**Now playing: My cover of Groovin'
The Beach Blog
At the still point of the turning world, and time began to move again - Robert Williams
April 2017 Another. A dear, dear friend lost... Just got the news today. A man that I loved, respected, and admired passed away. I had so much fun with Tom Butler and his wife Kathy through the years. In fact, the promo photo I continue to use of me playing the guitar was taken on their sailboat. He retired at 50, the President of Westinghouse Latin America. Why he ever chose to spend time with me I'll never know. Too many memories and too many superlatives to bore you with. Here's the thing, tho...as the years unfold, it is not my growing old that saddens me; it is seeing my friends, so vital and full of life and living, grow old and quiet and still. Surely, I thought, that could never ever happen...
July 2016 50 Year Leather... A few years ago I blogged about a labor of love- cleaning out and rearranging my DooDad drawers. Last weekend I had another labor of love to perform; my family's annual pilgrimage to the lake is coming up and my niece Jennifer suggested a softball game at the village park this year. So I dug out the old Spalding baseball glove Dad got me when I was ten or eleven for Little league. As I recall the first thing we did when we got home from Dorn's Hardware Store (Toys and Sporting Goods too back then) in Monona was to coat the thing with neatsfoot oil. Dad said that was key to softening it up and keeping it in good shape. Then he pounded the shit out of it and threw it in the dirt. Then he pounded it some more. I never lived up to the promise of that glove, playing a very poor right field for most of my Little League career- One year I played catcher thanks to the passed ball rule whereby the pitcher can throw a hundred balls past you and runners can not advance on the bases while you casually trot back to the backstop to retrieve the pitch. It was the most despised position at that age, except for the few true athletes who knew that some day, when real ball was played , they wanted to play catcher, because they knew in the big leagues, the Catcher was really the Quarterback (also because catchers' mitts were three times the price of a regular glove). I always wanted one but Dad wisely put off that investment once he saw me catch my first game. I have blogged about the day my buddy (not then) Dan Storm hit an in-the-park home-run and won the game for the other team by plowing into me at the plate instead of sliding- sending me careening back into that damn backstop. I, of course, dropped the throw from the cut-off man and they won by one run.
I kept that old glove through the years and used it again when I coached my own kids throughout their youth sports years. "Do as I say- not as I did" was and will always be my best advice to them. Through those years I oiled my glove and repaired/replaced the leather webbing and ties, because the glove itself was a good one and, being good leather, got better with age, a quality I seem to admire and envy the older I get. Luckily my kids were better than me. Stephanie was the only girl on her team and Dad was with me the day his grandson Robert played third and actually pitched an inning in relief in Key Largo's All-Star game.
Robert's glove was a black Rawlings, the best I could afford and you can bet it was well broken in and maintained. We took it to a Marlins-Braves game to get autographs and to snag some foul balls. I will never forget standing over the dugout during batting practice waiting for an autograph opportunity when Ryan Dempster- who was in the first year of his contract with the Marlins and used the same model glove- and who Robert and I secretly called "the Dumpster" because he was struggling then, walked by. He didn't notice us, pen in hand, but his mother- sitting in the stands near us- did, and stood up, shouting "Ryan, for pete's sake, go over and sign that poor kid's glove!!" So Robert took home a custom Ryan Dempster Autograph Rawlings Gamer. Pretty cool.
Anyway, I decided my old glove needed some repairs for our upcoming game this summer, so I got out some leather shoe lacing and the old glove repair kit from the last repair twelve years ago (I don't throw much out) and savored a morning's job well done:
If you look closely you can see my name and address that Dad inscribed in ink all those years ago. By the way, Robert's glove did get misplaced a few years back but I'm taking no chances. Last year when my first grandchild was born, his first Christmas present from me was a catcher's mitt...
June 23, 2016
June 20, 2016 It occurs to me that Fathers Day is nothing less than the kids of good parents paying it forward...
Spring 2016 To my kids and anyone else with a minute to spare: The Lesson for today is CRITICAL THINKING and its mother Intellectual Curiosity. I google, therefore I am? No......The truth is not on the internet. It is not in the New York Times. It is not on Fox News or MSNBC or CNN. Hell it's probably not even in the New Yorker or on Charlie Rose. Everyone now... point to your own head- and your heart. With some effort, in most cases, that is where the truth can be found. I work with I guy who has more money, more education, and more discipline than I will ever hope to accrue in a thousand lifetimes. Yesterday he tried once again to convince me of his point of view on something by handing me an article from yet another of his investment newsletters. Now, I am not the sharpest pin in anyone's sowing chest, but it became obvious to me after viewing the third or fourth different one of these that the "investment advice" was simply the vessel in which certain political points of view was put fourth or reinforced. It was obvious to me that my friend and co-worker was on a number of mailing lists due to the type of investments he had made and certain pundits were betting he shared their views. They would send a few stock picks or trends and then tie that to their "research." So my highly educated ( monetized by college degrees ) friend comes to me with this "written proof" of a certain truth. It sounded very scholarly and had to do with a particular religion in our society. I asked my friend if he had ever read- even a cursory scan- of the religion's fundamental text. No- of course he had not. The takeaway? The next time someone purports to tell you the simple truth- remember the truth is in your own head- and it is probably not so simple. Go find it. And always remember what Yeats said: Education is not the filling of a pail- it is the lighting of a fire.
Christmas time in St Augustine is always a treat. The whole town lights up. There is a real charm about the nation's oldest city, which warms you this time of year when the temperatures drop- to 50 or 60.
A few nights ago I went to the month-long "December to Remember" celebration at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. Rides, games, Santa and snow- well, a close proximity. The highlight was the free concert with David Benoit's trio playing Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack (Benoit took over composing for the Peanuts franchise after Guaraldi's passing). I relish living in a town of 10,000 population with cultural offerings like this. I think this city is one of the best kept secrets in America. So Shhhhhh...
Anyway, I love all the Charlie Brown jazz stuff but Benoit's "new" song Just Like Me stole my heart and I will have it ready for next Christmas. In the meantime, enjoy some of my other Christmas favorites in My Holiday Album section of my website. Love to all, and to all a good night!
That's what snow looks like in shirt sleeves... During holiday time it's only this simple...
It just needs a little love... Benoit and the boys pound out "Linus and Lucy"
June 22 2015 Just a quick note to you on Fathers Day, Pop...
Today, Dan Reineke posted on Facebook that old photo of he and Dale, you know, the one where they are sitting on the deck of the cabin during campfire dinner and young Danny is licking the barbecue sauce off his face? Dan's in Lake Geneva now, fallowing in Dale's footsteps; he's even pursing his Somaliers' certificate. Did I tell you Dale and Debbie celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary at the lake during last year's trip?
Had a great Fathers Day with Robert. He and I will be coming up together again this year. Mary can't make it this time but I was happy Robert brought her up last year. You would really love her, Pop. In your words "a real sweetheart."
And oh- Jordan is getting married! Last summer she brought up a boyfriend by the name of Ben. Great guy, and he fell in love with the cabin. Must of fallen in love with her too... I hear he proposed at the cabin.
What else... Stephanie and Max won't be able to make it up this year because Max just got a new job, so your new great grandson will have to wait a year before catching his first Musky...
Annette and Paul will be up again of course. Paul told me last year (he's become my regular early morning company at the fire pit) that he'd just as soon cut off his arm as stop coming up. They bring their own camper- trailer now. Sure wish Gene Rankin was still around and could spend time with Paul up there. He would love his son-in-law. I'm not quite sure who would pass out first in a "Cabin Chores Olympics"...By the way, we are putting up a new flag pole to replace the one you and Mr. Rankin made back in the 70's.
Hey, Dave Knight will be coming up this year and Bill Hunter said he wanted to come by so we'll probably have a good campfire music night or two this year. We'll be sure and do "Mariah" - remember the year we did the first Lake Eleanor Music Festival up there and how great that song sounded with you and Dave's Dad and everyone singing the chorus? I need to remember to include a round of Battle Hymm of the Republic too- tho no one could do it better than you used to along with Aunt Billie. Did I tell you she passed away a couple months ago? I still remember her "suggesting" to Uncle Lloyd after that "just one cocktail," that he "may want to come down now" from the roof of the cabin after putting up that new American flag. I remember her not being too concerned until he started saluting with both hands...
It is amazing, Pop, how many photos, how many Facebook posts, how many plans and dreams, how many lives touched, continue to come from that one place that you gave all of us. Rest easy in Eleanor's embrace, Pop. I'll see you soon.
February 17, 2015 Leslie Gore died yesterday. Listening to a few tunes. Ah, if only life was like that. How lucky I was to grow up in that age of innocence in the middle of so much upheaval and change. Listening to her records is like taking a shower after a hot day in the sun
January 24 , 2015 Absolutely nixonian...Bill Belichick is the Richard Nixon of the NFL. Years ago we had New England stealing opposing teams plays using spy scopes. Now during a 45-7 knife vs MAC10fight we find them playing with their balls. Nixon did the same thing.In 1972 he sent his "Dirty Ticksters" to ruin Ed Musky followed by his "plumbers" to spy on and sabotage the democrats before the predicted absolute annihilation of George McGovern in the 72 election. Can you spell PARANOID, Bill?
January 2015 The NFL playoffs are here and Americas team will be playing at Lambeau Filed. Dallas will be there too.
December I didn't get a chance to go to St Augustine's free Christmas concert this year with Manhattan Transfer. I love them. I remember going with Layna to see the incredible singers 30 years ago at the old Capital Theater Civic Center and having dinner before at the Fess. What a night. Anyway, my present hometown St. Augustine really does the Holidays up right, an historic torch light parade, a big white lights lighting in the old historic district, and many other special events so I re-posted last years concert, below. You really must experience this place this time of year. The door's always open...
