Monthly Archives: February 2012

What else happened today?

I don’t normally like to post two blog entries so close together, as it feels like I am upstaging myself. But the rest of what happened in my life today was just too momentous, and too weird, to put into a post that was all about devotion to extraordinary mid-century modern architecture.

As planned, today was my last day at work. I truly didn’t know what to expect, as it’s been 25 and a half years since I’ve quit a job, and I’ve never quit a job without another one waiting for me. So I started my day by running 4 miles, and barely got back in time for my very last meeting at 8:30. This was a simple one-on-one in which I demonstrated to a team mate how to update a web page that I’ve maintained. Once that was out of the way, I had a bunch of congratulatory posts to read on our company’s internal social media platform (I’d blogged there last night about today being my last day… sort of seeded my departure cloud, as it were). Quite a few people said really nice things about me, and that made me feel great albeit just a bit nostalgic. It’s too bad I seldom had the chance to feel so valued while I was actually there.

I took a mid-morning break to walk to the Loewy House, which is less than a mile from my condo. I returned a couple hours later, said a few more good byes, and printed off a bunch of forms that I’m supposed to fill out and return. Then I packed up my corporate cell phone and my corporate PC and took them to the nearest FedEx shipping center. And that was that. I am now free to move about my life.

Yes, it is a little scary (maybe a lot scary) but it also feels so right. I am courageous, I am resilient, and I have so much that I want to do in the real world. I’m going to be all right.

PS Modernism Week: Raymond Loewy House

Dad… this one is for you.

Today, for my last tour of Modernism Week, it was my pleasure to tour the Raymond Loewy House, designed by Albert Frey in 1946 for the industrial designer Ray Loewy. Although Loewy designed everything from locomotives to corporate logos over his long career, he is perhaps best remembered for his iconic designs for Studebaker: the early 50s Starliner and the early 60s Avanti. Today’s tour was graced by the presence of two of these cars, a 1954 Regal Commander Starliner and a 1963 Avanti.

So Dad, here is my question. I know that you had a “yellow and green” Studebaker. The car I saw today was “Ontario Blue over Safford Cream.” The creamy yellow looked right but the “blue” did not look like the “green” that I think I remember. So is this a different two-tone combination from your car? (I know you won’t comment here, so we’ll have to discuss this on the phone sometime…)

Here is a closer shot of the roof, and it does look very blue here under the blue sky. I love the reflection of the palm tree in this photo.

There was a lrage crowd around the Avanti, so I didn’t try to photograph it, but I did catch a shot of this very appropriate license plate:

But enough about cars, let’s move on to the house!

I was excited to see this house for several reasons. It is another Albert Frey design… and I think I have a bit of a crush on Albert Frey right now. It’s in largely orginal condition, although components have been refurbished over the years. The current owner has lived there 27 years, and although he never described the connection, I have a feeling he may have obtained (inherited?) it directly from Ray Loewy. But the most compelling attraction for me was the fact that there is an iconic Julius Shulman photo of the pool at this house. I have a print of it hanging on my dining room wall here in my condo. It was one of the images that finally helped Kurt sell me on the idea of being here. I wasn’t able to duplicate the exact angle, nor did the morning light resemble the afternoon light captured in Shulman’s photo, but this almost captures the essence. Notice how the living room “wall” slides over the pool:

Here I am standing several feet out from the house, looking across the pool toward the bedroom wing. I love the shadows on the water:

One more shot of the pool now looking back toward the living room. Do you get the feeling that I really love this pool? You’re right.

The dining room was an unexpected contrast to the usual straight, horizontal lines of modern architecture — it is round! And bathed in glorious sunlight.

Here is a closeup of those fabulous windows:

Did I mention that I really love the shadows at this house?

Or the way the palm trees interact with the portico (without needing to “imitate” anything but simply be what they are)?

Overall, the house is a simple, modest, graceful design that sits lightly in its boulder-strewn hillside setting:

I like these small, jewel-like, human-scaled houses much better than the super-sized spectacles. The Ray Loewy House was the perfect “dessert course” of Modernism Week for me — it left me feeling completely satisfied.

