Monthly Archives: February 2012

Dad to daughter…


With Reid overseas and incommunicado for another week or so and his sister at home as her pregnancy enters its later stages, this was the first time in a few years that a weekly letter was addressed to only one of the kids. The letter went to Ellen.

It was a hodgepodge of small items, nothing earthshaking, nothing really new.  Ellen has her hands full these days with work and expectant motherhood.  So this week it was just a dad staying in touch.

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The letter to Ellen:

February 21, 2012

Ellen: Since Reid is on his little sojourn for the next couple of weeks we’ll keep him off the salutation line until he returns.  It was fun to see his odd little video in the cab last night on YouTube.  I wish he would’ve narrated it a little bit.  I don’t fully comprehend how he posted that there but I hope he keeps that up.  He mentioned something just after he cleared security last Friday night that he would also post to Google Plus but I don’t get that either.  It would be fun to follow his exploits while over there.  It’s strictly coincidental but last Friday night Bob Furstenau was on his way to see Tori in Ghana.  He texted me a few times on Saturday and he seems to be having fun, too.

I wonder what Reid’s doing over there, what he’s eating, what he’s seeing and how he feels about all of it.  It has to be quite an experience and will really broaden his horizons.  Liz would be a good sidekick for at least a week, and then he’s on his own.  It would be interesting to get out in the Indian countryside to see how the real world lives.  We can only hope he takes lots of photos.  For some reason I thought he was up in Mumbai but he’s not even close.  He’s more toward the interior and much further south.  He could always take train, one would suppose, to get up there.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Here’s the check for the rocking chair.  Mamas and babies gotta have a good rocking chair.  It should arrive before the arrival, one would think.  Geez, you’re not that far away.  About 9 weeks by my reckoning if she pops out on time and not too early.  The weather up North has really been pretty gentle and that has to make this a little easier.  There was an article in the paper just this weekend that the U.S. growth rate has slowed to its lowest point since the Great Depression.  You guys are bucking the trend.  I had to go to the hospital Friday for a brief test, but saw several mothers with new ones sitting in wheelchairs waiting for their hubbies to pick them up.  People have babies, pure and simple.

Dave Hemminger and I were over in the Pinehurst area this weekend for golf, and weather wise, it was the most miserable experience in golf I’ve ever had by a long, long shot.  Sunday it was in the upper 30s, hard wind, and rain.  It was just the sort of raw that slices all the way through you.  We persevered but honestly, I wore every stitch of clothing I had with me, and would’ve bundled up more if I had more apparel.  It was tortuous to say the least.  The clubhouse had a fireplace surrounded by sofas and we took a looonnnggg time at the turn to decide if we were going to go back out.  Heartened by a couple of cups of decaf, out we went but it just got colder as the afternoon went along.  I was never so glad to be done with a round of golf in my life.  We played Monday, too, in bright sunshine but my game was still in the freezer.  Sometimes I just don’t enjoy golf very much.  But it was good to see Dave.  We had a great time, the golf aside.  He’s on his way down to Florida today to talk with contractors about installing a new pool at their second home.  Then he comes back up in a couple of weeks to take Will to Elon for a visit.  If memory serves me, didn’t Elon register briefly with you when you were searching for schools?

Mike Hill sent me a belated birthday note yesterday and added that he was headed to London last night to edit his next film for Ron Howard.  I’m not even sure what it’s about.  They’re supposed to do a series based on Stephen King novels.  As he pulled my chain about my birthday, I reminded him he’s still got a year on me and that it could come back at some point to bite him hard.  I don’t know how much longer he’ll go on editing films but I’m sure he’s looking at the finish line.

Okay, gotta run.  Duty calls.  I am in agreement with your ‘managed visits’ process once she arrives.  I’ll defer to your wishes and judgment about when you want me up to see my new granddaughter.

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Four days in Santa Fe…


Atop the Atalaya Trail at 9,100 feet above Santa Fe. An elevation gain of nearly 2,000 feet. We slogged up snow the last 1,500. We learned the utility value of ‘Yaks’ too late in our trek to be of any help.

Reid is in India this week and next, traipsing in and around Bangalore.  Why he picked that spot is beyond me but that’s where he is for the duration of his odyssey.   If a kid is going to pull up stakes and travel, why not now when he has no life commitments beyond his job and rent and has a little change jingling in his pockets?  Everybody has a little bit of wanderlust and adventure in them.  He may have exceeded his supply.  By my count, he’s been to Mexico, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and maybe other nations I don’t know about.   Norway?