October 31, It's 3 am Halloween morning. I will write this. Then I can sleep. After 50 years I have figured it out; The birds are good.
THE BIRDS ARE GOOD!!
OK, the first one attacks when she is trying to get away and run back to San Francisco, right? So he helps her, right? The second one attacks when Annie and Melanie are having an intimate discussion about Mitch- and Mitch's mother. Melanie decides to stay for Mitch's sister Cathy's birthday party.
At the birthday party, Mitch and Melanie have the great cathartic talk on the hill where Melanie reveals her motherless upbringing to Mitch and hints at her insecurities and guilt when she say's "I guess we should join the rest of the kids." All that after Mitch says- regarding Melanie's uncaring parent- "I think it's better to be loved." ( even if its by an overbearing mother, which Mitch has and who is keeping him first from Annie, and now from Melanie ).
Still with me? ...
the birds attack the party en mass and...whoooosh! Melanie again delays her return to the big city to help out.
So now Melanie has to stay for dinner- all the while Mitch's mom is saying "don't let the door hit you in the ass, Dear." After dinner, Melanie is telling Cathy- who adores her by now- "I really must be getting back"... and Mitch's mother is wondering why the chickens are not eating when... WHOOOOSH! Down come the starlings through the chimney! I guess Melanie better stay the night!
Even the Destroying-of-downtown-Bodega Bay-scene further sets up the love triangle- or is it a quadrangle? Anyway, relax- the birds know what they're doing.
The most repeated line in the movie after all?
Now if I can only figure out what that damn room with the old man and the embryo in the middle of the universe means...
August 1, 2014 Would you believe I only found out last week that George Harrison wrote a song called Someplace Else the SAME YEAR I did?!
July 30, 2014 Had a serious radio accident today. The Muzak version of Kumbaya. Is that an oxymoron?
February 8, 2014 Ennui.
September 26 A while back I told you about a very special friend of mine, Dan Storm. We grew up in the same neighborhood. My first encounter with him was when he knocked the hell out of me getting to home plate in little league. He was the winning run and I was the catcher. I expected him to slide and instead he plowed into me, forcing me to drop the ball while flying somewhere out and over the bleachers. They won the game, and he has been there for me ever since. A fine athlete, he is his father's son.
Dan lost his father, Robert Walter Storm, last week.
What a wonderful man Mr. Storm was. A collegiate quarterback, he would host touch football games for us kids in our old neighborhood. In later years, when Dan spoke often about him, I could only picture him with that smile of his, crouched in the huddle at the bottom of Maywood Hill;
“Okaaay, Daaave, you go out in the flat and I’ll try and hit you.”
Then he’d wet his passing hand with his tongue and take the snap. I always felt special when he’d run a play for me. Invariably, of course, I would drop the ball!
Bob also had a special passion for aviation, one that both Dan and I share, the difference being that Dan embraced his passion and got a private pilot's license- something that no doubt made his father very proud indeed. Dan told me several great stories about Oshkosh, home of America's largest airshow, and his visits there with his father. From what I hear from Dan and others, Bob's fascination and enthusiasm about airplanes- and anything- could only be described as child-like, a profound curiosity I can relate to.
There was one more interest that we shared; singing. Bob was a member of a barbershop quartet. Sang tenor or lead I believe; how I wish I had taken him up on his invitation to join the club.
One of the great joys of my life has been to grow up among singular role models and get to later know them as men and women- not just dad's and mom's of friends and relatives. But I remember...
The Storms’ had eight kids, 23 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren, but their household was always open. Whether we were playing hoops against the garage, or were downstairs with battling tops, pool, or a nasty game of ping-pong, the Storms always made me feel at home. It was where I was welcomed to dress on my wedding day while my bride dressed at my folks' house.
One year that I was in Madison for the holidays, I went up to their place to say hello on Christmas day. It was standing room only, like Lambeau Field, and I had to literally tiptoe across the living room floor to avoid stepping on anybody. It takes a special man with a special woman to run an operation like that. What role models we had! And how lucky we were to have them for so long! My very best to Carole- Mrs. Storm- to Dan, and to every one in that wonderful family.
Robert Walter Storm 1926-2013
Sunday, September 15 ... I am spending my Sunday morning
off with Alison Krauss.
At 54 years old, I have been an unapologetic groupie of Alison Krauss since the day I discovered her five years ago. I guess it took me that long because I was never a bluegrass fan, where her roots are. When Raising Sand with Robert Plant was released I tuned her in and never looked back. She introduced me to Jerry Douglas and Union Station and some of the most wonderful roots music being played today, as well as pop songs as good as it gets. As musicians know, she is stratospherically talented. And singers like me sit in awe of a vocalist with perfect pitch using no vibrato- -ever. Unbelievable. And what a way with a song. I am a sucker for sweet voices and beautiful women, so the rest is a no-brainier.
So this morning I had picked up my guitar at the same time as my coffee cup. I was playing with the old Steve Winwood classic Can't Find My Way Home and couldn't remember a chord change. I did however remember that Alison Krauss did it in the key I do (Winwood and Eric Clapton used a stepped down tuning arrangement in C sharp- and I sound like a whimpering idiot trying to match Winwood's vocal high notes in that key. Of course, he failed as well on some performances as I remember- such as the Blind Faith '69 Central Park concert. When he writes about being wasted he meant it. Clapton even giggled at times)
Anyway, Krauss does it a half step up in D, where I can drop it an octave and sing it in my wheel house, so I went to a You tube ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=XV3u6kS2mmE ) and afterwards started clicking on related videos.
Krauss with James Taylor doing a Paul Simon song. Krauss with Robert Plant. Krauss with Shania Twain. Krauss with Brad Paisley. Krauss with the Wilson sisters and Heart ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBIWNtKAHbE ). Krauss with Cheryl Crow. Krauss in performance at the White House. Krauss at Kennedy Center. Etc etc etc. Everyone, it seems wants to play with her. And they all admit it unabashedly.
Last year I spent way too much on a fourth row center ticket to see her and Union Station when they were in town and blubbered liked a pimple-faced Beatles groupie from the sixties for most the night. I found myself hanging around for a glimpse of her as she walked to her motor coach after everyone had left and could only utter a "thank you for touching my soul so much" when I finally saw her, and she told me thanks for coming. Sounds ridiculous right?
Here's the takeaway from all this- as well as my confession, and other artist souls out there reading this will nod as well: Maybe I am just hyper sensitive ( Noooooo.....) but when you are a musician/singer/writer/artist of any type and good enough to understand, comprehend, and share your gift with appreciative others, and maybe even make a few bucks with it, you are also good enough to know if/when you are not good enough to equal or even approach these amazing, bionic, not-of-this-world talents. When you care deeply about your craft, being reminded that you "can never be this good" can be discouraging on good days and devastating on others. But you just watch and listen in complete awe and joy.
Speaking of awe, what I wouldn't have given to hear these two ladies in one room in one night ...
Come to think of it, Bonnie's next Sunday...
Tuesday, September 13
Best Laid Plans...
Wednesday, August 7 The Morning After- Cabin Week 2013.
It is Tuesday morning, the moment I dread for 6 months every year. It is the morning after. One morning every year. The morning after a week at the cabin renewing friendships that don’t really need renewal, for they are tucked away in my heart in a place with a key.
We all, to varying degrees, have this space. We all, in varying degrees, keep its key hidden away so that we can transact the everyday business of our lives free from the distractions that love, devotion, loneliness, and longing for the company of certain people and the joy they bring- brings.
For one week every year, all my people escape from this hidden space and surround me- no- overwhelm me really, with the most provocative thoughts and feelings and senses and memories- in my most treasured location on the planet- and then, damn them, they all go away.
And damned if I don’t go away too.
This year was especially poignant because my daughter Stephanie and husband Max renewed their vows in this same place where my son was baptized and where we spread my father's ashes.
Giving away the bride Repeating vows- maybe a little different
Give me a write and let me know if you sometimes feel the same about your “morning after.”
June 16, 2013 Happy Father's Day! I am getting to the age that grandchildren are becoming a possibility, and I have been thinking about the wisdom gained by being a parent and how to pass that on to prospective parents. Anyone who has been a father knows it is the most demanding on-the-job training you'll ever have if you take it seriously, which after you see that first ultrasound, is impossible not to do.
My first pontification to my grandchildren's parents will be this:
Children Will listen.
Sondheim said it best. We as parents think that our kids were born with too much wax in their ears, which builds up to critical mass during their teens. "You're not listening!" is a most common lob in a parent child argument- er, discussion.
Not so. I would tell new parents that your kids are always listening, always paying attention, and I would illustrate what I mean by calling attention to their comments- epiphanies really- when they are adults.
I would suggest to new parents, Don't avoid a lesson or a lecture once your kids' eyes start to glaze over. They'll remember, maybe only years later- when it is most important. Be confident that your words are not wasted.
Rule # 1: Always listen.
Rule # 2: Avoid saying "you are not listening."
Rule # 3: Always know that your kids are listening- even if they don't know it yet.
June 13, 2013 Remember my travelogue of our trip to the Med where I told you of my missing the ship in Turkey and how I had to stay in Istanbul 'til 10pm to catch a bus so I could meet the ship in the morning at her next port?
Well, I spent the bulk of my time waiting for the bus at Gezi Park, which is now in the news, the site of government protests which started with attempts by Turkish citizens and residents of Istanbul to preserve the park, one of the last green spaces in that huge metropolis, now slated for development.
