Friday, August 11, 2017

I'll Be Here...

The sun beats on the back of my neck as I head east up the alley that leads to the city park not far from my home.  It feels as if this place will never be cool in spite of the miserable winter not six months gone and still fresh in my memory.  As I walk the circumference of the park--once around equals a half mile--I find it almost unbelievable that my now departed wife and I managed to get our ten thousand steps in during those cold and snowy months that had me believing we might never be warm again.  Slipping and sliding on the ice while we shivered in the cold we told ourselves that this was the ticket to health.  Now I only wish that she were here to see that our old path is not only warm and sunny but hot.  Looking at the trees, some more than two-hundred years old, I find it hard to imagine what they have seen in the past couple of centuries of this ever mercurial Idaho clime.  Our time here is so brief!  This place reminds me of my boyhood home in Michigan where summers often would wait until mid June to appear and the dependably on time winters would bury us in snow.  California, our home for more than thirty years, had none of that and I realize now that I missed it.  Thirty-four years of "night and morning low clouds and haze with highs in the sixties and seventies" became a little monotonous.   Iowa's weather was the worst.  I spent my high school years in the northwest corner of that state and recall enormous snowfalls that required my brother and me to rise before the sun was up to shovel our driveway to allow dad to make it to work.  Massive drifts would sweep across the front of the garage and the sting from the pellets of snow hitting our faces was enough to convince me that I never wanted to live in what the weather experts refer to as a "continental clime".   The relocation to Idaho just three years ago provided a pallet of four definitive seasons without crazy cold or heat, in spite of this year's exception.  It rains a little too much, but you can't have everything.

"Do you plan to stick around?", is a query I hear often.  It doesn't bother me as I understand why people might wonder.  Having moved frequently I am inclined to stay put for as long as I can.  Lake Coeur D Alene and the folks of the Idaho panhandle have been warm and welcoming to Linda and me and were there for us through the difficulties of her battle with cancer.  Always lucky when it comes to neighbors, this place has been no exception.  The entire neighborhood had our backs and continues to keep me on course.  I could ask for no better.  I think I'm here until they kick me out.

My son-in-law took hundreds of pictures at Linda's life celebration cruise and I continue to sort through them and smile.  Here are a few more from the July 29 event.

Bonnie Buckingham came from North Carolina

Grand nephew Brian and his new bride.

Sue and Lee, local pals who also came from San Diego

New friend Paul and old pal Roger O'Neil and his daughter

Chin and Alex...out of town troublemakers, and not even radio reprobates.

Former neighbor and California ex-pat, Bill Livingstone came from Montana.

Old Illinois buddy, Joe Stannard, complaining about my cheap booze.

Boston Betty Erickson, keeper of Captain Dave

Roger looks to be getting low on wine.

Bill and Betty in front of one of Linda's pictures.

David and Dayle, two of the sweetest people I know.

Nephew Mike and his wife, Robin

Niece Debbie and daughter Katie

So many pictures of Linda...

Friday, August 4, 2017

We ALL Loved Linda

The weather was perfect for a night on the lake.
Between sixty and seventy friends and relatives helped me celebrate my wife's life and it was a wonderful evening.  Both of us were adamant about not having a funeral.  We hated attending them and often spoke of our desire never to put friends and family through one of our own.  No, we would have a party, a cruise!  It was in our wills.  Secretly I had always imagined that it would be Linda putting together a blowout for me but, sadly, she outsmarted me and beat me out the door.   Lucky for me our daughters took charge of most of the details and made sure everything ran smoothly.  All I had to do was my usual, "dumb old dad" act.  Type cast yet again.

We partied with people from all over the country, some I hadn't seen in more than thirty years.  I kept thinking that Linda would have loved seeing them too and, who knows, maybe she did.

My daughter Kelly's husband, Pavol, took tons of pictures of the celebration and I have just now begun to sort through them.  I offer a few of them here for those of you who knew and loved Linda, but were unable to attend.  You missed a good time.  The hard part was going home to a house that seems more than a little empty without her.  I may never get used to that.

Grandson Dan with two less than seaworthy mates.

The kid should make admiral in a year or two.