PS Modernism Week: Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate

My PS Modernism Week adventures continued today with a tour of Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate. This house, built in 1947, was architect E. Stewart Williams’ first residential commission and established him as one of the early stars of Palm Springs modern architecture.

There are many stories told about this house, most of which (according to the docent giving today’s on-site lecture) probably aren’t true. Yes, one of the sinks in the master bath is cracked — but there is no way to verify whether the actual cause was a thrown champagne bottle during a lover’s spat with Ava Gardner. The pool is not really shaped just like a grand piano, and the shadows cast by the graceful portico do not resemble piano keys at all. It is true, however, that Sinatra requested a two-story Georgian-style mansion with columns. Williams responded by creating two sets of plans: for the requested mansion and for the daring-for-its-time desert modern home that Sinatra ultimately selected. He asked for the home to be done by Christmas, and depending on which reference you check, it was… or it wasn’t.

The home is situated on a completely flat street-to-street lot on the desert floor, near the “Movie Colony” neighborhood but more or less out in the middle of nowhere at the time it was built. It is about 4,000 square feet including the pool house. Although the house features the usual walls of glass that slide wide open, Williams minimized the industrial steel look, opting instead to use natural materials such as Douglas fir, redwood, and stacked fieldstone. The ceilings are high and angled, creating space for expansive clerestory windows. A highlight of the living room is the built-in state of the art (for its time) recording equipment. The house takes its name from the twin palm trees growing beside the pool.

Sinatra lived here for about ten years before moving to a large compound in nearby Rancho Mirage. Like so many mid-century houses here, Twin Palms then fell into disrepair as it passed through multiple owners and its history was forgotten. A local designer tracked it down in the late 1990s and then advised an investor who had the means to restore it to its original glory. The two worked from vintage photos taken by architectural photographer Julius Shulman, and were able to verify many details with Shulman himself.

While I admired and appreciated the house for its architectural grace and historical significance (both its famous owner and its lasting influence on the Palm Springs celebrity cultural scene), for me Twin Palms did not have the “wow” emotional impact of other homes that I have seen this week. There was nothing about this house that stopped me in my tracks and left me gaping wordlessly. But I’ll share a few of the photos that I took and let you judge for yourselves.

The original main entrance faces a major street, but the large courtyard creates a sense of distance and seclusion:

The portico runs from a quieter street at the original “back” of the house. This is now considered the main entrance and it is (to my eye at least) a more dramatic approach. But I do not see any piano keys here — do you?

The cabinet containing the audio equipment is a highlight of the living room:

The stacked fieldstone wall and concrete floors blur the threshold between inside and outside:

The Douglas fir paneled, angled ceiling accommodates large clerestory windows that cast diffused light through the living room:

This is a totally cool vintage light fixture!

The twin palms that gave the home its name:

No doubt about it, a celebrity lived here!

Meanwhile…

There were no Modernism Week tours for me today, which gives me a chance to revert to the usual topics: grieving, running, and moving on with my life.

I’ll start with running first, because right now I’m feeling sad and I need to think about something that gives me simple joy. I went out this morning and ran a fast (for me) 5k. Spring is clearly just around the corner now; I no longer need to put on my reflective vest and go out before sunrise. The usual dog-walkers were out. I was running laps around some of the blocks so I saw some people multiple times, which is always fun. Yet another home in my neighborhood is in the process of being gutted and renovated. It’s been very gratifying to see residents in this neighborhood continue to recognize the historical/architectural significance of their homes and put the time and money into restoring them.

Next up: grieving. I had to get my tax paperwork organized so I can send it all up to my tax guy in Washington. This meant filling in pages upon pages of forms, on which information and numbers from 2010 were printed. My job was to figure out and then fill in the information and numbers for 2011. This included answering questions like: “Did your marital status change during the year?” YES. And it included zeroing out entire pages that had contained income and expense information for Kurt. This task reduced me, at one point, to crying, shouting, and banging (softly… I’m a pacifist) on the refrigerator door. Let me tell you, ZERO due to death of taxpayer SUCKS.