Gezi park was wonderful, full of artist spaces, fountains, trees, and Apple Tea and hookah cafes. It was an oasis in a sea of highrises and automobiles where you could relax, think, enjoy yourself and others. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes extreme action to bust through kinetic societal business and "bullshit as usual."
I wish the best to the wise people of Istanbul risking all to preserve this space of serenity and sanity.
June 1, 2013 I want to take you to the coolest beach I have ever been on. I was there last weekend:
OK you say, it looks like a nice beach. So What?... Let's walk a bit to the south...
Hmmm, something down on the far end... looks like a nice scenic observation tower...
Wait- I wonder what the fence is for.... Looks like it used to go all the way out into
the water... And that observation tower doesn't look like it's for visitors...
And What's with all the antennas? I think the guy in the tower is carrying something...
and he is looking at me through binoculars... let's get a little closer...
Launch Pad 39b. Same one as the Space Shuttle and the Apollo rockets that took us to the moon lifted off from. In my book, that's as cool as it gets.
This is the first I've seen it from this location.
Now if I could just get a little closer....
May 24, 2013 Happy Memorial Day, and Let's not forget why we
give thanks today...
I remember a warm gray drizzle falling in Washington DC the first time I saw the Vietnam Memorial. It was spring but it was the alternating spring and the cherry blossoms weren't blooming.
I walked down the mall and it hit me like two tons of bricks.
The sheer… mass of it. Black, overwhelming.
A faucet opened up inside and I cried like a baby.
A park volunteer- the ones that help survivors find one name among the fifty thousand on the wall- came over to me.
“Do you have someone here?” he asked gently.
“No,” I admitted, choking, embarrassed, bewildered.
He nodded a knowing smile.
As I walked away in the rain, I turned back towards him.
“I guess I do now, don’t I ?”
April 6, 2013 I've got a suggestion for all of you who would rather just chuck it in and stay in bed, who would rather admit that life is beating you up
just now and cower in the womb of your home.
The antidote? Go to your local Farmer's Market. I find mine a life spring of renewal. No kidding.
My Farmer's Market is set up every Saturday at the grounds of the St Augustine Amphitheater, a lovely outdoor music venue and wooded historic site, carved from an ancient coquina quarry that provided stone for most of the building done in the nation's oldest city, including the Castillo de San Marcos from the 1600s.
I start my stroll down through the live oaks and stands
This morning I start my stroll at the coffee and soup stand where I pick up the best salsa money can buy ( the best salsa money can't buy is Cindy's, but I don't get that very often). I'm tell you, it's to die for...or to kill for...anyway, after listening to the salsa lady nicely asking an older gentleman who is leaning on some foam cups to please get off her soup, I continue down the path, passing the homemade shark tooth jewelry stand, with sharks teeth collected only on the local beaches, the Russian bread lady, two stands with custom infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and the old fisherman selling doormats hand-crafted from recycled heavy nets from the local shrimp fleet.
Everything here is green, and earth friendly. Recycling is the theme, from the shrimp net doormats to the didgeridoo maker demonstrating the circular "dowiing dowiing dowiing" breathing with his extraordinary wooden instruments for sale. Few carbon footprints down this path of artisans and growers.
I continue on, my destination being the seafood truck for fresh scallops, then on to the bakery stand for fresh faccasia bread. I pick up some bionic green onions next to the entrance to the amphitheater, where the usual gathering of bluegrass musicians is belting out Will the Circle be Unbroken.
I pause to take in the Dobro solo.
The local watercolors and warm sun on my face conspire to heighten my vision, while the sounds and scents of real people with real passion surrounds and welcomes me inside.
Neighbors get together and share tales... Not available at The Super Value or Publix...
Need renewal? A reminder of what life's about? Or should be about?
It's as close as your local Farmer's Market.
March 16, 2013 Things I have heard at work...
As some of you know, I pay the rent by answering approximately 150 calls a day from
cruise passengers, providing customer service. Here is an honest-to-god slice of what I have heard upon answering my phone:
1. ....yeah, just your butt... Hello? Yeah, this is Joe Schmo. I'm traveling .....
2. I'm afraid of the ocean!
3. Where does the ship dock in Orlando? ( well, if you look at a map,
Mr._____, you'll see Orlando isn't on the ocean...)
3. Will there be any naked people on board?
4. Will it rain in St Maarten that week?
5. I want a three day cruise from LA to the Bahamas ( well if you were to look at
a map sir...do you own a map? )
6. My clothes caught on fire yesterday and I couldn't make the payment ( I am not joking )
7. I want to go to Cancun or some other island in the South Pacific. Do they have TV there?
( well, Ms _______ if you were to look at a map...do you by chance own a
map? You would see that Cancun is on the Caribbean side coast of Mexico. Do you know where Mexico is?? ... Have you ever looked at a map??...Did you sleep through Geography class??? Do you have any teeth????? If you don't care about where you are going, Ms. ______why go there?? I tell you you what- why don't you just save your hard earned money and spend your vacation time watching your taped Jerry Springer reruns??!!! DO NOT DARKEN MY DOORSTEP AGAIN!!! )
This last January I had a call from one poor lady calling from the dock with family that just flew in from India to take a cruise together and they were all waiting to board. The ship wasn't there. I checked their booking and found she had booked online for January 2014- not January 2013. Always try and talk to a real person...
Sometimes you get the uplifting call- like from the older couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, adding this is the first real vacation they could ever afford. They spent half their lives saving for a dream. You want to do everything you can possibly do to help on that call.
Then you get what I call the "Squeaky wheel" call- the one from a guest with an obviously phony or trivial complaint hoping to get a few freebies. You do everything you can to hold your temper and your mouth on that call.
Occasionally you'll get the tragic phone call. Like the one from a father calling to cancel his kid's cruise because he was just killed in Afghanistan. On those you just fight to keep a steady, reassuring voice. What can you possibly say?...
One time during the height of Hurricane Rita I got a call from a young lady complaining because our cancellation of a cruise out of New Orleans for the storm was "ruining her bachelorette party." I silently counted three, then suggested she not stress too much but pray ( I am not a religous man but figured a little couldn't hurt her ) for those out in the delta clinging to their rooftops...
If you truly want to see the best and worst in our family of man, try working the phones in the hospitality business. Just keep the razor blades in another room...
January 19, 2013 I am back from celebrating the life of a dear friend from the Keys, Nat Fain ( see below ). We lost two others over the holidays- both matriarchs that I had the privilege to grow up minding and respecting. Mildred "Milliie" Rankin and Jean Seering were the wives of my father's two best friends on the planet.
The Rankins lived in the same town as we did; Dad met Gene Ranking in the sixties when he worked for EIP in Madison. Millie was Gene's wife. Gene was an ex- golden gloves boxer and publisher. Tough, demanding, and a hell of a lot of fun. Millie, I believe, was a counter weight to Gene's demanding nature, keeping their large family together. She made the greatest Cornish dish, pasties ( pronounced passtees- you eat them, not wear them ), for us on a regular basis. Her daughter Annette spent her time at the top of our class while I swam somewhere in the middle. Mrs. Rankin was very, very proud of her kids, all achievers. The Rankins spent a lot of time with our family up at our summer cabin and allowed me and my friends to use their ski boat ( the whole family waterskiied and taught me to ski ) at home in Madison. I have written before how special both Gene and Millie were to me. Mrs. Rankin took very good care of me after my mother died, and for that I will always be grateful.
Jean Seering married James Seering after he and my father got out of the Navy. They lived about an hours drive north of us. After mom died we spent a lot of time with them and their family as we did the Rankins. Jean was a nurse and a caring, nurturing mother. She was also a very strong force in her family when times called for it. Jean's family was from northern Wisconsin and shortly after the Seerings bought lake property not far from her homestead, we did as well. Her father was a legendary fisherman and he obviously had passed these skills down to her, because she caught far more fish, including the prized Muskie, out of our lake than anyone else. The Seerings, The Rankins and the Schneiders spent many many happy days "up north" and the next generations are doing so now.
I and my sister Debi, and the children of Jean and Millie had the great luck and pleasure to be raised by real role models- folks who worked and partied hard, were fun to be with and easy to learn from. We kids always preferred to play with our parents and our parents friends- that is what their security meant to us and that's how much fun they were. We, the next generation can only hope to do as well with our kids and our grandchildren. Thank you and God rest, Mrs. Rankin and Mrs. Seering.
January 12, 2013 I know- it's been a while since I wrote. The holidays are over and, as seems to be usual this time of year, has claimed some treasure. Three immensely important people in my life have passed on to bigger things. Let me tell you today about the first, as I will be attending his Celebration of Life today.
Nat Fain was older than I, as it seems most of my close friends are. Older and wiser.
Nat was first and foremost a gentleman. A southern gentleman who listened better than anyone else I have ever known. He had a magic way of making you feel special- just because he was interested in how your day went. And he was always interested in how your day went.
Nat was not wealthy, but he was- how should I say- very, very comfortable, having worked hard all his life and hitting on a couple investments. Hard work and shrewdness, along with knowing how to swing a hammer allowed him to build a luxurious, relaxing pool home on a little hurricane hole in the Florida Keys where he kept his 38 foot Krogan sailboat. Everyone who knew Nat will smile and nod at this: His home was like a refuge- no...more like a little private resort where clothing was optional and stress was prohibited.
I met Nat 25 years ago when I got involved with the local community theater. I was the ham on stage and he was the one with the skills backstage. He had lost his beloved wife to cancer and his kids were grown. He was retired and we became close through the years with the tiny theater company.
