Unpacking some stuff

Ohio’s primary elections are in the books. The People (a pathetic 23% of us, anyway) have spoken. Winners have been declared and the parties’ nominees chosen. All eyes turn now to November as candidates get busy moderating their base-baiting rhetoric.

The Buckeye State got a fair bit of attention (and a stupid amount of cash) this primary season, most of both devoted to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by a two-term Republican. We saw lots of high-profile out-of-state surrogates, too — the candidate backed by Ted Cruz finished second (out of seven) with 23.9% of the vote; Rand Paul’s choice ended up fourth (11.6%); and the incumbent’s own endorsement only was good enough for fifth place (5.9%).

J.D. Vance finished on top, garnering 32.2% of an estimated 1.1 million votes cast. His campaign was on life support ’til three weeks ago when Trump endorsed him, which propelled him from a distant fifth to the win. Vance got a plurality of votes in 74 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Incumbent governor Richard Michael DeWine, as expected, won in a four-way GOP race — but, reflecting unpopularity even within his own party, he didn’t get a majority of votes (48.1%). Our preferred candidate, Joe Blystone, came in third (21.8%).

What I find most interesting about the results of that gubernatorial primary is that Joe Blystone appears to have won a stunning 22 counties, most of them rural (my kind of country). That’s gratifying. The incumbent took 64, while the second-place finisher won the other two.

We expect to be in Arkansas when November rolls ’round, but even if I were an Ohio resident I wouldn’t vote for DeWine in the general. The Ohio Democrat Party could nominate Obama or Hillary — hell, they could put up Satan against DeWine — and I still wouldn’t vote for him.

Work began this morning on a home-repair project at Second Chance Ranch. It’s the last and the most involved job remaining to be done to the place before we sell — shoring up a short section of foundation wall at the rear of the house.

The job should take a couple of weeks, maybe less.

On the other end of our crazy life, Deb and I had a long talk about the actual structure we’ll build on The Mountain. We’re learning that one of the pitfalls of what we’re doing is a tendency to complicate a simple vision — to pile idea on idea until the concept outgrows its initial simplicity.

I’d been sensing that for some time. Deb came around to it over the weekend. Long story short, we’ve decided to downsize from three “bedrooms” to two, and from two bathrooms to one. We printed a copy of a floor plan we’d considered months ago and did some scribbling, moving a wall here and adding a toilet there. The result would be functionally identical to the larger house, albeit with a slightly smaller master bedroom and about 120 square feet less space allocated to storage and workshop.

We called the builder yesterday afternoon and ran our ideas by him. Everything we proposed is possible, he said, without having to generate a new set of blueprints. And although we didn’t downsize to cut costs, that’ll be a bonus of the changes we made.

Deb and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we’d caught ourselves and returned to what was in our minds’ eye at the start. It feels right.

There one more subject I want to talk about, something I’ve hesitated to bring up the last couple of days. I’ll make it as brief as I can.

Friends of ours, a husband and wife about the same ages as Deb and me, live in northeast Tennessee. Last week she posted that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer — totally unexpected, only four months after a clear CT scan, no pain and no symptoms other than shortness of breath.

Not only was the prognosis terminal, but they were advised that his remaining time was impossibly short. Instead of shutting down and hiding, waiting for the inevitable, they hit the road to begin checking items off his “bucket list.”

They weren’t able to get far. On Monday, six months short of his 70th birthday and exactly two weeks after the diagnosis, he was gone.

Deb and I are heartbroken. We grieve with and for his wife, his family and his many friends.

If this makes you sad or prompts you to offer “thoughts and prayers,” I understand. But that’s not why I told the story.

Life is cruel. The way it ends, it’s always fucking cruel. There’s never enough time, not for the loved and not for the loving. Every one of us loses to age or to incident, contagion or circumstance or human frailty. We’re powerless to change nature’s need to collect what it gave us.

We can fight only as long as we live. And the only battle worth waging is the struggle for every moment and every memory.

I know that the couple in today’s sad story made the most of their 18 years together. Deb and I can say the same — the impermanence of life, in fact, is what spurred us to set out on our odyssey a year ago. It’s why we’re headed to The Mountain.

It’s never enough. It has to be enough.

Be present, my friends, and be selfish. Don’t forget to live. And don’t take shit from anyone.

One year ago today: On our last day in Louisiana, Missouri, we hung out at our friend’s gun shop and sipped Sun Drop (complete with characteristic “floaties”).

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB