Monthly Archives: November 2011

My friend Steve…

I can count on two hands the friends who hear from me in writing on a regular basis.  Steve is one of them.  (On a side note, that list needs to grow.)

We have played countless rounds of golf together – he routinely slams the door on me and/or any other hapless duffer(s) who happen to get paired with him – and he is the best iron player I’ve ever seen.  Maddeningly good.  You can blow by him off the tee, but when you ask him what he had on a hole, he’s likely to say ‘3’ while the rest of us hacks pencil in a bogie – or worse.

But golf isn’t the only thing that has gone down in the last few decades.  Our paths have somewhat mirrored each other – divorce, family issues, jobs (he’s really successful; maddeningly so), grown kids, etc.  So we’ve had things to talk about.  It’s been more than five years since I pulled up roots and bolted from Des Moines.  Steve is one of the people I stay in touch with.  Certainly we acquire good friends at any stage of life, but while many of my early chums (in my 20’s and 30’s) are no longer on the radar, Steve and others are constant blips on the screen.

My letters really play catch-up; how things are here in North Carolina, the state of personal affairs, how his not-so-little cottage business is flourishing, and, of course, how my woe-is-me golf game cannot compete with his.  It’s just something else I have to live with.  Maddeningly so.


October 24, 2011

Steve: Well, thanks for your words about mom.  She just ran out of physical and emotional gas.  The void is beginning to show itself.  Someone said when your parents are gone, you become an orphan, even at our advanced age (or at least mine).  You’re onto something about the onset of our own mortality.  It’s creeping up on us at warp speed.  Hard to think that we have roughly one-fourth of our years left to go.  That’s what I was left with after her passing.  You’re right about keeping your eye on what’s important in terms of loved ones.  Keep me posted about your mother.  It’s just awfully hard, but at 89 she had decades of good years.  And I’m sorry about your brother.  That has to take a large toll on you.  Lucky you have Jane as that steadfast partner.  We should all be so lucky.  I doubt that our kids view such events in the context of us passing by the wayside.  My guess is that they avoid such thinking – much like we did too.  I think having a parent pass at an advanced age is way different than losing them suddenly when they were much more vibrant.

At least your girls are doing fine.  Kate in San Diego.  It’s just hard to imagine they end up so far away.  And Margaret is a senior?  That I don’t get.  Seems she was just at Valley last year.  If she goes into medicine, steer her towards the mental side of patient care.  That’s what guys like me need.  My two are doing okay.  Reid still is set in Chicago (although there is all too little news coming from him).  Ellen is becoming a Minnesotan.  That your girls are succeeding ought to offset some of the other news.

What the hell is the deal with the arm?  Don’t necessarily buy into the idea your wing won’t be as it was.  With your simple swing mechanics it shouldn’t be that big a deal.  At least this is happening at the right time of the season and you’ll have adequate time to rehab.  Perhaps there is a silver lining in that Jane will recognize your circumstance and step up to haul out the trash or rake the yard.  And how the heck did Oleson rupture his Achilles?  Now that’s a game changer in terms of walking and such.  Long rehab with so-so results.  More evidence of what was discussed in paragraph one.  I will send him a note right away.  I am with you on the deterioration of our games.  Our best golf years are behind us.  I am sick and tired of being two over after 12 or 13 only to card a sniveling 85 (which was the case yesterday).  The mental part is just killing me.  Shanks are the only thing I can count on.  None of the several facets (driving, long-mid irons, short game, putting) ever manage to surface on the same day.  I’d accept two of the four.  But I just can’t hold things together.  Bogies and doubles from the fairway have become a common occurrence.  My swing is better but my 8.0 is in jeopardy of climbing ever higher.

The writing is on the wall at work.  We’re yet again consolidating divisions and my smaller unit was just gulped down by a bigger one.  “Duplicity of services” is code for others will do the job I’m doing now.  I’m inured to it.  Let it happen.  I can start to collect Social Security in a few months and whatever meager pension is to be received from Allen Diversified Industries.  Just the other day I logged on to the real estate pages at Pinehurst.  If my place could sell…  You know where that dream is headed.  You’d have a place to stay.


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Thankful? Let me count the ways…

I'm thankful for golf too, even though my golf group mocked my concession speech after my team got whipped last Saturday (after I had boldly predicted victory). It was all in good fun.

Tomorrow I jet, U.S. Airways willing, to Minneapolis-St. Paul to break bread and sup with Ellen, Reid, Tim and last but not least, Henry.