Nat, along with other friends in the Keys, allowed me to live perhaps better than I have a right to, sailing in his beloved cutter Blue Moon and sipping rum cocktails in his pool and lush gardens. The thing I will remember most about him is the day he held an "intervention" for me and Cindy during one of our many troubled periods, attempting to make us both see what was important. Not many friends will do that, but Nat truly cared about Cindy and me and this important relationship in my life, and this selfless act seemed astonishingly poignant to me.
Nat Fain, while enduring his share of loss, lived a charmed life, working as a photographer for General Electric and NASA at Cape Canaveral during the 60's moon race and before that at Marineland.
A couple years ago I posted a blog in this column about a motion picture Nat was involved in during those days. We would laugh over drinks at his place about those days, though I never got to see the movie with him. I regret that.
I re-post the blog entry below in his honor and memory. Here's to you, Nat; here's to the joy you brought to my life...
October 31 2010 Since it is Halloween, I thought I might recount for you the story of ZAAT, the horrifying aquatic creature in 3D film folklore.
Courtesy Barton Productions Inc
The critics called it simply horrible.
One of my closest friends, Nat Fain, worked on the film when it was shot at Marine Land of Florida, just south of here, back in the early seventies. Nat was working at Marine Land at the time and was hired as a still photographer for the shoot.
The film has reached nearly cult status, resulting from being so bad it according to Nat, had to change its name four times so theaters would buy it after the reviews came out.
As far as I can figure out, the original title, ZAAT, is actually the bodily fluid of the monster, a bikini loving nuclear radiated walking catfish.
The film's sound editor, George Yarbrough, recorded the clicking noise of a Geiger counter and used that whenever the monster spewed his bodily fluids.
One film critic called the monster a "demon born of an aardvark and a can of spinach". The reviews go downhill from there.
Nat says his favorite part of the movie is where the monster is walking along, lamenting "Oh the horribleness of it all..."
ZAATs crew. That's Nat up on the right.
Back to The Beach Blog
August 23 2012 The Beach is not always perfect. My beach in St Augustine is a wonderful wide crystaline beach perfect for taking long walks, swimming, surfing, and the like. Recently, a particularily nice section north of me was "renourished" to widen it further by pumping millions of cubic feet of sand from off shore. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do this type of work and it is an impressive display of heavy equipment and collossal engineering. We used to fight this type of tourism building thing in South Florida, but hey- there aren't any coral communities off shore here to wipe out so what the heck. Well the new beach is indeed impressive, but the old fishing pier is now a disfunctional appendage to nowhere. I feel especially sorry for the poor schmuck who leased the base of the pier for his fishing pier/ bait shop business:
"Good morning Mr. Smith. We are from the Army Corps of Engineering. We are here to improve this beach...
Talk about a bad day...
July 15 2012 Every now and then you see something that makes you rethink. A while back, in the midst of depression, I wrote in this blog that Hope is everything. I posited that in our everyday lives- well let me copy and paste exactly what I said:
"What drives us each morning to get out of bed if not hope itself?
Hope for a rewarding day at work.
Hope for that package to come in the mail.
Hope that love finds its way to you.
Hope that rain will finally kiss your flower beds.
Hope that your son will score well on today's science test.
Hope that you will score well on all of today's tests.
Think about what you hope for. That's who you are.
That's the truth on the mountaintop."
Well yesterday I saw something on the facebook page of a very wise friend who happens to be a trained psycologist. I remember discussing with him over breakfast burritos one morning at his Sedona, Az ranchette my theory. I thought he would somehow smile and tell me I had just uncovered the secret to life in the one sentence Hope is Everything.
Instead he metaphoricly told me I was full of shit. His diplomatic response to my epiphany was a slow "yeah, but...".
I could never figure out why he shot down my theory- until yesterday when I saw this posted on his Facebook page. It said
If you are depressed chances are you are living in the past.
If you are anxious chances are you are living in the future.
If you are content, you are living in and for the present.
This really made sense. When have we been our most content? When we are actively doing something that makes us joyful- whether it is ziplining or knitting.
While I still think that we all need the hope for ourselves and our children to be prosporous and happy to propell us, it is healthiest to live in the now, and to make the present the best it can be; to make it- excuse me- memorable. Sounds like a cliche, but as I walk my beach this morning I am thinking not of past glories and blunders, not of future problems or hopes, but of how rare life can be- right now. Give it a try.
September 11 2011 I woke up this morning to Paul Simon singing Sound of Silence at Ground Zero. At times like these I am at a loss for the eloquence I long for. Ten years; the counted and other countless dead by our own hands, this human family of man.
To secure simple, human dignity and hope for each child, each soul on this planet?
Until we do, homo sapiens will continue to suffer the evils of our own parochial self hatred.
August 24 My most fervent wish today is to be one of the highly paid Suits that guys like me complain about because of their bone-headed decisions that so very severely effect our ability to simply do our jobs well...
July 20- God Rest, Pop. I miss you so much...
June 30 2011 I have a hard time with change. Always have. The Fourth of July weekend is starting. I can tell because the weekenders are showing up in the neighborhood; across the canal the pretty blonde lady and her husband have arrived at their little cottage for the weekend. Looks like the kids have just joined them. Down the way the boys are out with their beers and lawn chairs, sitting around the chimorreah on their dock. The 4th of July weekend starts tomorrow and the great weekend warriors are already here.
My work day is over and I am enjoying a drink on the dock, watching them and remembering how I used to spend these weekends. The cabin was the central point of all three day weekends for my family when I was growing up. I remember get-a-way Thursdays and Fridays and how exciting they were. Due to distance I no longer spend the Fourth at our cabin, but have made damn sure my kids have a regular vacation there every year. I suspect it is as important for them as it is for me. Nothing is as emblematic of life's meaning or evocative for me as a family gathering for the holidays because of those summers at the cabin. I'll be going up soon. Have a safe, happy 4th everybody.
June 28 2011 I've always loved the beach, but never has it been better than this week, because I got some serious beach time with my kids and extended family. My daughter Stephanie and husband Max spent the week camping nearby, celebrating their anniversary and birthdays, and also stayed at my place for a few days. My son Robert and young lady friend Tori came up to join us this past weekend and Max's family stopped by as well for a beach party on Saturday.
Best of all, we all went in together on a surf board!
I've already broken my nose on it but that is another story...
When I was very young, I always hoped my children would appreciate the ocean and the beach the same way I do, and as my father did for me, I always tried my best to expose them to the joys of the outdoors. When their mother Layna and I first came to Florida as young lovers we saw a little girl like Max's niece, photo top, at the beach. We built a sand castle with her and dreamed of having beautiful beach babies some day. The dream came true. Now that Stephanie and Robert are older, it is a joy to see them enjoy the beach!
Stephanie on "The Blue Pineapple" SurfKids
June 16 2011 Right Whale migration's done, Sea Turtle season is starting. Saw my first nest yesterday!
Also counted half of all beach goers, on a beautiful sunny day seaside, absorbed in electronic devices. Quite distressing.
June 12, 2011 A copy of my letter to the White House:
Bring 'em home Mr. President.
I could write paragraphs about waste.
Lives, money, political capital,geopolitical history, local politics, influence, etc.
You and I know how it adds up.
We got him, Sir, and any more is a waste. Nationbuilding won't work Mr.
President, and neither will Armybuilding- not in the long run. Self government
will either work or it will not now, after a ten year war. Granted the southeast
has been shored up with the surge, but at what cost- what could possibly endure
with the present governments of AF-Pak?
How many more years, lives and treasure to secure the rest? It's a pipe
Let's get 'em home. Now.
David P. Schneider
June 7, 2011 As the character in Little Big Man said, "Today, my heart soars like a hawk!"
About six months ago, shortly after Dad's passing, I was sitting outside one morning and noticed a large hawk fly across my field of view. It was carrying a large stick. I stood up to watch it and saw it fly into a nearby Magnolia in my yard. Audobon identified it as a Red Shouldered Hawk, and it was building a huge nest with its mate. For the next few months I watched and waited, my grieving being bouyed a bit. I found my ups and downs in those difficult months being buffered by those wonderful creatures getting ready for a miracle. The female would sit on the nest while the male brought more buliding materials from nature's Home Depot. At one very low point the male dissapeared and I thought for sure it had ended in divorce and lifeless eggs.
Then a couple months ago I noticed a small cheep cheep coming from the nest and saw a tiny white ball of fur with two huge eyes and a hooked beak looking down at me. A baby! The male was still nowhere to be found, but Mama came swooping out of nowhere with a snake dangling from its talons and plopped it in the nest.
During the ensuing six weeks I saw that little furball grow real feathers and more and more down became nest decoration. Audobon had warned against getting too close to the nest, not because of getting dive-bombed by birds but being sprayed with poop! It seems the critters are adept at spraying guano so as not to foul their nest. Man, Audobon was right. Some mornings it looked like mom was turning on a garden hose! I was amazed at how fast the baby grew, and very soon it became apparent that he was still sqwawking for food but was now nearing flight. I sensed a little consternation from Mom. I whispered to the fledgling "I think Mom's getting a little pissed... it might be a good idea to spread your wings..."
For two more weeks the little shit just sat in the nest and sqwaked for his dinner...
Then this morning I walked out side and was swooped down upon by a red shouldered hawk. I thought it was Mom protecting her nest, but lo and behold it was the little shit finally taking his first flight. He found the nearest tree and skwawked to beat the band, puffing out his chest and telling the world he was a flyer now.
