Dear Friends and Family,
Summer is fast approaching and you may be anticipating new adventures. So, in the spirit of my mother’s annual holiday cards, I am writing a spring update so that we can connect over the Plaskon’s triumphs and tribulations. When you have a moment, sit back with a cup of tea and read about the Plaskons lives from May 2020 to May 2021. Please excuse any typos and mistakes as I banged this out in one sitting in about 30 minutes.
Here we go!
A year ago, Aeva was very into creating sourdough bread. She liked the gooey stinky mess, which was probably an outgrowth of her love of slime. Grandma Sandy maintained a science experiment area for Aeva in the basement where she has been mixing up all kinds of chemistry-like science experiments. So, in May 2020, we made our first loaves of bread at a cabin in Lake Tahoe that my dad had rented for us. Since it was the start of COVID time, I was working from the cabin and the beach. The girls started “sister” days, riding bikes together to get ice cream and visit anywhere they wanted while dad works. I’ve been cultivating their independence.
Just about that same time, I met Amy, a teacher and a pottery artist. All the restaurants were closed, so for our first date, I brought her to a park bench next to the river in Reno. I brought a tablecloth and flowers and sushi and chocolate which was totally unexpected apparently, but it didn’t scare her away. It’s been a year now of fun with she and her son Ayden. She is one of the sweetest persons I have ever met.
She was very cold on that first date, and so I knew that I needed to make my house warmer if I was going to get her to come over to my house. It gets cold here in Reno and our house only has an old oil heater which is efficient up to about 60 degrees. So, to fix that problem I needed to get the fireplace going at our house. That meant installing a fireplace insert. They are $5,000 new, but we found a used one for $300 in Santa Cruz. The used fireplace insert was an excuse for our next adventure to Santa Cruz where we had an impromptu jaunt on the beach.
On the way back from Santa Cruz, I jokingly suggested we come back and that Alara could find an Air BnB. She took that challenge seriously and immediately found one for us . . . a gorgeous 3-bedroom house for 5 days with a jacuzzi. Since it was COVID time, the price was 75 percent off!
That trip to get the fireplace insert killed Sparkles, our huge 1992 van (Aeva cried). Sparkles overheated and the transmission stopped working. So, I quickly had to buy a new family party van. I found one with AC and doors that work! It has served us well. It’s name is Lemo.
So, we made it to Santa Cruz, all 6 of us (one of Alara’s friends came too) and we lived like kings and queens, going to the beach every day, eating lots of pizza and relaxing. On the way back, we went to San Francisco’s Chinatown which was Amy’s idea (always down for impromptu adventure and fearless). Visiting Chinatown during COVID was cool. It was very quiet. We didn't get COVID. It was the girls first time there as well as their first time at the Golden Gate Bridge.
When we returned, I was still working from home, so I could really work from anywhere. I went up to Lake Tahoe and worked from a campground. When I got off work, I took a class to get certified in sailing 101 (after 10 years of sailing). The boats have cabins with kitchens and sleep up to 6 people. If you are ever interested in sailing at Lake Tahoe, I can be your captain.
For Father’s Day, Aeva, Alara and I went to “Lost Lake” in the Sierra’s Desolation Wilderness. There was no trail to Lost Lake . . . I found it by just searching around maps on my phone. To get there, we had to wander way off a trail along rocky ridges and so we got lost of course. We did find it eventually just before sunset. Our first cast into the lake caught a big hungry fish. So we ate that and slept under the stars, fished and swam for two days. The girls didn’t complain because it was Father’s Day.
Amy and her son Ayden have been rock climbing for a decade and we have a membership at the rock climbing gym. So, we started rock climbing a lot more and Alara got certified to belay. That means my life is often in her hands and she likes that! She is very careful with her dad, even when she “hates” me, which is often as she is a teen. Alara also started skateboarding a lot, which led to a serious injury later in November. More about that later.