So what about moving on with my life? Well, I have two more days to work at my corporate job. I have canceled my corporate credit card. I have put in the cancellation request for my corporate cell phone. I have one more project meeting to attend tomorrow morning, and one thing left on my project task list. Then I’ll send an email to selected individuals to provide personal contact information. After that, the only thing left to do is to ship my corporate PC and my corporate cell phone back to corporate headquarters, where I expect they will be promptly recycled.

Today I attended a team staff meeting, during which formal goodbyes were said to me and to a teammate who is moving to another position within my company. It was bittersweet. It seems odd to be wished a happy “retirement,” when what I am doing is not about retirement at all. I expect to be very busy doing everything in my power to make the world a better place, living and promoting my core values of learning, harmony, and wholeness. That’s who I am and what I do. I do not intend to let my talents be wasted any longer.

Today I also sat through a realtor caravan (dozens of local realtors coming through during a two-hour period, doing the 30-second preview tour). My agent was impressed at the turnout and the positive comments on my decidedly mid-century modern condo. Two agents followed up today with client showings, and two more have scheduled showings for tomorrow. This was the first real action since I listed the condo two weeks ago, so it came as a great relief.

I have two more Modernism Week tours to do, tomorrow and Friday. I shall take lots of photos. Then after Friday, with my job behind me, I’ll be totally focused on doing the things I need to do to leave this place behind me and go home. That, and a few self-guided drive-by architectural tours all over southern California. And going out and running every other day or so, because it just feels so danged good.

PS Modernism Week: Frey House II

I hardly know how to approach my description of the house I toured today. Swiss-born architect Albert Frey’s second and final personal residence in Palm Springs, built in 1963-64, is a mere 800 square feet not counting the guest room that he added later. Yet that seemingly small space is expansive, peaceful, and perfect. If the Elrod House is spectacle and Park Imperial South is extraordinary livability, then Frey House II is minimalistic poetry. It’s a modern-day Thoreau-meets-Heidegger expression of earth meeting sky, stripped to basics, wide open to the world yet completely of it and secure within it.

I could bombard you with photos (I took 46), but it’s easy enough to find “better” photos than mine online. So I’ll try to share just a few images below that I hope will convey the feeling of the place and the emotions that it invoked in me.

Frey chose a building site that most people would have considered unbuildable, high up on the steep face of the mountains that rise almost vertically out of the desert floor. He spent a year visiting the site, measuring the angle of the sun at all seasons of the year, all hours of the day, before begining to draw plans that would allow the sun to enter and warm the house from a low angle in the winter while blocking direct sunlight during the warm months.

He designed the house around the massive boulders on the site. If you read my blog on the Elrod House (or if you know that house), you’ll recall that boulders are incorporated into that design as well. The difference is that in the 8,901 square foot Elrod House a massive boulder is a design feature, whereas in the 800 square foot Frey House II the boulders are nearly as large as the house itself. The Elrod House encloses boulders; Frey House II dances with them.

The building materials are simple, functional, industrial, and beautiful in juxtaposition to the boulders and the sky: steel framing, glass and concrete block walls, ribbed aluminum siding and roof, perforated corrugated aluminum sheets on the ceiling, mahogany veneer cabinetry, and oh-so-60s aqua Formica countertops.

What I loved the most was the ingenious use of space — layered usages of space within a small area. Think about the inside of a modest yacht or an Airstream trailer, and you’ve got the picture. Compact, minimal spaces with maximal functionality. Everything is built-in: cabinetry, seating, a dual-purpose working/dining table (complete with built-in pencil sharpener), a bed, a wall clock. So you have this perfectly human-scaled interior wrapped around a massive boulder that doubles as the “wall” between the living and sleeping area. And then you have walls of glass that open on three sides and look out over the entire valley and across the mountainside.

Frey House II makes me want to liberate myself from all that “stuff” that I own and live in a small space… if only I could find a site anywhere that begins to approach the grandeur of this one.

Albert Frey died in 1998 and left the house and all its contents to the Palm Springs Art Museum. The objects shown in these photos are the real deal; the house today is a living memorial to the genius of its architect and a tribute to the art of living in the desert that he loved.