First Flight First Landing... pretty cool, aren't I ?
I toasted his first flight, as well as a fine job of nurturing, with a morning cup of Joe. Well done! And thanks for the reminder.
June 2 2011 A hero of mine died today. Jack Kevorkian, 83, died of natural causes in a hospital room. He spent eight years in prison for pursuing the most basic tenants of human dignity. Rest easy, if you can, Dr. Jack.
May 5 2011 I am so damned proud of our President.
He not only made the couragous decision that finally got that puss head bin Laden, he made NO SPEECH (read politics) when he visited Ground Zero today. He simply made a quiet visit ( as quiet as a Presidential visit can be ) with the first responders and the families of 911. 'Nuff said, except a thank you to our military men and women, and a caution to those quick to condemn George Bush for failing to fulfill the mission earlier- we didn't understand Pakistan, etc then as well as we do now. These types of missions are always long odds at best.
March 7 I find G. Gordon Liddy had it just about right when he said "the secret is in not caring..."
March 5 Thank you to all my friends and family who wrote to comment on my last blog. That really got everyone talking! For my conservative friends who contributed, consider this:
"...sensible Americans must be detecting vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party...the most recent vibrator is Mike Huckabee. who referred to President Obama as having grown up in Kenya- actually grew up in Jakarta and Honolulu- ...A spokesman for Huckabee dutifully lied, saying his employer 'simply mispoke'. Let's not mince words. There are at most five Republican presidents on the horizon- Daniels, Barbour, Huntsman, Romney, and Pawlenty. So the Republican winnowing process is much advanced. But the nominee may emerge much deminished by iinvolvement in a process cluttered withcareless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons..."
My friends to the right, that comes from George Will.
March 03, 2011 You may have seen my home town Madison, Wisconsin in the news lately. Madison is a progressive college town and the state capital- a blue island in a sea of red.
Now, Wisconsin's new Governor Walker has declared war on public workers' unions and colored it with crayons of 'fiscal responsibility.'
My step-mother was a state employee, She boarded a bus every morning before light for twenty years to get to her clerical job at the Department of Vital Statistics. My brother in law Lee is a biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. Lee and other workers like him- Teachers, Cops, Firefighters have agreed to pony-up more out-of-pocket contributions to their benefit package- probably something long in coming yet perhaps debatible for another time.
Yet Governor Walker has not stopped there. After the State Employees Union agreed to make these concessions, Walker still pressed ahead with legislation to abolish the Union's collective bargaining rights. Immediately after the election Lee stated with ominous clairvoyance that "the shit will hit the fan in this state." Lee is as down-to-earth- conservative as it gets, although he is much too intelligent to embrace the knee-JERK Birther Sharia Tea-Party Sleep-with-my-AK, fudge- the- facts insanity that seems to be gripping this nation.
Take Mike Huckabee for example. I detest the religous right, but always thought Huckabee to at least be a thoughtful man. That is until he got a FOX in his shorts and now has a rabid audience to satisfy. At least get your facts straight. It's Indonesia, not Kenya, for one, Mike. At least double check what the writers are feeding you. The President went to school in Hawaii, our 50th state the last time I checked, and played basketball, a sport, by the way, made in America, then went on to edit the Harvard Law Reveiw. I mean, I think all this is related.
Yes, we are digging out of a shitty economy borne years ago not of any one party but of Wall street Geckoistic greed-is-good gone amuck and people trying to buy half million dollar homes when they can only afford a hundred grand.. We've had State fiscal crises before- California, etc ( if that's what this really is and I don't think so ) and nobody has threatenened to crush the civil workers unions.
To be fair, Ronald Reagan ( an ex Union President hhimself ) did it to the Air Traffic Controllers back in the 80's but that was after the union went back on it's word and it became a public safety issue. So what is really going on here? Is the new Governor of Wisconsin trying to eliminate his most potent political adversary- an historically loyal opposition? Paranoid, you say? What is happening to this country? Has one Progressive President of color precipitated all this sky- is- falling- white robe -donning right-wing silliness? Is there something in the water?
Two nights ago I was at the local convenience store getting gas. An older couple (even older than me ) came in and noticed my Wisconsin Badger T shirt. "oh, thank the lord you aren't in Madison now," they said, refering to the citizen protests on the Capital Square like it was Beirut or Tripoli or something. Had they forgotten the euphoria of Cairo already and what that meant?
"On the contrary, I responded, I am proud of what's going on in my hometown- it is a good and responsible fight in my opinion." They walked out without saying anything.
God, that felt great. On Wisconsin!
Those are real people down on the Square...
Febuary 27 2011 Suprise! I'm back. A lot to talk about, a lot of water under the bridge. I haven't felt much like writing over the past few months. Two reasons. First first: Dad suffered another stroke in December and passed away in early January. What he meant to me is sprinkled liberally through past blogs, in my writings on this site, and in several magazine articles I have had published.
I had just brought home my Christmas tree when my sister Debi called to tell me about the stroke- a big one this time. .I spent a most profound Christmas Day in a hospital room watching Dad watch a one foot-tall nylon christmas tree, unable to speak, only able to move his left hand with a slight wave. Debi and I bought the tree in the hospital gift shop. They had one with decorations already on, but we chose the naked "Charlie Brown" one so we could put some lights and ornaments from home on it. The little plastic tree looked a little funny with ornaments meant for an eight foot tree but Dad knew it was there and he knew we were there. Four days later Dad was released to a nursing and rehab facility. He was facing an uphill battle. We were trying to stay optimistic, calling up as much positive energy as we could. I flew back home.
The longest night of my life came three days later. The kids were visiting for a belated Christmas and New Years Birthday for Robert. The phone rang at 1:45 in the morning. It was Debi. Dad had taken a turn for the worst. The local hospital couldn't handle the problem and Dad needed to be rushed to a major facility 70 miles distant. Debi would call back when they got there. We both knew what was coming. At 4:40 am the phone rang again. A decision had to be made. A surgeon came on the line and explained the medical option. The second option was comfort. Dad had a living will. We knew his wishes and we knew him. It didn't make it any easier. The chances were slight. If they were to operate, it had to start now. No waiting allowed. The time it took to say one word- yes or no- would span a lifetime.
We chose what we believed Dad wanted.
I and the kids flew back up to Wisconsin. All the grandchildren and greatgrandkids were there. Debi was exhausted, and I slept that night in Dad's hospital room. The next morning at 6:37 I heard my father take his last breath. I'll never forget how quiet it became. After a few minutes I walked out to the nurse's station, and then called Debi. She and I had lost our mother when I was seven. We lost our-step mother nearly 20 years ago; Debi and I and Dad were like a triad. My whole adult life I dreaded the phone call I figured would eventually come from her. Now I was the one making the call.
"It's over," I simply told my sister. It was all I could muster.
October 17 Friday Night Lights in America. At the risk of sounding trite, is there any single thing that more exemplifies what makes this country what it is? I don't think so.
I have always loved youth athletics. That is, as an adult, I have loved youth athletics. I coached my two kids and many others' in three sports for ten years. One year I didn't coach I drove over the median of a boulevard to beat a traffic light into the school gymnasium so as not to miss the tip-off of my daughter's first basketball game. Dad, sitting beside me in the car, thought I had lost it. He was right, I had.
Last evening, as a chill whipped the north Florida air, I drove out to the local high school to watch a game. I could see the bright lights for miles on approach and in front of me a stunt plane did loops near the stadium. The school's mascot is a Falcon.
The place was packed, for this was Homecoming, surely near the apex of American tradition. I scrounged a place to park, bought a ticket, dog, and Pepsi from the booster club and walked through the crowd to the bleachers.
Young lovers, pom pom girls with glitter in their hair and futures, students whizzing past to tell something vital to their best friend down the way, kids in black with the stuff in their ears shuffling along slowly, math dorks assembling in the shadows, homies trying to look cool. Kids all trying to sort it out and find their own way.
Parents; Mom and Dad and Aunt Ruth from out of town come to support someone they love- let 'em know what they do means something to someone important to them.
I sit next to a couple who, it becomes apparent, are the parents of the school's star halfback. When he scores a touchdown on a long run, they cheer with the rest of us, but when the young player celebrates his touchdown not by showboating like so many "heros" do now but by simply tossing the ball to the Ref and kneeling in a moment of thanks, I see his father's eyes well up. I can't help but wink at him and offer "you did good."
Halftime comes and the Sherriff's car leads the Homecoming Court around the track surrounding the field, with the town's convertables and pickups holding our planet's most precious cargo; young people with dreams and plans and maybe more than a little naive idealism. Enjoy it while you can, I silently, jadedly direct to each of them, and wish that only good things, like Homecoming games, will happen to all assembled here.
The silver glare of America's friday night lights fill my rear view mirror as I pull out of the parking lot to drive home late in the fourth quarter. The glow stays with me.
October 9 It was last week, just shortly before my workday ended, that it must have happened. Around 7pm I logged off my computer, poured myself a rum over rocks and slid open the screen door to the porch. The unmistakenly Florida coast sound of a helicopter close by, crawling along, made me shiver. I looked to the east and saw it; carrying County colors flying low and slow.
By the time I walked down to the shore the chopper had already shifted and expanded its back and forth momentum north- following the long-shore current, confirming its gruesome mission. Hopefully still search and rescue at this point, I thought.
It started to darken but I could see a county truck down a ways with jet skis on the trailer- not a good sign, as the machines were not in the water. A lady with a patch on her shoulder was leaning on the truck with a cell phone in her ear. My mood darkened along with the shadows, and I walked home.
