Reconnecting--With My Hobbies

Social distancing can have unforeseen positive results
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Since the onset of the COVID-19 virus and the resulting isolation of people, I have noticed that one of the unforeseen positive outcomes has been the amount of “reconnecting” going on. In the last two weeks, not a day has gone during which someone has dropped me a note, requested a “friend connection” on social media, or just called, out of the blue. Freed from the distractions of everyday life, people seem to be finding time to “get back to the basics.”

SOCIAL DISTANCING--AN UPSIDE

JAG in his "home office."

JAG in his "home office."

I am the first to admit, I don’t mind "social distancing.” I have never been much of a “social” guy, to begin with. One or two good friends, a partner, and my family are about all I can handle, anyway. So, putting space between me and others has been no problem.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been “reconnecting” during this period of isolation. In fact, I have been reconnecting with several old, reliable comforts: Different hobbies of mine that have laid idle for years.

Digging Into My Research

At the top of the list would be my deep research into the Mexican-American War, and, in particular, the Battle of Buena Vista. Among many of the projects I have “ongoing” in this arena, is a detailed list of the killed and wounded during the battle on February 22-23, 1847, a list of civilians in and around Saltillo, Mexico, affected by the battle, and a transcription and detailed footnoting of the field book of Company A, 1st Illinois Volunteers.

Since I am not splitting wood, fishing, kayaking, going shooting, or playing tennis, I have a bit more time on my hands. This past weekend, I dove back into my Mexican War notes and resources. After a day or so of researching, I opened my computer files to update my research.

The first shock: I hadn’t updated any of those files since 2007! Somehow, thirteen years had passed since I last worked on my research (now I understand how all those people who say they are working on a book often die before they ever wrote down a word!).

The second surprise of the day occurred when I pulled up individual files to enter the new data I had found – I had already “discovered” this information years ago, only to forget it, and the “rediscover” it this past weekend. Well, it is good to be reconnected to my research, even if I am doing a lot of it over again!

Sighting In

I did spend a couple of days "bore sighting" a couple of my rifles. I hadn't done that since I was a kid, so it took me a few hours to figure it out.  The first problem I had to overcome was just where do to the sighting.  Living in a complex of townhouses, people don't react too well when they see an old guy lining up an AR on a distant target.  

So, I took over the dining room table -- much to the chagrin of my partner. I set up my rifle "sled" and mounted the upper of an AR-10 in it. With the bolt carrier removed, I eye-balled a bird house across the townhouse lawn. Then, I dialed-in the ACOG on top. 

I repeated the process for another AR / ACOG partnership. Feeling satisfied with my old-fashioned bore-sighting, I will have to wait until I can go the range again to see if I can find the paper when I test-fire the two.  Regardless, I really enjoyed the couple of hours I spent with those weapons.

A Little Track Time

The other hobby I have rediscovered is not military related, but I am sure a lot of you older readers will relate: I dug out my 1/32 scale Strombecker racing track! I loved slot cars as a kid, and now as a fat, old guy, I still breathe in deep when the ozone starts lifting from cars whipping around the track. 

Okay, I reconnected with slot cars, but my partner soon disconnected me again, announcing, “There is NO way I am tiptoeing around this stupid track for several weeks.” So, back in the box it all went, but not before I completed some certain record-breaking laps with my favorite Monogram Daytona Coupe.

Some Quality "Garage Time"

Carrying the box of track back to the garage, however, took me past my workbench. With the box back in place, I sat down at my workbench and looked at my tools. Before I knew it, I had dumped out a coffee can of nuts, bolts, washers, and miscellaneous rusty bits. I spent the next two hours, sorting these, putting each in its appropriately labeled plastic drawer, ready for the next automotive project. 

When I left my regular office to cloister in my “home office” several days prior, I decided it wasn’t smart to leave the ammo and weapons behind. So, I loaded all of it into the VW and transported it across the river. I guess I had more ammo than I remembered, because when I drove into my driveway, I heard a “clunking” I had not heard before. Somewhere in the few miles between my office and garage, I broke a spring! I guess there was just too much weight.

After unloading all the ammo and firearms, I let the vehicle sit while I thought about the problem. While I sorted all those nuts and bolts, I kept glancing over my shoulder at the listing Volkswagen. The corner with the broken spring was sagging.

It has been years since my time in Iola when I worked on Chet Krause’s military vehicles regularly. After I moved from the small Wisconsin town, I never really reestablished a good “working” garage.

But there I was, sitting at my workbench in my little townhouse garage. I knew how to fix the Volkswagen’s broken spring. I just hadn’t pulled any wrenches in a number of years.

I fired up the air compressor, put on my coveralls, and start tearing down the vehicle. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy pulling wrenches. I spent the afternoon listening to music, grunting, and bolting things back in place. It felt good to get my hands dirty again.

Plenty To Keep Myself Occupied Yet "Distant"

So, yes, “social distancing” is even having an impact on a hermit like me. While I see just about the same number of people as I did before (that would be my partner, my Mom, and myself in the mirror), I have experienced the joy that hobbies can provide – especially during very trying times.

And while you didn’t ask—and probably are getting real tired of people telling you how you should behave during a pandemic—I will just offer this very quiet suggestion: Remember the comfort your hobbies can provide. You have them because you are passionate about them. They provide you with comfort. Now, more than ever, depend on them for the peace of mind, simple joy, and satisfaction they can provide.

Preserve the memories and Keep ‘em rolling,

John A-G