A retrospective of 2011 and all that has gone in it would not be complete without a word of thanks at Ellen’s Thursday table, sure to have her usual flair while the boys dig in.  Events notwithstanding, there is plenty to be thankful for; Ellen and Tim’s good news, Reid getting on in Chicago, health, friends here and elsewhere, and good times closer to home in Charlotte.

Maybe I’m just getting older but times like this week take on increased importance.  Seeing the kids at their grandmother’s funeral doesn’t count; it’s when we get together to laugh, be spontaneous (relatively so) and bask in what’s going on in their lives is what matters most.  Happy Thanksgiving to all.


November 14, 2011

Ellen/Reid: Every once in a while I’m reminded why I like my neighborhood so much.  Not that it has fancy homes or any of that.  It’s the quiet that is so lovely.  I went over to the mailbox to retrieve a week’s worth of mail, and the air was very still, and you could hear someone practicing the flute in one of the nearby townhomes.  I couldn’t tell which unit, but for some reason it struck me as very nice in a neighborhood that is sandwiched between the hustle and bustle of big streets and heavy traffic.  Whoever was doing the playing was pretty good.  I stood there for a moment to listen to it.  It was just very pleasant.

Well, the Three Daves (Hemminger and Dahlquist) and Bob (Furstenau) have come and gone.  We really had a great time.  We went over toward Pinehurst on Friday and played golf at a course near there, and then we played Pinehurst #2 on Saturday.  That’s the famous course that hosts the U.S. Open.  The morning started cold, but not overly so, then it warmed very quickly into a beautiful, windless day under a Carolina blue sky.  Not that we brought the course to its knees, but we had a great walk with caddies doing the heavy lifting.  That was fun.  We all hit some memorable shots.  It is an incredible course that’s been around for more than 100 years.  The greens are the toughest I’ve ever played.  The surfaces are crowned so the ball rolls off into bunkers or waste areas.  As you could guess, our accuracy was lacking so we spent a lot of time chipping and putting off the surface.  Reid, I’d love for you to get your game in shape so we could trundle over there.

I suppose the real joy was simply seeing those guys again.  Golf is kind of secondary and is basically the facilitator of the long weekend.  Really, they are a tangible tie to what once was up there.  A couple of nights after good dinners we sat out on the front stoop drinking wine, puffing on the occasional cigar that Dave. D. brought to town, and just shooting the breeze and BS.  We wrapped it up Saturday night at 1 a.m. so I hope the neighbors didn’t mind too much.  It’s not like I’m out there whooping it up like that every weekend.  It was good to hear what they’re each up to, and they’ve all been quite successful.  We avowed to do the same thing again next year, and it’s Bob’s job to figure out when and where.  They all met Felicia and she passed inspection with flying colors.  In some ways I wonder what it would be like to live back in Iowa where I could be around all these old buddies, but with each passing month, my stake is driven a little deeper into the Piedmont.  It’s not the nice weather, it’s just that I am now here for whatever that is worth.  It’s certainly not the politics.  It’s just that I am now here.  I miss my friends, but as someone said, that’s why they make airplanes.  No doubt I’ll figure out a way to get back up that way in the spring.

I won’t grind you guys down with another letter next week since we’ll gather in Minnesota.  I can’t wait to be there and see you guys and cook.  Tell Henry I’ll bring my walking shoes, mittens and a stocking cap.

Went to the gym tonight before we walked around the block.  There are wall to wall mirrors next to the elliptical machine, and my threat is to cover the mirrors with paper so as not to see what I don’t want to see if you catch my drift.  Ugh.  There are a lot of spare pounds to drop between now and whenever.  At least I don’t bake Christmas cookies like your grandmother did.  That would really slap on the pounds.  Each cookie would be worth 10 minutes on the machine.

Okay, I’m out of here.  Chicken and potatoes are baking in the oven and there’s laundry to be done from the boy’s weekend.  Geez, in about a week we’ll all be together.  I can’t wait.


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A trip for old, but not aging, friends…

The boys on the 18th hole at Pinehurst #2. That's D3 (yours truly), D1 (Dave Hemminger), flag bearer Bob Furstenau, and D2 (Dave Dahlquist). A special course with special friends.