The whoop-whoop-whoop continued for the next few hours, the wraith appearing at my bedroom window as the helo's searchlight turned back towards the coastline on each pass.
The next morning I went to the beach for my daily walk. Approaching from the boardwalk, my eye was drawn to a bright scarlet object stuck at the surf line. As I approached, the object morphed into a spray of flowers with a man's pipe beside it. The rising tide was threatening to wash away the pipe. I did not want to disturb anything, but decided to place the pipe with the flowers. As I did so, I could see it had been freshly packed with tobacco, as if someone had just prepared it for someone.
A chill ran up my spine as I looked out at the angry surf and confused currents.
Whoever had laid this here had shared with me an intimate secret with their missing loved one. The seabreeze brushed my cheek. I turned and went home.
I checked the local paper later that day. It reported the incident but added that the victim had not yet been found.
Two mornings later a Mr. Andersen, we'll call him, age 66, was identified as the body recovered nearly four miles north in the lee of the St Augustine city fishing pier. He had been swimming with his ten year old grandchild Michael off my beach when a rip current had pushed them both off shore. Mr. Andersen had called to Michael to swim for shore, and rescuers had pulled the child from the surf. By the time they had turned for Mr Andersen, he was gone.
That evening I walked back to the beach. The flowers and pipe were gone of course, swept away by the same tide that had claimed Mr. Andersen.
The sea is not kind or giving. It is not malevolent or cruel- it simply is what it is. I hope it is some comfort to 10 year old Michael and to whomever left those flowers with Mr Andersen's pipe at the surfline that Mr. Andersen passed while playing in the warm surf of a beautiful sun filled beach with his grandson. Surely not the worst of ways to go.
My best to him and his family.
September 25 Autumn Dilemmas of a Displaced Badger Fan...
Let me illustrate a new millennium definition of desperation; Last night I sat in the darkened den of my rented St. Augustine, Florida home and ate cashew nuts and radishes, washing them down with a requisite Miller in front of my computer.
Occasionally I would fly out of my office chair spitting epithets at the little ball that flitted from one side of the screen to another, or whisper words of encouragement to my first, oldest friend, UW volleyball coach Pete Waite, in front of nothing more than the glowing, animated CBS Gametracker.
I had just called my cable guy and added the Big Ten Channel to my TV package, but tonight's match against Ohio State would not be televised live. The new channel would allow me to see Buckingham football take on Austin Peay the next day at Camp Randall, but tonight I had to settle for a silent cartoon volleyball creating Batman comic-like splats on a cold 17" monitor; Ooof! Blaaam! Badgers tie it up 18-18 in the third. I'm out of my seat pumping my fist in the air, grateful there's no one watching me. Badgers score two more unanswered and Ohio State takes a time out. "YOU WUUUS!" I scream at the Buckeye Coach-in-the-tube for stealing our mo.
Suddenly I have an out of body experience not unlike the dying victims of trauma, watching from the ceiling of my den as this lunatic carries on below me.
Back down on earth I become rational for a moment and click on my email provider, sending Pete a note:
From: David P Schneider [mailto:email@example.com]
To Pete Waite XXXXXXXXXXXXX
Sent: Friday, September 24, 2010 9:24 PM
I feel like an idiot-
I am in front of my computer with CBS Gametracker on watching a court graphic with this ball bouncing around. Its 18-18 in the 3rd set and I am bouncing off the walls watching a stupid animation since I can’t get the match live.
Feels kind of cool writing to the coach while watching the “action” though…
Gotta go- its 18-19. Bucky just scored… D
Then a half hour later:
From: David P Schneider [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, September 24, 2010 10:03 PM
To: pete Waite XXXXXXXXXXXXX
Subject: FW: Animated
You’re killing me.
Third and fourth set decided by 1 pt.
I thought I was going to stick a pencil thru both ears when they came back in the mid 4th.
Every time you got some mo, they’d call a time out.
Dominique Thompson’s a warrior…and Kuzma w/ 17 digs!
Gotta go- last set is starting.
I know he will probably read it shortly after the game. Pete Waite is like that, spending all his days and nights coaching, teaching, scouting, recruiting, donating, and corresponding, instead of simply hanging with the rest of us desperate displaced alumni derelicts.
I send a last note to Pete after the match:
From: "David P Schneider" <email@example.com>
Subj: FW: Animated- Part I,II,III
Date: Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:34 pm
To: "Pete Waite" XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Doesn’t get much closer than that- Good game, Coach.
Thanks for the thrills.
ps looks like you could have a real star on the horizon w/ Walch.
I then go to the refrigerator for a late night snack, wishing I were walking into Smokies or the BratHaus. No one makes a proper brat down here, split and grilled in the middle, so think of me next time you're having one after the game. Heavy on the onions and spicy mustard please- I'm desperate.
David Schneider, BS'82
September 22 I'm back- two busted computers, two weeks with out a paycheck, an unfunded soujern to my my beloved cabin, and now the beginning of Autumn; Since I last wrote the turtles have hatched, the oil spill has finally been capped,and depression has come and gone. Stay tuned...
July 17 Last week I wrote about the Sea Turtle nesting season here and showed a couple phots of a nest. Well, this morning there was a great set of Turtle crawls on the beach, the remnants of mama turtle's slow crawl out of the ocean to lay her eggs and back again.
The whole process can take most of the night. Our beaches here in St Augustine are huge- very wide, and this turtle chose low tide to lay her eggs, so she had a very long, arduous evening indeed.
Hopefuly I'll get to witness the result of this mother's hard work in 50-60 days.
July 10 The Sea Turtles are back!
Late spring and summer, our beaches are graced with huge meandering tracks of green ghosts coming out of the ocean to lay their eggs at night and escape again into the deep. To see a turtle crawl ( the word crawl being used as a noun here- not a verb ) is an awesome sight on my early morning beach walks.
After laying, the eggs sit in nests for about 60 days, then, on a night of God's choosing, the nests erupt in a cascade of sand and amniotic goo while the progeny struggle to the sanctuary of waves before becoming a meal for birds and other critters. It is really quite a miracle that any make it to adulthood, which is one reason they are so rare now. I once heard Jimmy Buffett, an avid quail hunter say that "everything wants to eat a quail."
Same thing's true about turtle eggs and baby turtles.
When we first moved to Florida, my ex-wife Layna and I volunteered with the National Audobon Society to patrol Key Biscayne's beaches in the early morning hours to relocate nests and help baby turtles struggling in the lights after hatching. There is now a coastal "lights out" ordinance there, and here in St Augustine, during nesting season. The Park Service still rope off the nests however.
A nest right next to my boardwalk!
Come September and October, I'll be on the beach late at night waiting and watching for an eruption of sand and goo and little miracles.
July 8 Since starting this website I have received many satisfying letters, some of them appearing in my Guestbook, from wonderful friends and strangers.
Like the mother who had stumbled on my story Orb Hunting in Sedona about Smokehorse Ranch in Sedona Arizona. Cindy's father Grant, a retired psycologist, owns the tiny ranchette, and this mom had googled his name, hoping to thank him for helping her daughter many years ago. She had just graduated Yale. The mom wanted to know if I could forward her address to Grant, which I of course was very happy to do.
My great buddy Seering wrote to thank me for running my memoir of the old Dells days OKID Summer. Seems one of his ex-girlfriends ran across it while googling his name and called to tell him the story proved he was still an asshole.
I received many notes from folks who read Swamp Rocket, including the Chicken Lady in Key West. She wanted to mount an expedition to the place in order to supply her modern sculpter friend with some "media." I politely advised against it.
My blog entry on my old high school teachers resulted in some nice comments from classmates. Sure would be great to see them all again- my teachers especially.
I received my latest note from Chris and Vickie Shepherd in Port Aransas, Texas. They are the new owners of Tranquility, the sail boat in my story-log Race Week in the Bahamas. They had found my story while researching Tranquility on-line. I asked them to send me their new adventures aboard her and hopefully I can update you all later.
Thanks for reading- and writing.
June 27 What would Aldo do?
Would Aldo Leopold have taken a laptop to the Shack? Those that love the land know Aldo Leopold. Think John Muir with spectacles. I am from
Leoplold's landmark book A Sand County Almanac introduced a concept every natural science student now learns called the Land Ethic. My freshman year the first question on my first college test was to describe Leopold's Land Ethic. I had been given a table top edition called A Sand County Almanac Illustrated by my father a year earlier which highlighted Leopold's incredible Seasons essay about renewal at his beloved shack in rural Wisconsin, but it had not a word about his Land Ethic. I had read this picture book over and over. I knew it by heart. I was ready! The morning of the exam, the first of my major field of study, I sat like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming Mac truck.
I now have a copy of the full edition, of course, and recommend it to anyone who reveres what God gave us alone. Anyway, I thought about my opening question this morning while starting to prepare for my annual pilgrimage to our family cabin in northern
I find most writers or artists in general will welcome any tool which allows them ingress. Leopold begins perhaps his greatest essay in Sand County Almanac, 'Good Oak', with this:
"There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.
One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery,
and the other that heat comes from a furnace."
Still, I believe if he could, Mr. Leopold would have packed a laptop right next to his guide books and note book. I’ll pack mine as well.
June 24 What a day that was!!
Happy Birthday, Ballerina Girl.
To steal a phrase from Lionel Ritchie
....you are so lovely.
Your father loves you very, very much.
June 19 Traded another email with Bill Hunter this morning.
Bill Hunter. We graduated high school together but had been out of touch until just recently. We shared a great passion for music. Bill and I were both influenced by our sibling's 60's records and learned to play the guitar.