By comparison his old man had to settle for four days in Santa Fe.  But it was far from a booby prize.  As a getaway locale its pretty darn good if you like the Southwestern motif of food, culture, pervasive adobe structures and high-country desert.  I’ve been there more than several times and wonder if I blunt my own sense of wanderlust by not expanding my travel horizons with return trips to Bend, OR or Boise, ID or San Diego or sunnier, warmer spots.  I’m kind of Santa Fe’d-out for maybe the next half-decade or so.  You could do worse, however.

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Here’s what the kids received last week:

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February 13, 2012

Ellen/Reid: Reid, I hope this gets to you before you journey East (or do you go West to get to India?) and it has to be an enormous relief to have your visa in hand.  What a deal that would’ve been to go all that way only to be turned down at the customs office.  I cannot wait to hear about things and hope that you can get online as often as possible to send us your photos and your impression of things.  It is just wild that you are headed over there.  There was a book some time ago titled The Ugly American and it was about how in our arrogance we bullied some Southeast Asian banana republics into our way of thinking or some such thing.  You will be anything but.  What an experience.  Sure you don’t want to lug your old man along with you?

In lieu of your once-in-a-lifetime trek to India, Santa Fe had to do for us.  We had a great time.  The streets and byways come back to you after a little while, and we just had a low-key but fun four days.  Among the many places we dined and imbibed was Cowgirls (which if memory serves me, which it may not, was where we had BBQ there with you a few years ago), incredible wine at the 4 star Inn of the Anisasi, a couple of good visits to the La Fonda, Casa-something-or-other which was just a riot with a live flamenco dancer accompanied by an operatic singer.  It was really fun and the food was good, too.  I couldn’t tell you what we ate at El Farol but it was a wonderful meal.  That was the place a little bit south of the house you guys rented when you were there.   We stayed at a funky little B&B called the Inn on the Paseo.  Homey yet with good access to the Plaza.  We moseyed around the perimeter of the town square looking at Indian jewelry and the like and had a glass of wine now and again.  It’s a big art town and the cultural angle is kind of lost on me so 50% of the stores went unvisited.  It hadn’t changed a whole lot since the last couple of times I’d been there.

I suppose the other highlight besides gorging ourselves was a hike up the mountains to the east of Santa Fe.  Felicia found the alleged day hike online, and we literally went straight up nearly 1,800 feet on the Atalaya Trail.  The tourist info called it a ‘difficult’ climb but some other stuff I came across just this morning termed it strenuous.  It was accurate to say the least.  Whenever a trail sign offers two options, one being ‘Steepest’ and the other being ‘Easiest’, take the latter.  We opted for steepest, and while it was a challenge, we were in fine shape.  It wasn’t so much hiking as climbing.  We just weren’t mentally prepped for it.  Plus, we were on snow the entire last half and that made the going treacherous, but we did prevail and persevere, and after a few hours we made it to the top.    That’s where the cell phone photo came from.  It was unbelievable.  The few folks we did see sported a strap-on traction deal on their boots called ‘Yaks’ which were a poor man’s crampon.  Thus, we half-slid our way back down the mountain.  It was exhausting but well worth the ordeal.

We took the Turquoise Trail to Albuquerque and that was kind of a bust.  Of note was the town of Madrid, where the climatic street scenes from “Wild Hogs” were filmed.  So that was sort of fun.  We skirted Albuquerque in hopes of finding the desert but the shrubs and few cacti weren’t much different than what we saw around Santa Fe.  It ended up a waste of gasoline and precious time.

Ellen, let me know if you have questions about the bath thing.  Sounds arduous.  Tim’s demolition is really a huge part of it.  The other stuff should come together.  Just make sure you have your materials list in hand and the specific locations of where the shower, sinks, etc., are going to be.  Make sure the contractor gives you a daily report and a to-do list for the next day’s work.

Okay, guys, over and out.  Reid, do what you can to keep us filled in.  Can’t wait to hear all about it.

Love, Dad

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Far removed from travel…


Henry gets an early morning hug and goodbye from Ellen before she heads to her teaching job. Ellen and Tim are in the midst of a bathroom addition before the arrival of their little one.

We have returned from Santa Fe no worse for the wear.  Ellen and Reid will read all about it in the next couple of days as it is a substantial part of the letter to them to be mailed later today.  Here’s hoping the note arrives at Reid’s place before he hops a jet to India for a couple of weeks of international adventure.