Beginning with the carport, the house hugs and walks up the side of the mountain. I don’t know whose Boxster that is, but I think Frey would have appreciated the clean simplicity of its design:

The carport wall curves around at the valley end…

To accommodate the pool that sits atop the carport:

The main living area:

Looking back from the sleeping area, through the living room toward the kitchen (left) and bathroom (center):

If you look closely, you can see how the boulder was chiseled out (and then replaced) to install the light switch. It was also chiseled out to perfectly fit the window that bisects the boulder:

Everything is built in — even the record player (remember those?):

The aluminum ceiling is a beautiful blue-turquoise that echos  the sky:

Dishes are neatly tucked away in the galley kitchen:

I love the step-down seating off the sleeping area. Frey used to sit out here in the mornings, often (it is said) in minimal clothing, and talk to the birds:

As close to nature as the site is, it is in fact directly in line with Tahquitz Canyon Way (a main street in town). In the distance you can see the airport terminal:

Yet even though all that is down there, the boulders right here are what define, shape, and ultimately create the grace and magic that happens in this place:

I am humbled and honored to have experienced this place.

Finally, for those who may be wondering what happened to this blog about grieving and running and recreating my life: I did my first post-race run this morning, and it was a 3.36 mile slow happy romp. And… I have just four more days to work before I say goodbye to corporate life.

PS Modernism Week: Park Imperial South

I’m still on my post-race running break — what perfect timing for a thorough enjoyment of Modernism Week!

After the over-the-top spectacle of the Elrod House, my choice for today’s tour was much more down to earth. I visited the Park Imperial South condominium complex. I was very interested in seeing this complex because it was designed by the same architect (Barry Berkus) and built by the same developer (Jack Meiselman) in the same year (1961) as my condo. Park Imperial South is in a quieter neighborhood, and the floor plans, while similar, are larger (3 bedrooms plus den in 1500 square feet versus my two bedrooms in 1100 square feet). In addition, the roofs (and hence the ceilings) are “folded plate” whereas my condo is “post-and-beam” (the roof/ceiling is flat with exposed beams at the ceiling).

The folded plates create striking visual effects outside and inside:

The distinctive inside-outside block walls had been modified by various homeowners over the years, but were recently restored throughout the complex with the help of grants from the local architectural preservation society, an effort for which the complex has earned wide recognition and official “historical architecture” designation. I love the light-and-shadow effects created by these highly-textured walls:

I was most taken by the little things, most of which I forgot to photograph. The similarities to my own condo were in the seemingly mundane details — closet doors, door knobs, the clips that hold the bathroom mirrors to the wall. There were a few larger things as well — the terrazzo strip that runs from just outside the front door straight through to the back patio (destroyed and tiled over in my unit… sigh), and the louvered windows. If you look closely at the center right of this photo you may see the louvered windows:

While the countertop, sink and faucet in the kitchen above have been highly updated, as was true of almost all of the kitchens on the tour, I saw several examples of the original bathroom countertops and faucets (identical to mine). I gained a new appreciation for my “ugly” bathroom faucets, which I’d wanted to replace but had to keep because Kurt and I ran out of remodeling money. Sometimes it’s best just to leave well enough alone.

 I’d forgotten that my tour ticket included a poolside reception with hors d’oeuvres, a band, and an open bar. As the twilight deepened, I looked around and felt a bittersweet regret… this is such a beautiful place and Kurt would have loved this day so much… as well as a renewed resolve to go home and get on with my life.

One step at a time…

PS Modernism Week: The Elrod House

Wherein I take a long architectural detour…

It’s mid-February, and tens of thousands of people from all over the world have descended on this small desert town for a modestly-labeled “week” dedicated to “celebration of mid-century modern design, architecture, and culture” that will run for nearly two weeks. Last night I had the good fortune to attend the opening night cocktail reception at the John Lautner-designed Elrod House, built for “interior designer to the stars” Arthur Elrod in 1968.