The sometime recipients of my sporadic letters, Iowans all, convened in North Carolina last week for a weekend of boys golf.  Three Daves and a Bob.  If you’re Bob it was easy to get our attention because when he derisively yelled ‘Hey, nice shot Dave’ after our particularly un-noteworthy (and all too frequent) efforts, each of the three Daves collectively turned our heads.

We did it up right: Pinehurst #2 and a gem called Tobacco Road (probably as visually interesting a course as the golfer can ever walk) just up the road in Sanford.

But Pinehurst is special.  It is the complete golf experience.  It is the history and knowing all the greats have walked there before you (although they didn’t traipse to some of the out-of-the-way turf or sandy expanses our golf balls visited), plus the reputation, and the sheer golfiness of the place.  Not a tough walk by any means, especially when caddies Christian and Tom did the toting of our golf bags as they regaled us with local lore.  In the pro shop, Stonehouse golf prints hang proudly on the walls and still sell in great quantities according to the shop manager, and I need to report that happy news to Pat, my former partner in the business.  Our work – Pat’s work, really – has sold in the shop for more than a dozen years.

This was a trip among old (note: not aging) friends for which golf is a conduit to catch up on each other’s worlds on what is now an annual basis.  Last fall it was golf and a boat trip in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho.  Who knows where we will land next fall.  That’s up to Bob, not D1-D2 or D3 (as we Daves called ourselves), as the newly-elected organizer.  Wine and cigars and stories (both true and not-so-true) will figure into the picture.  All of which will give me something to write to them about, and as you know, it’s far easier to give someone the needle in print.


November 8, 2011

Ellen/Reid: It doesn’t do much good to watch the calendar because Thanksgiving isn’t going to get here any earlier.  I can’t wait to see you two bumpkins (plus Tim and Henry, of course).  Reid, I’ll probably lounge around the airport until you arrive so we can cab it to Ellen’s.  The daily weather forecast shows a downward trend in temperatures for the Twin Cities but I’ll be ready for whatever comes our way.  Henry better be ready to walk.

We have yet to have our official first frost, but Felicia and I saw some dormant kudzu on our way back from Oak Island this weekend.  It means some of the lower-lying areas of the Carolinas have already see colder temps, but that hasn’t hit Charlotte as of yet.  I hope it stays away at least through this weekend so we don’t have any frost delays when us guys head over to Pinehurst to play.  They arrive late Thursday morning and we’re trying to line up a good spot where they can have a nice meal, some wine, and all the while overlook the Uptown area.  I’m chomping at the bit to play Pinehurst #2 although there are persistent worries that my game won’t make the trip with me.

The ocean was nice.  Kind of cold and very windy, but sunny and bright.  Almost deserted, which is what you’d expect of a spot that lives for summer visitors.  We stayed at some fleabag motel that was right on the beach facing the water.  But we had some of the best tuna I’ve ever had at a little spot in Southport called Fishy Fishy.  It was just divine.  We trundled up to Wilmington for part of a day then just sort of motored around the rest of the area when we weren’t walking the beach.  I saw a golf course and tried to temp her into playing 9 holes but for the life of us couldn’t find the clubhouse, so we returned to cruising.  It was a good weekend for relaxing, given all that has happened this year.  We needed the break from reality.  Now it’s back to the real world.

Ellen, I would plow ahead with the bath work.  Look at it as a creature comfort not so much as an investment, although it will increase the value of your house vis a vis the surrounding bungalows.  The single bath will continue to squeeze you, and you can always work on the upstairs to create a bedroom or master suite.  On the other hand my guess is that not unlike when you and Reid were peanuts on Polk Blvd., we simply had to look for a larger place.  That will probably occur to you, and already you have increased the value and desirability of your place with the wonderful new kitchen.  A huge selling point.  Price-wise, it’s perhaps not the best time to sell but it’s a reasonable time to buy.  It really is onward and upward.   That’s how families are.

So what I will think about is Thanksgiving, and being around you two guys (plus the aforementioned Tim and Henry).  It’ll be here before you know it, and I won’t have to worry about staring at that confounded calendar waiting for the day to come.

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Are they really in their mid to upper 20s?…

Ellen calls Henry and Tim "my boys." A couple of good guys.

I am rarely on top of my game in anything; golf, weight loss, disciplined diet, stock picks, reading, etc.  To that abbreviated list you can add the all-too-late realization that the kids have quickly passed me by.

Reid to IndiaEllen with her own exciting news.  Lives in Chicago and St. Paul (MN).  A marriage, a girl friend, careers, a dog plus whatever else marks their ascendency into adulthood.  Are they really in their mid to upper 20s?