He and I played in the first ever Cablethon in our hometown when cable TV first came out. It was the middle of February and I had spent the day ice fishing with my brother in law. It was the coldest day still on record for Madison. I damn near didn't make it to the show, on account of my fingers being frozen. Didn't make any difference in my playing anyway.
Bill was one of the smartest and funniest people in our class. Still is, I believe.
He thinks. I like to be around people like that.
Bill was also the most popular kid in our class. He got along with everybody- from the eggheads to the Boys Room smokers, and graduated at the top of our class. He now designs and builds circuit boards.
Bill spoke at our graduation. After all the usual "climb to the top" motivational speeches and other bull shit, Bill Hunter, barely 18 years of age, stepped up to the podium and said this:
"Will we try to be warm, enthusiastic, feeling human beings?
Will we strive to understand all the different things that make us different?
Will we try to be honest with each other,but more importantly, honest with ourselves?
It's very easy to say right now, 'No problem, of course I will.'
But if you can say that in five, ten or fifty years, then you have reached the
only goal that really matters."
Like I said; smartest kid in the class.
I am planning on seeing Bill for the first time in 35 years at the cabin next month.
We're gonna share some tall tales and a little music.
June 17 Below is a copy of my letter to Joe Barton, U.S. Congressman from Texas, who I used to see at Cheeca Lodge and Spa every year for his annual "Charity" fishing tournament- actually a fundraiser for his 'Political Action Committee' ( his campaign bank ).
I worked the bell stand at Cheeca Lodge and his fishing guests' luggage tags read like a
whos-who of American industry; Oil companies, Pharmaceuticals, the Airlines ( Air Transport ), Big Banking.
June 17, 2010
I must respectfully tell you, sir, that I believe you to be the worst sort of American Politician.
Capitalism? Of course it is our preferred way of life.
But blind approval and apologies to a (foreign) company that has proven to repeatedly disrespect American values of Life (11 people on that rig), Liberty, and Pursuit of happiness
( mine happens to be the water, the outdoors and fishing ) ?
Shame on you, Sir.
June 14 "These are not very bright guys- and things got carried away..."
-Deep Throat in Watergate's All the President's Men
Have you been reading about how the oil companies were getting their way under the U.S. Dept. of the Interior's Minerals Management Service(MMS), being able to ink over what the MMS had penciled for them on regulatory forms? Hows this:
According to Tom Dickenson of Rolling Stone, among the sensitive species that they anticipated being impacted in the event of a deep water accident in the Gulf were walruses.
Apparently, not only were the oil companies utilizing low-tech techniques such as tracing pen over pencil over at MMS, they were "Copying and Pasting" from old Environmental Impact Statements regarding their operations in the Arctic. Still think we need no regulatory reform?
June 11 I called an old friend last night.
I've know Mark Adams since we were eight years old. He was always an electronics freak. Mark would take me up to his bedroom where all the cool stuff was- transistors and switches and amplifiers and patch cords and transformers and diodes and cathode ray tubes and all sorts of wonders. Later Mark took an interest in photography. He photographed much of our senior Year Book. Mark was Charlie Brown to my Linus in our All-School Play You're A Good Man that same year. Five years later as a professional photagrapher he photographed my wedding. For free. Said it was a wedding present. I think that was the last time I saw him. After wearing a photographers badge for a few years, Mark served in the United States Army in
Then about five years ago a quick, vicious form of MS found him.
How do you thank a friend for giving you a photo like this of the mother of your kids on her wedding day? I'm still not sure.
John Menlove Edwards wrote about living life being tied up in one own’s string. Thank you, Mark, for untieing that ball for a few minutes last night.
Mark from my senior yearbook...
June 8 I went fishing this morning. For 10 minutes. Before work. In my back yard. I have a small canal running behind my house. Depending on the tide, the water there can be less than a foot deep. There are usually no fish in the canal over three inches long. Why do I do it?
It helps my blood pressure, brings contentment, takes me back to wonderful places and wonderful times. A fishpole in your hand is as magic as Harry Potter's wand...
May 30 By coincidence, on this Memorial Day weekend I am watching one of the better war movies, Saving Private Ryan, and reading Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Hemingway was injured covering the Spanish Civil War as a war correspondent and volunteered to be an ambulance driver in World War I. During the early days of World War Two, he outfitted his beloved fishing boat Pilar with bombs and machine guns and hunted German submarines.
In A Farewell to Arms here is what his protagonist Lt. Henry had to say about war:
“I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain.
We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago… there were many words you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity.”
I think Tom Hanks' main character in Private Ryan, Captain John Miller, a hero in every sense of the word, as well as the few ex-combat solders I know, would agree.
May 28 My son Robert had a run in with a teacher at school last week and after reading him the riot act, I thought about the teachers I had in high school, good and bad. I was an unremarkable student, but I had some remarkable teachers;
Robinson, English. Probably my biggest influences after family.
The guy who taught me there was life- lots of it- beyond our village limits.
Bean, Social Studies. Mr. Bean held a big party every Presidential Election night to celebrate our democracy. It was the civil equivalent to a Super Bowl Party. That immediately impressed me how special what we have here in
desire to teach civics and history. He cared deeply about our state of affairs and passed that passion on to me.
Durnford, Social Studies. Without a doubt the most caring, dedicated, professional teacher I ever met. He and Carl Pfieffer, a brilliant Science teacher, went to the school board with an idea to teach an integrated class. They called it the Science and Economics of Energy. What a great class. Back in the pre- Three Mile Island Seventies, we were in the midst of an oil crises, and nuclear power seemed the way to go. Like Bean’s classes, we discussed things, and Durnford and Pfieffer were truly interested in what the students thought, since we, they pointed out, were the “decision makers of tomorrow.” First time I’d ever heard that. I would love to sit down and talk with those guys today about what we talked about then.
Mr. Krizmanic- Same.
Ziegler- Science. Never had him. But he always walked around shaking his head and saying “so little time, so much to learn.” He was half my age now when I first heard him say it.
Dead, straight on, Mr. Z.
Van Dellan- History. The worst teacher I ever had. She had no business inside a school. The class room was, for her, a waiting room for the next break, the next paycheck, retirement and pension. She lectured from the black board, scratching notes with her left hand while erasing with her right. Any talk or transgression would be treated like the Crucifixion. She would stop and slowly put down her chalk, then walk over to her desk where the dreaded Pink Slips, symbol of failure and admonishment, were waiting. Great drama, really.
Getting one was more relief than punishment. I am no teacher, but it seems to me once you have made that the focal point of your class, you have lost it.
There is so much potential to make the world come alive to young minds in the Social Study disciplines. Personally, I believe that making any of them boring should carry with it criminal penalties. I would love to meet Van Dellan today so I could give her her own giant Pink Slip.
Tupesis, Math. God I gave that guy a hard time. I was so full of myself, spouting the old
“ when will we ever use this stuff?!” rubbish. He knew better, and he only sent me to the office once, though I deserved more. He cared. A lot.
Blum- Phys Ed. I loved Joe Blum, but I am not sure why. He opened every class with a military style close-order drill. God we hated him for that. Thought he wanted to be Tojo or something. He negated the only good play I ever made in scholastic athletics, calling back a 60 yard touchdown I had caught in a big junior high school game for offensive pass interference. I didn't even know what that was at the time. Boy did I learn that one quick.
One time while running relays, I forgot I wasn't the anchor and ran again when I found myself back at the front of the line. Blum belched STOP!!!!!!!
Then he threw his clip board at me.
He was right both times; what a dumb shit. I sulked back to the line. Both times.
I was never gifted physically, but Mr. Blum knew I wanted to do good- he knew I was competitive, and he knew I tried. Later, after hearing me perform in the school talent show, he passed me after gym class near the showers. “ I thought you were terrific” he said. “Keep going.”
Man, I felt a hundred feet tall.
I am fascinated by teachers; their motivations and their commitment to do the most important job in the world. I would make a special trip back to Banana Grove, as Robbie called it, if I could just visit with those special men and women again.
May 27 Just spent this morning catching up on what's happening in the Gulf with the oil spill.
Man am I pissed.
To think of all that death and destruction and mayhem coming out of a 6 inch hole... and why?
BP, enjoying a period of HUGE profits, tried to save a few bucks on drilling mud.
11 dead, 17 injured, wildlife and jobs in extreme jeoprody, all because the U.S. Government let oil companies do this. The Minerals Management Service is a joke; nothing but a bunch of well paid bureaucrats sitting on their asses waiting for a real high paying job offer from the oil industry. I'm telling you, it's ugly.
Twenty years ago when Layna and I first moved to the Keys we, along with thousands of others, petitioned the Governor and Senator Dante Fascell for a drilling ban around Florida. What did we get? The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; more bureaucrats telling us where we can fish and dive. OK, maybe helpful.
But then Dick Cheney, while Vice President, cuts a special closed door "hands off" deal with the CEOs of the Oil majors, and then, right before this spill, President Obama proposes to open up Florida waters to the Oil leasees again. It hopefully won't happen now.
This better be a wake up call to the anti regulation crowd and the US Department of the Interior.
May 14 Listening to Crosby & Nash's record Wind on the Water this morning...
"...got the soul of a rag picker, got the mind of a slug-
and I keep sweeping problems under my rug..."
Cros, I couldn't have said it better myself. Have we met?
May 8 Pardon me, for I have sinned.
I sinned twice: 1) I have been away for a while and 2) I am stupid. One caused the other. I have been away because my computer was down.