The Elrod House is perhaps best known to the public as the location of the “Bambi and Thumper” scene in the 1971 James Bond Movie Diamonds Are Forever. For architecture fans, it is one of the most extraordinary compositions of earth and sky, water and light, mass and lightness, ever conceived and built. It is one of the houses that Kurt and I promised each other we would tour the next chance we got, no matter what the cost.

So it was at least partially in the spirit of keeping yet another promise to Kurt that I bought my very expensive ticket, got myself as dressed up as I ever get (black tights, black boots and a shimmery, floaty, cream-colored poet-shirt) and drove myself across town to catch a shuttle bus up a steep hill into a gated community, just down the street from Bob Hope’s “turtle house” also designed by John Lautner. Yet it was far from a mere promise — I could hardly contain my excitement about what I was going to see and experience.

When I arrived at the shuttle pickup location and they handed me my “entry token,” I stopped worrying about whether I’d be underdressed and embarrassed in a house full of weathy socialites. Although the photo doesn’t show it, this lovely rubber bauble actually lit up and flashed in multiple colors:

It definitely set the mood for a funky, fun, 60s-style bash.

The entry courtyard is modest, cave-like, and gives no hint of what lies just within:

Once you pass through the wide smoked-glass entry door, the view opens out and you are suddenly in the middle of this:

 

The  60-foot wide living room lies beneath a massive concrete dome, with cutout spokes that are either huge skylights or recessed, lighted areas. The entire back “wall” is a curved glass door that slides fully open to the terrace and indoor-outdoor pool:

The kitchen is hidden behind the curved back wall of the living room, but is set off by a series of Dale Chihuly glass flowers (not part of the orginal Lautner design but added by Elrod). Each of these flowers is at least two feet across:

The interior and exterior are punctuated by several massive boulders, which Lautner intentionally revealed and then left in place during site excavation:

James Bond fans can probably picture Thumper lying around on one of these boulders as the scene begins. I talked to a woman who had visited the house many times back in the day and who had met the world-class gymnast who played that part.

The entire domed space is supported (or so it seems to me, but I am neither an architect nor an engineer) by a series of graceful concrete columns:

The entire effect is… well, I get to a point where I really have no more words. It is a gut-wrenchingly participative experience to simply stand in the middle of the room and take it all in.

The adjacent master bedroom is nearly as stunning, with a large T-shaped soaking tub framed by boulders and more of that curving, sliding glass. Apparently there is a second bedroom in a separate structure, but we were not able to view that room. As for the cocktail reception itself, there were long lines for exotic cocktails, servers walking around with trays of things this vegetarian doesn’t eat, and stations with decent vegetable trays, nuts, and the like. The evening wasn’t about consumption but about soaking in the ambiance of the place… the incredible lightness despite the massive scale, the mountainside looming in the dark, and the lights of the city below. It was sheer aesthetic transcendance, a spacial/platial experience that I will never forget.

The post race crash and the blog-enabled “aha!”

I have been soooooooooo tired…….. since I finished the half marathon on Sunday. I was surprised that it had taken so much out of me. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize my exhaustion and slightly sore throat for what it was — my body telling me that I have done enough and it is time for some serious rest. I mean, not only did I go out and run 13.1+ miles at a pace that I never could have imagined a couple of years ago, but within the past couple of weeks I’ve also:

  • Put my condo on the market
  • Spent dozens of hours cleaning the place
  • Quit my job and bid a resounding farewell to corporate America forever
  • Survived my first Valentine’s Day (and yet another holiday) without Kurt.

Conventional corporate wisdom would say that I’m justified in burning as much accrued sick time as I dare between now and my last day of work on February 24. But I still have this deeply ingrained work ethic that told me to get up again this morning and stagger semi-consciously a few yards to my home office to try to work.

I lasted until 11:30 and then emailed my boss that I needed to lie down for the rest of the day.

Sometime around 5:00 PM I woke up and decided to re-read my blog posts from October, to see what happened in the days and weeks after my last half marathon in Victoria BC.

Well, there it was all laid out in my own words, and painfully obvious to me. If I keep pushing myself beyond normal physical and mental limits, I eventually crash.

I have crashed.