Daughter Katie and my brother Steve getting pictures set up.
Neighbor Sharron thinks I need a hug.  She's right!

A dandy night on the top deck.

Old radio pal Dayle Nelson came over from Tacoma/Seattle.

Me wondering if maybe I AM losing my hair?

Eddie, Doug, Kelly, Kenny, Steve

There seems to be a genuine interest in finding the bar.  "Copper's buying!"

Niece Julie listens to nephew Eddie describe either a fish, a putt or.....?  Nah!
Daughter Katie found the bar!

My cousin Jim came all the way from Tennessee.

Everybody had a different Linda story.

Whackjob neighbor Alex in her usual pose.

Katie, Kelly and Alex

Neighbors Denny and Amy

Julie, Bob and Chuck

Neighbor Pam, daughter Kelly and neighbor Roxanne

Cool Daddy Rick and Bobby T

My brother Steve and his wife, Bre

Me with the women who now prop me up

Me with our boat buddies Sam and Jeannie

Guests having a good laugh as I am presented with the bar tab.

Pictures of Linda 

Linda's brother Bob and his wife Judy
Our friend Sharon and old pal Bill Bauce

Captain Bob and "Skipper" Dave Erickson congratulate each other on not going aground.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blame Amazon!

Let's face it, Americans prefer to shop in their underwear.  In the not too distant past it was considered bad taste and likely illegal to sashay through a department store or bodega in your skivvies or, if conservative, a ratty old bathrobe.  Come to think of it, I'm reasonably certain that may still be the case.  You see, like so many of you I haven't ventured forth to make an in person retail purchase in quite some time and have no intention of doing so anytime this century.  I LOVE AMAZON!  

How cool is it to achieve instant gratification with a keystroke?  No more driving to a store to fondle the merchandise and interact with another human being!  Nope, just look at a picture, maybe read a moronic review from another lazy slug, pay no attention to the price,  plop that baby in your imaginary basket, hit the order button and wait for your treasure to show up at the front door.  What could be better?  Okay, other than out call massage.

Malls and downtown stores across our republic are in real trouble as Amazon gobbles up hordes of former traditional retail customers, and now they are beginning to fight back.  Take, for example, the recent lifting of open container laws in shopping districts from Georgia to Texas and--of all places--Iowa.   City councils and zoning boards have lifted some public drinking laws that previously prevented customers from wandering about with to-go cups filled to the brim with adult beverages.  So far this has proved to be a winner for local merchants and saloons.  As we all know, nothing helps you make rational decisions like a good buzz.
Iowa sauce hounds shop happily without spilling a drop.

Coeur D Alene, Idaho, where I live, has a far greater concentration of free spirited,  adventuresome, devil may care inhabitants (see: whack jobs) who would, I believe, be receptive to something even more daring than public intoxication.  A pitch to the local chamber of commerce supporting not only open containers downtown but a CLOTHING OPTIONAL policy would be a real boon to local shopping and recreation.  Granted it would be challenging for those full Monty participants to exercise their concealed carry privileges but it could be entertaining.  

I just love it when I get these million dollar ideas!  Now where did I put the mayor's number?  How about the chamber?  Of course those of us of a certain age choosing to doff our duds will need to steer clear of local flower shops.  One trophy for "Best Dried Arrangement" is quite enough, thank you!
Now,  where did I put my credit card? 

"What should we do first?  Get drunk or go shopping?"

Friday, July 14, 2017

Regrets? We've All Got 'Em

"The quality of one's compromises is more important that the correctness of one's positions."
---Robert Goizueta, former president of Coca Cola

In a catch up phone conversation with an old friend a couple of days ago we both surprised ourselves with the realization that many of the crazy stunts we were reminiscing about had happened more than thirty years ago.  The ultimate gut punch came when we nearly simultaneously acknowledged that those distant days were likely the pinnacle of our lives.  Yikes!  Thirty years ago?!  No way!

That's, at least to me, one of the hardest facts about getting older.  Your life--all the ups and downs--is primarily what happens while you're making plans for future accomplishments and adventures.  There is always something bigger, better or at least redemptive on the horizon that grows closer by the day.  Maybe it's a gift that we don't begin to grasp this until we're on that euphemistic "back nine" of life.  