My Computer was down because I am stupid- Stupid Stupid Stupid. Here's what happened:
About a month ago I received an email. The email was from DHL shipping, sayng they could
not deliver a package. I was expecting something so I opened the attachment. Stupid Stupid Stupid. Only too late did it occur to me there was no logo or other identifying item in the email. And the tracking number was only seven characters. Stupid, stupid stupid.
Too late; the attachment was already open.
Within 10 minutes my computer went beserk, with pop-up-after pop- up telling me I had been infected and "just push this little button to make everything OK. I did, paid $29.95, and everything went away. for a week. Long story short, there are a lot of people off-shore making a ton of money on this shit. Not only does the santi malware software they sell you not work, it plants other worms to blow up later and also steals all bank passwords, credit card #s etc.
By last friday my computer was so infected my computer tech told me it would take 6-7 hour at 60 bucks an hour to completely clean my registry, etc.
So I reformatted instead. After contacting my bank, missing two days of work (I do CS work at home off my computer), spending eight hours bringing eveything back ( I back up EVERYTHING ) I am now back.
Lesson: Best Practices:
1. Back up Everything Important.
2. Do Not open attachments- even those that look legitimate on first look if they are
not regular correspondents. Walk away and think. ( Logo and TRK #, remember?)
3. Do not trust anything you see pop up on your computer at first look. The crooks
use logos and product names that look like the real thing. ( Microsoft, Windows, )
double check every pop up and every product. Google software before you buy it.
That's how I foud out about XP Defender Pro- my nemisis.
4. Use your Window Restore tool (Start, programs, accessories, tools, restore)-
Create restore points often.
I filed a complaint with the Florida Attorney General and the FBI's cyber unit, but of course it was a waste of time. These guys aren't in the States. Duh...
I know most of you are smarter than I am, but I got lazy. Don't get lazy.
This episode is the best argument for gun control ever. 'Cause if I had the anachroids, counting their money in the Caymen Islands or Majorca or where-ever, that did this to me in front of me right now...
May 2 Spending Sunday morning over coffee reading about the BP oil spill, then switching to Rolling Stone's blistering expose on the Goldman Sachs debacle, all while watching Goldman's CEO Lloyd Blankfein on Charley Rose making a most believable, eloquent (read bullshit?) case for his firm:
Rolling Stone: The notion that the bank (Goldman) would go out and create big balls of crap that would be designed to fail seemed too nuts for even me (Rolling Stone's reporter).
Blankfein: "Yes, Charlie, I suppose it is cultural to some extent... " (responding to Rose's question whether cynical, cold-hearted crossing-the-line on bet hedging has become part of the system).
Rose, to his credit, never used the cliche "Too Big to Fail" with Blankfein, but something occurs to me:
Rolling Stone reminds readers that they predicted the SEC- Goldman suit a year ago in their article "The Bubble Machine" about real estate and the sub prime mortgage mess.
Everyone said they were crazy- displaying the same short-sided thinking shared by the Drill Baby Drill crowd.
Here's the Question:
What do Blow Out Valves have in common with General Motors, AIG, and Goldman Sachs?
From the Titanic to the Depression to Three Mile Island to 911 to the Housing Bubble to Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme to the present Oil disaster in the Gulf, we the people ALWAYS assume that something is too big, too strong, too smart, too remote, too sophisticated, too reliable, to failsafe to fail. Yet it inevitably does.
The next time you hear dire predictions, something you know could never ever happen, think again.
Truth trumps fiction every time.
April 20 It is 9:05am and I just heard (and felt) the Space Shuttle's sonic boom as it came through the sound barrier to the south west of my house, on schedule for a landing at Cape Canaveral. Awesome.
April 16 I got an email from Dan Storm yesterday. He attached a story about the meteor that flashed over Madison and most of the midwest earlier this week. Dan is a fellow star gazer. It got me thinking about "sleepers"- folks whose still waters run deep.
Storm and I shared a nice apartment on Madison's west side during college. We were going to school, but we were both working full time as well, so we could afford it. Dan was the best roommate you could imagine. I was- well you can imagine.
Dan's quiet, agreeable demeanor always masked a go-for-it spirit. No adventure was too remote, no mission was impossible.
Underneath all this was the soul of a philosopher- he just couldn't get it out.
Storm and I grew up in the same neighborhood. He was a jock. I was a dreamer. One time in little league, I was playing Catcher and Storm hit an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the ninth. He rounded third and came towards me. One run would win the game. I miraculously caught the ball from the cut off man and was sure I had him tagged. But instead of sliding, Storm slammed into me on a full gallop at home plate. The ball flew into the bleachers, I careened into the backstop.
They won. We lost.
I hated Storm. With a passion.
Later during our high school years I began to see him regularly sitting out on a nearby hill late at night, watching the stars. One evening I went out too. We became friends.
After coming home from the Air Force, Storm learned to fly (typical, always doing things backwards). One night he called and wanted to know if I wanted to go flying. He needed to do some touch-and-goes to keep his license current. What a glorious night! A full moon, Madison and the Capitol twinkling below, and the sky was ours. Dan did three flawless landings, each time zooming off again into the heavens.
When I got married, Storm was my Best Man. We had the reception at the homestead in Monona; a hundred chairs were rented as well as a large tent. Storm had three women hanging on him the whole time. Poor guy- he didn't know which way to turn. It was like watching a tennis match. The night turned into a late one, no one feeling any pain.
All the chairs had to be returned to our church for the early Sunday service, so
I showed up at the folks' at 6:30am ready to start folding chairs and guess who was there, still in his tuxedo, lying on the patio, ready to help? That's right- Dan Storm.
Dan's a quiet guy. He won't tell you, but now you've got all you need to know about Dan Storm.
April 14 Sorry- I've been gone for a while.
Last Sunday, a beautiful warm spring day my muisical appetite was rumbing so I went down town for some nourishment.
The tourist district of Old Towne St. Augustine has a vibrant music scene, which is one of the things I love about this town.
Walk the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Towne, and you can't help but get caught up in the great acoustic music wafting out of the old stone buildings and streetside cafes. Turn down Anastasia Street, however, and the performances get right in your face...
Street musicians sit or stand with open guitar cases, upside-down hats or other means of collecting the rent and bang out some of the sweetest music you'll ever hear. No stage lights, no microphones, no P.A. Just the magnificent acoustics of this particular thoroughfare- One gentleman sat belting out Robert Plant and Steve Perry tunes like it was effortless. The street carried his clear voice for blocks while others played flamenco guitar or solo sax. A great deal of it was better than what I heard coming out of the bars- or my car radio for that matter.
I asked the fellow on the corner for an original. He answered with a haunting melody and relevant lyric.
So to paraphrase the great John Prine, next time you're walking down the road and you spot some enlightening act...
Don't just pass by as if you didn't care. Say Hello in there...
This guy could sing... Just another work day... Ya gotta have a novelty act...
April 5 Happy Easter!
My idea of an Easter Sunrise Service
March 28 I want to tell you all a true story. I want to tell you this story because it is a Sunday morning before daylight and I am troubled because of an email I returned to a good friend recently. This is a friend I love and respect and have known for most of my life.
For the first time in this life, I felt I had to stand up for what I felt was right, no matter who I might upset; that as we sometimes do in the company of friends with differing views, I could no longer laugh and look the other way. I am not speaking now of mere political disagreement- we all have those and can laugh about them and agree to disagree. But because of the story I am about to tell you, and other experiences like it, this email somehow struck me as different- as over the line; I felt compelled to say No thank you to my good friend's message.
Here is my story:
Last year when we were in Rome, as Cindy and I were stumbling along trying to find the Vatican, a young man, as often happens, took up a conversation with Cindy as we sat on a street corner, me with a map in my face. As usual, Cindy asked the man how to get to where we were going and he offered to show us the way. I went along reluctantly, preferring to "figure it out myself- dammit."
Cindy and the man, dark skinned, handsome and articulate with an intonation I could not place, talked on and on, laughing and pointing, me following behind.
Finally we turned a corner to our left and lo and behold, there stood Vatican Square, Michelangelo's Pieta and the Cistine Chapel beckoning in the background. Cindy and I thanked the gentleman, who laughed and said "it is ironic that I should show Americans to the Vatican. It is not easy being a Muslim in this town. We are misunderstood and hated here, and everyone thinks we are terrorists."
We shook hands and I watched him walk away, alone. I wanted to buy him a beer or a glass of wine, but we had much to do that day.
The following week in Istanbul, Cindy and I would visit the famous Blue Mosque. After removing our shoes, Cindy covered her legs, cleavage and head with a scarve, which, if you know Cindy, amused me no end. What an amazingly peaceful place. These were open, welcoming people, the locals, and I was proud to be among them. I made a pledge to myself then and there that the next time I witnessed bigotry or intolerance in any form, I would not turn away, even if it was passed along, quite innocently, I might add, by a good friend.
March 26 I celebrated a warm spring day by driving a short ways down A1A to Matanzas National Monument.
The site of a fortification built in 1565 by the Spanish to protect the southern flank of St. Augustine, America's first city, Fort Matanzas sits in the middle of the Matanzas River just up stream from the Atlantic's Matanzas Inlet. The word Matanzas is spanish for The Massacres and was so named for the battle and subsequent execution of French Huguenots there in 1564. Fort Matanzas is made of the same Coquina rock that protects the much larger Castillo de San Marcos up town.
Fort Matanzas protects the town from south. This canon could punch holes in The inlet as seen thru gun ports by
brittish and french ships all the Spanish solders in this lonley outpost.
way to Matanzas Inlet- 2 miles! Photos courtesy of Debi Goehring