But what’s really cool is that I have those October blog posts as a record of what I did and didn’t do, the signals that I tried to stifle and that wound up laying me low for more than two weeks. I came out of that October race feeling strong so I just kept running — and the crash, when it came, was huge.

So I won’t do that again.

Re-reading those posts and experiencing that “aha!” was liberating. I know now what I need to do to take care of myself, and it does not include working for long hours to try to leave a clean plate behind me. Whatever is left on that plate when I go won’t matter. What matters is that I take care of myself. I shall sleep in late. I shall take naps. I shall go to bed early. I shall keep my to-do list both brief and fluid.

Am I being self-indulgent? Very well, I shall be self-indulgent! (with a cockeyed salute to Walt Whitman)

And I shall keep blogging my way through this — because it’s entirely possible that I may need to relearn this lessson yet again, and when I do I’ll want more data on the subject.

Thanks for indulging me…

Palm Springs half marathon — another PR

I ran my fifth half marathon this morning in Palm Springs, and although they still haven’t posted the official results online, I know what my watch said: I ran 13.25 miles in 2:37:44, beating my previous personal record by just over three minutes. I managed to do that despite a few problems along the way.

Why did I run 13.25 miles, you ask? Isn’t a half marathon supposed to be 13.1 miles? Well, yes, but race organizers always seem to add in a bit of extra distance just to make sure the course is official. At the “10 mile” sign this morning my watch said 10.09 miles, so I was anticipating a finish at about 13.20 miles. Then at about 11.5 miles I encountered an incompetent course worker who directed me to turn off the course. I was not close behind other runners at that moment, so it took me several yards to realize that after I made the turn, there was no one ahead of or behind me. I stopped, looked around, and saw runners going straight where I’d turned. I gently chided the course worker as I returned to where I should have been, but I was not at all pleased at that moment. All I can figure is that he failed to see me coming and was trying to direct a car on the street behind me to turn right. Fortunately the driver of that car was more aware than the course worker and did not run into me. So I ran a bit further than others today, and it probably cost me the better part of a minute to fully undo that mistake.

There had been strong winds here yesterday afternoon, and when I went to bed last night the forecast was for those winds to continue through today. Fortunately this morning everything was calm. It was 52 degrees when I left my condo to walk to the park, and I was feeling reasonably calm and confident. My first 8 miles went great. I kept telling myself to slow down but I was powering through the hilly sections and ticking off miles at a steady 20-30 seconds faster than my planned pace. I sort of knew it wasn’t sustainable, but I figured I could back off a bit in the later miles and still be fine, maybe even be able to run the entire distance without a walk break. However, at about 8.5 miles I realized I was very tired, it was getting warm, and I needed to walk for a while. From that point on, I needed walk breaks about every half a mile or less, and when I did run, I was slow. I’d missed those two planned long runs during this past month, which apparently set me up to hit the wall. I decided not to worry and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, because I was still so far ahead of my planned pace that a PR was almost in the bag. And that’s exactly what happened, even with the off-course excursion.

I was running and smiling at the finish and even managed to raise my hands in the air and sort of skip over the line — or that’s what it felt like to me. We’ll see what the photographer actually captured.

I was surprised by the lack of support services at the finish line. We got water bottles and were directed to a tank to fill them ourselves. There was no visible food. Later I did see some food tents, so I walked over to them and found that they were charging for things like fruit juice that would have been given away at every other race I’ve done. They must have lost a major sponsor this year.

I was also surprised by the lack of spectators along the course. I think I saw one goofy hand-lettered sign the whole way. The volunteers at the water stations were unenthusiastic, and the workers who were directing traffic… well, you know what I thought of them. It gets tough, especially in those late, warm miles, when no one is out there smiling and shouting encouraging words.

After I stretched a bit and dealt with some unexpected leg cramps, I decided I might as well walk back home. Halfway home the wind came up and has been gusting ever since. The timing on the weather was perfect this morning, anyway!