Generations of parents before us warned that parenting never stops.  We’re just the latest to acknowledge as much.  Closer to the truth might be that their mother and I are now relegated to more of advisory roles than simply being rule-the-roost parents.  They ask, we advise.  We are more peers than parents/children.  Perhaps we should be satisfied with where they are and how they got there and leave it at that.  It does give me pause about the habitual persistence in my weekly writing.  Do they really need to read stuff they already may know about given all they’ve got going on?


November 1, 2011

Ellen/Reid: Monday just totally got away from me; sat down at the work PC about 6:30 a.m. and called it a day about 5:45 (with a couple of breaks tossed in).  So this is created Tuesday morning after my first round of work duties is finished.

Again, no trick or treaters at the door last night.  That is the fifth straight year where not a single piece of candy was dispersed.  I suppose it would help if I turned on the porch light.  Then again, there are no kids in my neighborhood and the unit is tucked deep in the back of the development.  Besides, I’d eat most of the candy before the kids would ever get here.  I’d give them cheap suckers that no one wants.  Betsy sent me a photo of their bear dressed as Frankenstein, and she said they had a horde of kids.  If she had a $1 for every photo of kids posing with the bear, she’d be rich.  Ellen, it sounded great to hear your little neighbors show you their costumes.  In your neighborhood, you’d be flooded with kiddos, too.

Reid, I think you should head to India.  Ellen said as much last night, too.  You know, there will be times in life when you won’t be able to do such travel, and might as well get it done while you’re still young, footloose and fancy free and can afford it.  $2,000 seems like a pretty reasonable deal.  Ever since “Slumdog Millionaire” came out, that has been one of the spots that would have some appeal.  It just looks different, and interesting.  The bank subs out (“off-shoring” it’s called) a lot of work over there, and they seem very nice, smart, and accommodating.  So yes, pack your bags and get over there.  The dress code would be pretty laid back, and make sure you take clothes that you can rinse, dry and wear.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to get your passport and shots updated.  That sounds like an inordinate amount of fun.

Ellen, your little windfall should help in your new circumstances.  That would pay for a second bath and some other remodeling.  All you’d do is add to the value of your house beyond what you already added with the spiffy new kitchen.  So yes, start those upgrades.  Unfortunately, it won’t happen before my arrival for T-Day but that’s okay.  There’s always the next time, say, in May of 2012.  I think it’s really what your grandparents intended for you (and you, too, Reid) and that is to do some remodeling and start some sort of nest egg or college fund.  It’s not a gigantic cushion, but it is a good use of the assets and comes at precisely the right time for you.  That’s cool.  Hard to believe it’s already been a shade over one month.  That’ll take some getting used to but memories would seem to be the best part.  Your uncle has done a nice job of keeping things in place and on track.

More moving and shaking at work.  Folks shifted from one division to another.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  I don’t know, it’s just the corporate world in action.  It keeps everyone on their toes, or more precisely, their tippy tip toes.  This debit card thing weighs on us, although it’s not as dire as a lot of folks would have it.  I wouldn’t know what to do without bill pay and other bells and whistles like that.  I don’t mean to come off sounding like a shill but there are plenty of good things we do.  It’ll cost us some customers although what the final number is is anyone’s guess.

Next week, Bob Furstenau, Dave Dahlquist and Dave Hemminger are here.  We head over toward Pinehurst on the 10th.  I can’t wait.  Dave H. drove through Charlotte last week as he and Jane took Will and Ellen on a tour of colleges in North and South Carolina and TennesseeFurman and Elon were on the list.  They were moving so fast they couldn’t stop by, which is fine.  I’m glad your college tour days have come and gone.  Remember 114F at KU, Ellen?

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“What’s on your radar screen…”

Last night I inadvertently left off the porch light and dimmed the household lights about the time kids would be expected to tell old jokes in a play for candy. My friend Betsy, however, takes a different approach. That's because Betsy has a bear outside her front door. This is notable because Betsy dresses the 7 foot bear of pine to fit the seasons; i.e. bear as Uncle Sam on the 4th of July, bear as pilgrim on Thanksgiving. So last night, it was bear as Frankenstein. The bear (lugged all the way to Charlotte from Ruidoso, New Mexico by Betsy and her husband Bob) is a literal kid magnet. People flock to see the bear, strangers stop to take photos, people stop by to ask what costume is next. Even the Charlotte Observer has reported on this icon in wood.

