I’ve amassed so much content for July that I’m posting this before the end of the month; my parents are flying in on Tuesday night, and it’ll be only the second time this summer I’ve gone out and done any Alaska things, particularly the first trip up to Denali, which in previous years has always been in May/June. Today was also the first hike up Alyeska, which used to be a daily affair… I’m surprised by my fitness level; while I spend nearly an hour on the stair mill most days of the week, it’s usually not sufficient training for hiking up an actual mountain. Surprisingly, today my heart rate barely rose enough for me to earn any Fitbit active minutes: a good and bad problem to have, good because you’re in decent physical shape, bad because you need to push yourself harder. It’s been raining a lot up here, and the humidity fucks with my joints, as much as I appreciate rain over wildfires.
It’s been a generally challenging summer for a number of reasons: we have no help in the hospitality industry, and anyone who is working in this industry is working twice+ as hard. Restaurants require reservations or have long wait times; everywhere is overcrowded. Alaska is crowded already in the summer, and over-tourism has become more of a struggle every year. That, combined with inadequate staffing levels and an unbelievable lack of patience of people visiting has created really unpleasant working conditions.
After opening my condo up on Airbnb, I’m sold out for most of the summer season; I’m grateful for the opportunity to compensate for lost wages during COVID, but because I manage, clean and maintain it myself, I now have even less free time than I usually do. I’ve made a few thousand dollars on Turo as well, though I don’t expect to continue that at this time… after weeks of mulling, I sold my beloved STI and bought a Toyota 4Runner, if for no other reason than to (a) capitalize on the high resale value of my car before the odometer was too high and (b) because my Alaska exit strategy will require a larger turbo-free vehicle that won’t blow a (literal) gasket on me on the Alcan.
I’m surprised by how unemotional the entire process was; I bought my first WRX in 2008 in New Hampshire, and bought my STI in 2015 up here. They are the only two cars I have ever outright owned, both manual transmission, and I have loved every moment of driving each of them. I nearly cried when I turned in my WRX for the STI; that car had been with me longer at that point in time than any person had; I had driven it to the easternmost tip of the continent (St. John’s, Newfoundland; photo to the right is the Bonavista Peninsula, where John Cabot landed in 1497) and then drove it to Alaska. It had 140,000 miles on it. I still see it on the road in Anchorage. I have covered virtually the entire road system of this state with those two vehicles, and the STI was a wonderful companion for my years as a road warrior. It is truly the end of an era. But it feels like the end of a lot of things is on the horizon.
Another reason I switched vehicles is that I’m not convinced this microchip shortage will end anytime soon, despite what we’re told by the media. I had originally planned to hold out for the 2022 STI, which I do not believe will be released anywhere near its target date. So, that’s done. I wish I felt more enthusiasm about it, but meh. I am making some modest changes to the 4Runner that will get it to where I want it to be aesthetically so that may help. I tell myself if I feel too much FOMO in the future, I can go buy another STI… and tow it with the 4Runner if need be. Win win.
I think this is also part of a continuing process of divorcing myself from material possessions with any meaning; it happened naturally with my condo, and I think is largely a consequence of my closest friend up here moving to Idaho… it does not feel the same to be there anymore. I think to some degree I also stopped caring about the car, at least to the level I had in the past; I hit a point where it became more of a source of anxiety than a pleasure. I realize this is something suicidal people do (give away all their worldly possessions): that is definitely not the case with me. I shared how emotionally dissociative I’ve been lately with a friend of mine in Fairbanks and he suggested that I may have transcended in a way, and as absurd and funny as that sounds, I think there is some truth in that. I have been in the zone 24/7 lately. I feel mostly nothing but the process itself, the accomplishment of individual tasks that are part of a larger series, and that might not be such a bad thing.
And so, alongside the juggling of various endeavors, I have been chugging through books, podcasts and even some good video content. I have struggled to get into podcasts, and it’s taken months of forcing myself to listen to them to really adapt, but I think I am finally there.
Outline | I read this in a few hours by request, and I didn’t love it. I’m not even sure I liked it. I’m surprised this was a bestseller; I can see the appeal, I suppose, and the writer is talented, but the story was very blah. I think it might’ve been that the theme didn’t resonate with me: the waning meaning of life to middle-aged women, maybe, the pursuit of purpose after your kids fly the coop, whatever. The characters in the book were not particularly interesting either, at least to me. Every review I’ve read of this book has been great so there’s probably some value in that. This is book 1 of a trilogy; I’m doubtful I’ll get to the other two.
Savage Messiah | This is a pretty interesting biography of Jordan Peterson. I was already vaguely familiar with the chronology of his life, but the author seems to have captured a lot of the emotional turmoil he suffered as he came of age and transformed into who he is today. It’s tough for me to dislike anything that involves him; The Rise of Jordan Peterson (documentary) was also very good, and it’s free on Prime right now. I also finally got around to watching his interview with GQ from a few years ago (not nearly as entertaining as the one with Cathy Newman). That I’ve weathered the trials and tribulations of the past few years is partly thanks to him and the vastness of his content available; I’ve really leaned on it at times to get through the worst weeks and months.
In Order to Live | Related, after listening to Yeonmi Park’s interview on JP’s podcast, I read her book, which was excellent. This is a very easy, straightforward read compared to many other accounts of people escaping (or living under) authoritarian regimes. The interview he did with her is also very good.
Jocko Podcast 285, 286, 287 & Discipline = Freedom | I’m grouping these two together for simplicity’s sake; I am a huge Jocko fan. I don’t listen to every one of his podcasts, but I listen to most, and I loved Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership. This series of podcasts is focused on B.H. Liddell Hart’s The Strategy of Indirect Approach. If you haven’t listened to his often quite long podcasts, he is frequently reading from books; this selection was so good and so… so comprehensive I had to rewind, re-listen, rewind, re-listen. It may seem bizarre that someone with zero military background would listen to a lot lot lot of stuff on military strategy, but such an unbelievable amount of this stuff is applicable to leadership (maybe this is obvious). These three were particularly interesting and relevant, and totally worth a listen. I also happened to pick up a copy of Discipline = Freedom which was pretty hilarious as much as I agree with a lot of his personal philosophy.
Jocko Podcast 290, Make Your Bed & The Hero Code | Continuing on with Jocko, he conveniently had Adm. McRaven join him. McRaven wrote Make Your Bed, which regularly shows up on lists of books to read when you want to get your shit together and clean up your act; The Hero Code was also a good, short read (both are). The podcast was for his new book, which I haven’t read and probably won’t, but those two were good. I revisited both of them after that podcast. I go through periods of time where I devour a lot of similarly themed content, especially what people call “self improvement” though I’m not sure that’s really a fair characterization of some of this stuff. People cringe at this style of writing, but often times I find it really motivational and it helps me along to know that other people are driving themselves forward and trying to boil their experiences down to identifiable and actionable rules and habits. Bonus: McRaven giving his commencement speech at UT Austin re: Make Your Bed.
No Safe Spaces (doc) | I loved this documentary so much I watched it twice in a row. There are a few others similar, but this one covers what happened at Evergreen College. Anyone concerned about the future of free speech and diversity of opinion should watch this, and read some of the books mentioned (esp. Coddling of the American Mind). What is happening in this country right now, especially on college campuses, is truly terrifying and has horrible implications.
And that concludes July… so far.