Our next trip was to the Black Rock Desert, which has a vast white, flat playa. I let 14-year-old Alara and 9-year-old Aeva drive there which is a customary place to let kids drive cars. On that same trip, we started loudly singing songs in the car and it was Alara’s introduction to alternative music (Ramones, Killers). On the drive we accidentally ran over a rattle snake’s head. So we took that home and it is still in the freezer. We will be dissecting it along with the goats head and cow brains (Aeva is REALLY into the medical industry). Over the two day trip, we also went to a hot springs and I mountain biked. We slept under the stars and looked at that comet from a “Dark Sky Sanctuary.”
In August we spent a week traveling to the coast and redwoods, exploring creeks and ponds and tidepools. We saw an eel, ate wild berries, hiked and kayaked in the sea, camped on the beach, played games and cooked out in the open sea air. From the bones we found on the beach, Aeva and I built a “Dohoohoho Cowfish” windchime for halloween.
To complete our Halloween decorations, we decided to buy baby dolls from the thrift store and paint them, like a zombie baby apocalypse. Some of them were promptly stolen, lots of people wanted to stop to talk about them and some people donated their scary dolls to us. It was a fun experience.
In October, I left my job at the State of Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board in October moved to Medicaid. It was a great move, but I was sad as I had a lot of friends at the CCB and we were like family. Also in October, we took a trip to Virginia City and stayed in an old haunted hotel with candles and played games. On that same trip, we took a tour of an old mine. The tour guide was an old co-worker from my TV anchoring days. That was a good reminder, that staying in the television industry does not have a bright future and if I had stayed in TV, I might have found myself begging for customers to come tour an old dirty mine.
Around Christmas I learned to throw pots! That means making things out of clay and using a wheel. Amy taught me how to do that. She is one of the best teachers I have ever met, soft-spoken, but firm.
Another new activity that I have not pursued since I lived in Alaska was chopping wood. Since we had a wood stove now and I have a few friends in the tree trimming industry, I had a lot of wood to chop. It’s hard work and I know what kinds of wood are hard and easy to chop now. It’s also dangerous!
In November, we planned another long trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. But we were on the road, just about to visit my Dad when we were informed that the girls had COVID. So we couldn’t visit Dan or any family even though we didn’t have any symptoms. We didn’t let COVID stop us. We spent our days out in the open air at hot springs, camping and at the beach. We decided to camp in my home town of Potrero, 42 miles east of San Diego. On the first night, acorns were falling out of trees a lot for some reason and while I was looking up into a tree at night, an acorn hit me in the eye. I was blind in that eye for about a day. Alara and Aeva are convinced that a squirrel threw it at me with incredible accuracy, because that is what squirrels do, throw acorns at people! The next day Alara was skateboarding down a hill and crashed and tore her ACL which was really traumatic, from the ambulance ride to the hospital and now surgery. She is recovering well, but it will be a year before she can ski and play soccer.
Potrero has really changed. Many of the giant old oak trees are dying and the old Potrero Cafe where I had breakfast every Sunday with my parents is closed. The whole town is a lot more beautiful than I remember. Our next stop was San Diego. To get there, we stopped in Tecate, my old stomping grounds in Mexico. The girls got to see the Trump border wall that had been talked about so much. They said “That’s it?” kind of disappointed. We had street tacos, went to the panaderia that I went to as a child and a huge candy store. Aeva paid for the candy with a 10,000-peso bill. But then, to our surprise the border closed. It shouldnt have been a surprise at all since that border has closed at 3pm every year since I was a kid (which led to a lot of gringo illegal border crossings). But I wasn’t prepared to do that again and I wanted the girls to see more of Mexico. So we had to drive through all the border towns to Otay Mesa, past all the apartments and people and stores, and me asking for directions in Spanish. Everyone was so friendly. In Otay mesa, we waited in a border line for 2 hours. Aeva was terrified that they would not let us back into the United States. But of course they did. The girls were very entertained by fire breathers, music performers and people selling things in the border line.
We spent the next three days in Pacific Beach, me and Aeva boogie boarding and playing frisbee, Alara in her beach wheelchair reading. On the way back to Reno, we stopped at the March Field Air Museum. Aeva and I took a free tour, which, to my surprise, she liked. I got to see a C-54 for the first time (that is the plane that my book is about). So that was really cool and a good way to get a tax write off on the whole trip.
