For Better or Worse Austin, Texas Prepares for Re-Opening. But first, coffee.

My coffee. The way I've come to like it. = perfect.

Austin, Texas has been in a "stay at home" posture since the first day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. By my reckoning that would have been on Friday the 13th of March. Which means that Belinda and I have been staying close to the house most of the time, walking in the neighborhood, respecting social distancing, wearing face masks in public for a bit over two months. We're okay with that. If it means giving health experts time to perfect treatment protocols that save people from dying and gives us some breathing space to find a cure then we'll gladly take the hits that come with that choice. But we don't speak for everyone...

Whether it's right or wrong it seems that the USA population, in general, is being pushed to get back to work and school in spite of whatever consequences might result. I get that we have a choice and that not everyone can afford the same choices. But I also get that some of the "back to work" posturing is purely political and might set us back a good bit. We might not be around to see the "right" answer finally presented but history will tell the tale to future generations.

I'm not here to make a political statement one way or another. I'm a liberal democrat but I have friends who are conservative republicans. Trying to make everything black and white is a fruitless exercise at best. Especially when there is so much that's truly unknown. People are wired differently and it would be great if we could all see past the political stuff and appreciate each person for their individual selves.

But one way or another we can all go out and document how it's affecting our communities. Rather than sit at home today and continue to work on a bit of marketing I chose to take a camera and go downtown to see what the pulse of the entertainment district looked like today. You'll remember that I was down a few weeks ago and everything was boarded up. Artists, as usual, were painting art over the plywood and particle board that covered the doors and windows of our historic bars and music halls. What would have changed from then to now?

The first tentative start up of the bar district has started. The panels are coming off the doors and windows. The less welcome graffiti is being scrubbed off. The sidewalks are being power washed. It feels like everyone's target is to open (soft or hard) around June 1st. I'm glad I got down there today because I wanted to take some higher res versions of my favorite temporary art. 

I used one of my Panasonic S1 cameras and one of the two Sigma 45mm f2.8 lenses I'm currently hoarding (hey, some people hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer; I like lenses....which is crazier?) and set the camera for documentation mode. I like to use the camera in the flat profile and then add back contrast and saturation in post. Seems to work really well and does a good job of preserving highlights. 

It's already getting hot here in Texas and by the time I got back to my car it was already in the mid nineties. I got in the car and flicked on the air conditioning before checking my phone.

But you've already read about resumed swimming, right?  


OT: The universe finally throws a poor, humble photographer a bone... Splash, splash.

Yesterday felt like a step backwards. I noticed a flaw with a new camera and spent time boxing it up and returning it. This morning felt like I was just running in place trying to come up with things to do and reasons to unlock the studio door. By noon I was ready to get out of my house and my office and just walk to relieve the boredom and encroaching ennui. I went downtown, parked my car, ditched my phone in the center console, masked-up and went for a walk. 

When I got back to the car a while later I checked messages. There was a text from my swimmer friend, Patty, which read: "Masters swimming is back! Check yr e-mail."

Hallelujah. Hallelujah! It seems like years since I've been in the pool. Apparently the USMS (United States Masters Swimming) folks have been working with medical experts to devise protocols for allowing us to get back to swim workouts. We'll be swimming with no more than two people to a lane. One person will start at one end of the pool and one person at the other end. We'll start and finish our repeats and sets at opposite ends of the pool from each other at all times. We'll circle swim. Up the right side of the lane and back on the right. We won't be able to use the showers, suit spinning dryers or the water fountains, and we'll have to come suited up; ready to hop in and swim. 

To make this all work we're having to do reservations for each workout. Of course there is a website and an app for making reservations. With space for only 14 people per workout the sign-up system is the only way to make it all work. 

Since I was out walking and not sitting at my desk, or nursing my phone, I missed the original message by hours. When I got back to my computer to log-in, re-engage my credit card (to pay dues) and head to the reservation site all of the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. workout slots for next week were already filled up. But there was still more than enough space for an anxious-to-get-back to the water swimmer in the SIX a.m. to SEVEN a.m. slots. I can handle that. I did it all through high school and college...

The biggest advantage for us is that we're a private, members only swim club so we don't have to worry about accommodating walk-ins or drop-bys. 

We're scheduled to start next Tuesday but I'm already cleaning my goggles and checking my gear. This will take so much of the sting out of the shutdown for me. I can hardly wait. I would have traded a camera system just for the chance to swim through the Summer. Now all is not lost! Some sanity has returned to my universe. Pure, soaking, hyper-gratitude over here. 

I've got four days booked for workouts through the next week and I couldn't be happier. It's like getting a free Leica M10 in the mail. 

Now I can back off of all that stupid running. Whoever thought that running was a real exercise? (again, sarcasm alert!!! I do understand and appreciate that running is good exercise). 

Tuesday. May 19th. 6 a.m. Target.