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Back among the living

I had a seizure at work at the end of September. It’s been an interesting month since then—I lost close to 30 pounds in the hospital, and have been wobbling towards health after my discharge a couple weeks ago. Now I’m into the insurance weeds, sorting out unpaid leave, short-term disability, and FMLA coverage. As a government employee, I have a good group plan, but it’s still a maze of paperwork and many, many checkups. (High blood pressure, adult onset Type 2 diabetes, pulmonary abscesses, pneumonia, renal failure… just another year in the life.) Anyway, I’m slowly returning to a semi-adult functional level, and may return to work in a couple weeks. Easing back into my desk job won’t be bad; but I’ll need to revisit most everything else about my lifestyle. It’s fine. I’ve bought some time.


A week ago, on something of a whim, I signed up for the Cornhusker State Games 2021 CSG Walk, which was held yesterday morning. In this volkswalk-style event, participants were given a choice of two routes and a window of time to complete their walk. (You can learn more about this type of non-competitive event at the American Volkssport Association.) I chose the longer route—pictured below—and started out just before 7:00 AM. We had good cloud cover making the morning temperature bearable. But the humidity was off the chart from my first step; even if I were in better physical shape, I’d still have been flop-sweating within the first mile.

A screenshot from an exercise tracking app, highlighting a roughly six-mile walking route through residential areas in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Cornhusker State Games 2021 CSG Walk. This was the longer route offered to participants; the other path was approximately two miles. (Screenshot from the Map My Walk mobile app provided by Under Armour.)

This part of the city is a tree-shrouded older residential area, including some of the fancier Country Club streets. Passing through the neighborhood surrounding the golf course, I encountered a fluffy black cat lounging on a garden path, a gaunt red fox carrying a breakfast catch, and a City Council member out for a (personal) morning jaunt. Other foot traffic was light, even counting the joggers and dog walkers who shared the route.

The walk was lovely, though the long route pushed me towards the edge of my endurance. Exercise walking is something I just haven’t been doing, and it shows. But with some focused stretches, good socks and shoes, and a judicious application of ibuprofen, I recovered from the exertion easily enough. (A late-morning nap with our cats also helped.)

Several years ago, I was jogging 5K routes. Since then, I’ve fallen into a routine of constantly having to re-form basic exercise habits. I can almost trick myself into believing that’s the same as actually keeping those habits—but no. Committing to yesterday’s event without overthinking it is probably what got me through it, bypassing my uneasy brain. Maybe that touch of managed recklessness is the habit to develop first, and the rest will more easily follow.

Prepare to die, obviously!

I had the pleasure of watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in an empty theater yesterday, and it was every bit the “epic of epic epicness” that I remember. The film has an amazing cast with easy chemistry, and the story of a deceptively non-heroic protagonist still seems relevant—it almost feels more germane now than it did ten years ago. Reviving the movie for a slightly delayed anniversary celebration brings welcome exuberance into 2021.

Elective service

We held our city primary a month ago, and this week (on Star Wars Day, no less) conducted the general election. I worked again as a precinct inspector, which is an official term for a supply runner. Many election workers receive a two-year posting to a specific precinct; others, like me, serve in a backup role—covering gaps on demand. Sometimes I think it would be nice to receive a permanent posting, but working as a reserve inspector means that I rarely work consecutive elections at the same place. We have polling places in churches, schools, apartment complex clubhouses, union halls, and so on. Being an election official is an easy way to be a tourist in my own city.

Local elections are typically the slowest of all; this week’s turnout was just below 30%. One point of interest: the number of absentee ballots cast was almost double the in-person turnout on Election Day. I was relieved to see that, because early voting is what led to the election of my favorite at-large City Council candidate. His taking office represents a dramatic shift in the composition of the council, even if we did just swap out white men.

Since this country will never be done with COVID-19, the sanitation measures that we put into effect for last year’s presidential election continued this year. Everyone is well acquainted with the dance: out of 114 voters in our precinct, we had two without masks, and one dubiously tied bandana. Election workers are practiced at sanitizing voting booths, work tables, ballpoint pens, ballot sleeves. I imagine that—despite our hopes to the contrary—some version of this protocol will persist into next year’s midterms. That’s fine with me. As a precinct inspector, I feel as though my biggest problems involve policing all the small talk that happens as we’re moving voters through the line. The environment is homey and cordial, but often lacks what I would consider an appropriate level of professionalism for the job.

For the past few election cycles, I’ve been thinking more about whether or not I’ll continue working in this capacity. Election Day is exhausting. It has all the joys of retail customer service with the added benefit of enforcing state law. (And don’t get me started on arguments over electioneering.) But the work is rewarding. I feel an immense sense of pride every time, and being part of the election return is a special sort of high. By the time next year’s primary rolls around, I’ll probably be rested up and ready to do it all again.

Once more unto the breach

Well, I managed to come back around to the blog in less than a year—that represents a certain sort of progress. Let’s just say it took 51 weeks for me to recover from transcribing Ben Sasse’s atrocious graduation day speech and move on, shall we?