These days, life is back to “normal” in a Plaskon kind of way. Aeva is into competitive soccer and Alara is recovering from knee surgery. Alara is aspiring to be a computer scientist. She has been accepted to a Career and Technical Education program in High School. So she and I have prepared by disassembly a computer and talking about the parts. Aeva is into the medical industry. She is always “dissecting” things. So I recently bought a goats head and invited a brain surgeon over to dissect it. We called this “career and technical education” Sundays. Amy’s son is interested in being a judge and possibly a lawyer, so she says, “we are raising doctors and lawyers.” But we also encourage their creative sides and will not frown on or discourage artistic careers if that’s the path they choose to take eventually.
That marked the end of winter. Over the snowy months, we went sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, and helped out the elderly in Topaz Lake where my dad lives. One of the things we started doing since COVID are “paint and sips” where an artist leads you on a painting journey. Our first one was on-line and now we are doing them in-person. We don't do much of the “sipping” part except for tea. Both girls really enjoy them and we have learned a lot.
Our last trip of this May-to-May adventure story was to San Francisco. We booked a strange basement Air BnB run by foreigners and it had many doors. I didn't book enough nights and we got kicked out and had to suddenly find another one. The hosts tried to make us pay for doors that we didn’t break, luckily as an Air BnB host myself (I rent a yurt to guests in Reno), Air BnB was receptive to my defense and we didn’t have to pay for doors we didn’t break. Once we got settled into a new place, we explored the Haight and Ameba records (Alara spent hours looking at records). We struggled to find bathrooms (because of COVID), ate Chinese food in Chinatown again, explored the transit system, did a silent disco on the beach and joined the California Museum of Sciences so that we could be there on their first member-only opening day after COVID. We also saw a few naked people in San Fran. Aeva almost tripped over one. As I was explaining that nakedness is not uncommon in San Fran, it occurred to us that naked people are possibly part of the “tourist attraction” of the town. But, enough about that.
The California Academy of Sciences is an amazing museum! It included a rainforest! We also shopped at the Warf and walked in the rain (No SF Trip is complete without a walk in the rain and visit to the Warf). Aeva and I also found a community garden and we explored the HUGE Golden Gate Park. The kids have figured out that I am like all the geese there that beg for food scraps. To save money, I sometimes only buy food for the kids and hope that there is some left over to feed starving dad.
This year in Reno, we started growing northern oak trees from seeds. We just planted the saplings in the ground around the house. I have also built a new planter box and I hope we can keep things alive with the trips we have planned this year.
I would have to say that this past year, I have gotten to know my daughters intensely through lots of father-daughter time. They have been my number one priority and COVID has been pretty good to us. I work from home full time and have had lots of time to work on projects, from a coloring book to creating an audio book (available on my web site www.plaskon.org) I am also now the president of the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance, which is my first political foray and I have to present to city council, meet with the Mayor and other city leaders. My full time job is the State of Nevada Public Information Officer for Nevada Medicaid. This is an important position as we account for a third of Nevada’s budget and a third of Nevadans rely on this publicly-funded health insurance. My job is to educate the public, media, insurance industry and legislators regarding what Medicaid does. Just like when I was at the Cannabis Compliance Board, I am the first Public Information Officer for the agency.
Over this past year I have changed a lot. I have less stress so I am more patient and I appreciate what we have (which is A LOT!).
Our next adventure is heading to Lake Tahoe again, just like we did last May. We are also going to Oregon and Washington for grandpa Mark’s 80th birthday and his granddaughter’s wedding. We will also be vising other friends and family.
So, that just about wraps it up. Enclosed you will find a family photo. Why? You ask? Years ago, my cousin sent me a picture of himself, his brother, and his son and daughter. I have kept it by my sink for years. It reminds me of them and endears me to them. I realized recently, that time is passing quickly and we don’t have reminders that can keep us close despite any challenges we face.
We hope all is well with you. We would love to hear from you and about your adventures. Please know that while you may be far away, you are always right there in our hearts, keeping us warm.
Aeva, Alara and Ky