I’m not very good at chiding.

Chiding seems closely linked to nagging, hounding and badgering.   None of those approaches – and trust me, they have been tried – have historically worked well with either of the kids.  Remind, yes, chide, no.  It is particularly unsuccessful now that they’re older and have carved out a high degree of independence for themselves.  Somehow I’ve got to do a better job of weaving strong-arm tactics under the larger umbrella of ‘fatherly advice.’  But the historical record on that isn’t so hot, either.

Reid is the principal culprit.    He’s been unresponsive to a few family issues (his sister has borne the yoke of chiding him for me on such matters).He’s near absent when it comes to cold-calling or texting his old man (I did get a text out of the blue yesterday) and – amazingly – the first e-mail I’ve received from him in months arrived this morning (a music download about a group called The Black Keys).  So maybe that’s his way of breaking the ice.  Others have dismissed his negligence as a guy thing.  That’s plausible.

Conversely, if he bugged me all the time I’d worry about that, too.   He’s never been one to tightly grip the apron strings.  Perhaps I should be satisfied with what I get from him, and he should be satisfied with what he gets from me.  Communication detente.


October 24, 2011

Ellen/Reid: If it sinful to already be thinking of what will be served at the Thanksgiving meal then I have sinned.  A roast turkey, potatoes, stuffing, et al, all of it sounds good.  Or, it could be a sign that in general I think of food altogether too much and my waistline is showing the explosive results.  I have only Dairy Queen and roast chicken with potatoes to blame for it.  I need to join the YMCA and spend all my waking hours there.

Reid, what have you been up to?  I need to hear a little more about what’s on your radar screen these days.  People ask how you’re doing and it’s hard to give them an accurate answer.  But I know that things are okay and perhaps that’s all the answer they need to know.  If you’ll have me, I’ll get to Chicago very soon so we can traipse around the city.  I don’t want to wait until Thanksgiving to see your digs and where you work.  I have been grossly remiss for not getting up there a lot, lot sooner.

Thanks for the photos of California, Ellen.  Those few days of R&R were much well deserved, and it was good for your mother to be with you right now at this wonderful time.  That whole junket had to be a gas.  Can’t wait to hear the details.

I need both of you (and me, too) to call your uncle Ralph no later than Friday about estate issues.  308-382-2128. If he is not available, ask for Jamie.  This is incredibly important to him and to you.  He wants to get a lot of this wrapped up as soon as possible and he will need a little financial paperwork from the two of you; i.e. checking account routing codes so a portion of the estate can be wired to your accounts.  He wants to do this on Friday at the latest.  He leaned on me about this before he and Gayle left for Paris.  I hope they’ve had a good time.  You uncle said he was going to try to blend in with the locals but fat chance of that happening.  Sacra bleu!  The only French he needed to know was ‘how much does this cost?’

It looks as if North Carolina will be an even redder state than it already is after the elections.  I think the good people down here are getting hoodwinked by the fear-and-doom advocates on the far right side of the GOP.  They worry only about fringe issues that won’t lead to job creation or a better environment.  I’m all for morality but drumming up make-believe issues that are tied to someone else’s sense of morality don’t make a lot of sense.  I wish I’d clipped some of the recent editorial cartoons because they nailed it big time.  Pandering to fear just doesn’t work – except on election day.  On the national front, I’m worried about Perry’s insipid drive to run a pipeline filled with oily sludge down the center of the Plains states from Canada to Texas (of course – to Texas, his state).  One rupture and it seeps through the Sand Hills of Nebraska and into the Ogallala aquifer, the main source of fresh water for many states.  We have all this abundant sunshine and water.  Why don’t we harness those resources?  The big GOP penchant is to loosen environmental guidelines all over the country.  A bunch of crazed idiots in my book.  It’s just depressing to listen to those morons.  One in six in the U.S. lives in poverty and another nearly 10% are out of meaningful work and those dolts stay in la-la land.  Where have all the middle-of-the-road, pragmatic candidates gone?

We’re having a beautiful Indian summer right now.  Our leaves locally are turning and the skies are sunny Carolina blue.  Just got the house cleaned and prepped for the arrival of Bob Furstenau, Dave Hemminger and Dave Dalquist from Des Moines.  That will be a fine time all the way around.

I’m out of steam for today.  Doing well, but out of steam.  I’ll be in touch in short order.

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