are doing a great job of scenario planning for the next 2+ years in terms of the uncertainty around budgeting, enrollment, growth and investments. Overall, KIPP is in fantastic shape.

Emily, I assume you’re managing the homefront. How is that going? 

It feels unusual, having the four of us and our two elder dogs here all day, every day. I am happy that everyone is healthy and safe, so far, and I look for things that I can control to buffer those ever-present anxious feelings. We all work together to plan our meals, and everyone pitches in on dishes. Jane and Mitchell both like to cook and bake, so that has been a lot of fun, and I find that cooking gives me a sense of control. I have been making some cloth masks. And I watch the briefings from Mayor Cooper and his team, and from NY Governor Cuomo and some of the other governors around the country. They are providing reliable leadership and clear-headed perspective and tremendous empathy. They give me great comfort, as do the funny and touching stories and photos on the Bacon blog, and I appreciate that you are posting every day, Jennifer, thank you.

Okay so here are a few speed dating questions to wrap up…

Favorite snack in the Time of Corona?

Emily: bread we have baked or Sanders dark chocolate caramels

Jim: is whisky considered a snack? If not, it should be given the circumstances. Ok, for real: all the baked goods (referenced many times already).

Favorite beverage?

Emily: Cran-mango juice and numerous cups of tea.

Jim: coffee, ginger ale…and during Zoom cocktail hours, a nice whisky, whether neat or on the rocks.

Exercising more or less?

Emily: Less

Jim: same frequency… but different (see above)

Favorite child? Just kidding.

Favorite time of day?

Emily: morning, especially when our 16-year-old dog gets up out of his bed and I think, he’s still alive and he can still walk, yay!

Jim: late mornings and early PM. My “workday” is generally in the early AM and late PM with my teams in Asia. Also, on the days I do my long hikes, I take a snack break at the mid-way point…

Snacko break in Warner Parks with view of Nash-Vegas skyline and my favorite peanuts

What’s your best advice for staying sane in the Time of Corona?

Emily: Be kind and patient with yourself, this is an extraordinary time. Soak in the beauty of our vibrant Tennessee springtime! Also call your family members who are far away (or nearby but safe-at-home).

Jim: just follow the 5 time-tested rules of backpacking:

Never complain about anything to anyone at any time. Ever.
Don’t screw up.
Don’t be a wimp.
Everyone saddles their own bronc.
Remember, all of us are always having fun at all times.

And: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

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