This year has thus far been short on laughs for me.  The loss of my wife has me taking long walks and bike rides where I probably do a bit too much reflecting and self critiquing.  To my surprise I find that the regrets in the saddle bags of my life stand out more vividly than the triumphs and laughs.  I only hope that is typical of most everyone.  Better to be like Sinatra:  "Regrets, I've had a few.  But then again, too few too mention."  Paul Anka penned the lyric but Frank knew how to sell it.  I find myself wondering if he believed it?  I have a hunch there was more than a little remorse in Old Blue Eyes' days gone by.  

I guess the point I'm trying to make is most of us regret things we've either done or neglected to do always thinking that in the long run it'll all work out.  What we seldom know is how much time is left on the clock.  It seems paramount that we keep regret to a minimum and to cherish the fun and friends not only in our past but in the here and now, always keeping in mind that everyone, maybe with the exception of sociopaths, struggles with the monster that is self awareness.  Go a little easy on yourself.  It's all relative.

For example...consider the predicament of former major league pitcher Livan Hernandez.  Early this week he filed for bankruptcy  in Florida, claiming debts in the neighborhood of a million dollars.  He professes to have less than $50,000 in assets.  Here is where the regret comes in.  In his 17-year professional baseball career Hernandez earned $53 million dollars.  FIFTY-THREE MILLION DOLLARS!  I have no idea how he managed to make all of that money disappear ( whiskey? women?)  but don't you feel good about yourself knowing that of all your regrets you somehow have not yet managed to blow through $53 million smackers? Maybe you're not quite the screw up you thought you were.  Feel better?
Let's all drink to that.  I believe Mr. Hernandez is picking up the check.

Livan Hernandez throwing his money away.

Friday, July 7, 2017

No "High" or Any Kind of Anxiety at 91

Mel Brooks 

"So far, nothing hurts.  As long as nothing hurts, I'll keep working." 
Mel Brooks turned 91 last week and for the first time in his life was playing Vegas at Steve Wynn's truly superb resort in the heart of the Strip.  Doing two nights, Friday and Saturday and, after answering the question regarding when he might retire with the "nothing hurts" line, he proceeded to spend roughly an hour and a half keeping those of us lucky enough to be in the audience, completely entertained.  
There was a chair placed center stage but Brooks seldom sat.  With each lighthearted story from his early days in the Borscht Belt to tales pulled from his hilarious and abundant quiver of hit movies, he would spring from his seat and pace the stage.  He moved with the gate and presence of a man at least thirty years younger.  Apparently he wasn't kidding about nothing hurting.
Cards were provided at the theater entrance to offer fans the opportunity to ask questions that ranged from "boxers or briefs?" to "could you get Blazing Saddles made today?"  Answer: NO!

"Blazing Saddles" today?  Impossible!

He regaled us with several stories expanding on just how difficult it was to get his most successful film made in the far more lenient 1970's let alone today.  I found myself wishing he had expanded on the very real damage this idiotic concept of political correctness has done to the arts and to our country in general.  I vividly recall being in a Tampa, Florida movie house during the first week Blazing Saddles was in general release.  The audience was almost evenly divided between black and white patrons and EVERYBODY was laughing.  If you'll recall, that movie lampooned everything and everybody and was solid gold hilarious.  Of course that was a time when we could all take a joke.  In these days of identity politics we all sit around in our various ethnic, sociopolitical, economic and sexual battalions of choice waiting to be insulted so that we may, panties sufficiently in a twist, fly into a fit of righteous indignation.  When did we forget that all humor is offensive?  If you're not offending someone or some thing you're not being funny.  We didn't used to worry about it.

Other than his late wife, Anne Bancroft, all subjects were fair game and Mel handled the queries with aplomb and, of course, humor.  Let's face it the man belongs on the Mount Rushmore of comedy and I was delighted to have the chance to see him.  It was 107 degrees on the streets of Las Vegas last Friday evening but the coolest dude in town was on stage at the Wynn, still funny at 91 and finding it --good to be the king.

"Hello boys, I miss you."