So how did I do relative to those goals that I didn’t want to tell you about? I had three goals:

  • Personal record — done!
  • Run the whole way — not done
  • Finish at less than a 12:00 minute per mile pace — well, it depends.
    My official time is probably going to put me at about 12:04. My watch said I ran at an 11:55 pace for 13.25 miles. Had I not made the wrong turn, I think I would have shaved off 45 seconds and finished at just under 2:37, which would have given me an official pace of 11:59. So that’s two data points in my favor, and I’m gonna give myself credit for this one!

I’m very tired tonight, but I’m a slow HAPPY runner. I didn’t have a perfect trip yet managed another PR anyway. That tells me I still have room to get better at this.

This is me before the race start:

This is me after the finish. Yes, I’m sitting, leaning back against that tree, which is probably why I got the leg cramps:

And, in the great tradition of beer running, this is the “breakfast of champions” that I ate when I got home:

Overall, I’d have to rate this as a fairly awesome day.

Quitting my job, cleaning my condo, and other adventures

It’s been a busy day.

Actually, I didn’t quit my job today. I emailed my resignation letter to my manager (who is several states away) on Monday, but he asked me not to say anything to anyone until he’d had a chance to talk to his manager (who is in a small European country) and come up with a strategy for how they were going to deal with this “problem” that I’m causing by leaving mid-project. The whole “problem” actually began when I told my manager (in a moment of foolish candor) that I was thinking about taking early retirement before the end of the year. His reaction was, basically, “What makes you think we want you around that long? Let me confer with my manager and her manager and we’ll get back to you regarding how long we’ll let you stay.” At that moment the last of the “corporate contract” was shattered as far as I was concerned, and I took the power back by deciding that I might as well just quit sooner rather than later.

My last day at work, and the last day that I ever plan to spend in a huge global corporation, will be February 24.

“Now you know the rest of the story.” When I’ve alluded to big changes brewing in my life, this is what I’ve been talking about. That post from back on January 18 — If I had all the time I needed— was me beginning to create a vision of post-corporate life.

While I’m not wealthy (1%? I’m not even in the 10%), I have been a prudent money manager over 30+ years of big-corporation life. As soon as I sell my condo, I’ll be free of major debts. This is why it is a good idea for me to sell this condo now. I should be able to live comfortably, although not extravagantly. So I’m re-reading Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify.” I’m thinking about how I can connect more fully with my neighbors and my community back home in Washington. Yes, I already have a community garden plot waiting for me when I get home. Travel will still be a priority, although I may not be able to travel first class or frequently. But that’s all right.

I’m coming home. As soon as I can take care of things down south.

Early this afternoon I turned off my work computer and got busy deep-cleaning this condo. I had to wash the floor to ceiling windows about four times. As I’d work through the layers of dirt, I’d discover the fine mist of paint overspray from when they repainted all the exteriors two years ago. I’d break out the paint scraper and then clean again… and again. When I ran out of window cleaner, I looked online and learned how to make my own window cleaner from vinegar and Ivory liquid soap. It works just as well and is much easier on my lungs — I wonder why I haven’t tried this before!

I took a break this afternoon (more on that later) and then continued cleaning well into the evening. Tomorrow morning when the light is better I’ll tackle the floors. Then I’ll pack my cats into their carriers and take them on a “field trip” for a few hours while my realtor holds an open house.

It will probably be a good day to hold an open house. There are 9,000+ bicyclists in town for the “Tour de Palm Springs,” and my guess is there will be bored family members who might stop by. Modernism Week (which is actually an 11-day celebration of all things mid-century modern) is just around the corner starting on February 16, and people are already arriving from all over the world for that.

In addition to the Tour de Palm Springs, there is a smaller affair on Sunday called the Palm Springs Half Marathon. The break I took this afternoon was to go and pick up my race packet. I’ll be #751 of perhaps 1,000 runners (numbers were assigned alphabetically). I can’t wait! I shall be slow and happy — I shall have fun!!

This morning I did my last, short, pre-race run of just two miles. It was a dance with moonset. Here is the view just before I started:

And here it is about ten minutes later when the rising sun was hitting the mountaintop:

Indeed, this place has its charms. But I am not an intrinsically bi-platial being, and I want to come home. I have so many things that I want to do and become there.

One step at a time.