I’m no travel writer by any stretch, but Santa Fe is a worthwhile place for a long weekend if you like turquoise and mountains, good food and good drink (all of which we consumed in quantity).  Felicia and I did the touristy things that out-of-staters are expected to do but we managed to push the envelope in a couple of other interesting ways related to the outdoor life.

Last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid, however, is far removed from travel.  It touched a lot of different bases closer to home.

Here is that letter.

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February 6, 2012

Ellen/Reid: By this time next week we’ll have been to Santa Fe and back.  Looking forward to it.  Why someone would opt to go to a winter destination in the winter is a failing on my part.  If we were skiers it would be one thing but we’re not.  It’ll be okay I guess.  There’s something to getting on the plane and into your seat and simply getting out of town that is good.  My camera is on the fritz so don’t expect too many photos.  Maybe a cell phone pic now and then.  Reid, we still need your itinerary.

You can’t believe all the GOP vitriol that is going on down here.  Honestly, and it can’t be stated any other way, they have become the party of hatred and intolerance.  I’m fine with job growth and green business and the like and might even be tempted to vote for a Republican now and again who even half way engaged in civil discourse, but holy smokes if you could read the paper down here (as for watching Fox Faux News, no) you’d see the tonal quality of the right wing is darn near nuclear.  I’m half intent on writing something to the Observer to the effect that 1) bin Laden is dead, 2) unemployment has fallen to 8+%, 3) we’re out of Iraq (a tragically goofy war to start with), 4) 64% of manufacturers report adding workers, 5) housing is beginning tepid upward movement and 6) foreign oil imports are down.  I just don’t get this utter hatred on the part of zealots.  How the Republicans have members among anyone in the middle class is just beyond me.  Maybe Newt is onto something with his idea of colonizing the moon and usurping it as the 51st state.  The problem is it won’t start soon enough.  If we could speed that up, we could ship those folks up there.  But that would be akin to that old joke about attorneys: what do you call 5,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?  A good start.

Felicia spotted a coyote behind the house yesterday while I was on my way to Caldwell.  I wish I could’ve seen it.  Maybe it dined on one of the several feral cats that prey on the birds that a bunch of the neighbors and I are trying to feed.  People are upset down here that coyotes are poaching their cats and little dogs.  Solution: keep your *&%(# cats and what passes for mini-dogs inside the house.  Coyotes eat what is available.  The blue birds are out back this morning scoping out the nesting box, and the chickadees are in an uproar about it.  My money is on the chickadees muscling the bigger blue birds out of the way (just like they did last year).

Number 62 occurs on Wednesday.  Just another day on the calendar, in my view.  Age is nothing more than an arbitrary number and will be so again this year.  Sure, the return image is skewed a little bit when I look in the mirror, but I will still flaunt it by golfing and riding the Harley and taking walks and fly fishing and just doing things.  Your uncle doesn’t seem overly upset about it although we have been prone to talking about when to take Social Security, etc.  There are a couple of bones I’ll toss toward age.  A little memory juice wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  The other thing I have to owe up to is getting a pair, or two, of full time glasses.  My vision is going to hell.  I just can’t seem to distinguish things as well as even a year or two ago.  Maybe that’s what stops me from seeing the handwriting on the wall.  That’s a joke, too.

I went to a book writer’s seminar last week and found it enlightening.  Enlightening as in I have no clue how to get started let alone finding a publisher or marketing the thing.  I have yet to come across a writer who doesn’t think their topic isn’t the best thing since sliced bread or bottled water.  One of the two speakers encouraged us to take a hard, dispassionate look at the market for our manuscripts.  If we can’t forthrightly admit that the potential pool of buyers isn’t oceanic (my term), then perhaps we should just self-publish a few copies for family and friends.  There’s something to that.  If you have thoughts on that, I’m all ears.

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Maybe there are not enough nuggets…


Seriously, there is renewed thought about another stab at a book manuscript related to the subject of this itinerant blog: letters.  This time I mean it.

Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard this all before.  The gulf between thinking and doing is enormous and oh-so very wide.  A bridge capable of spanning that gulf would be miles long.   A big chunk of me continues to believe to my depth that there is something there to be mined from the hundreds of single pages.  The tough part is knowing what nuggets to dig up that someone might find of interest.  Maybe there are not enough nuggets.

So until those points are answered or the light comes on, I’ll continue to trudge ahead until an elusive brainstorm occurs that would put me on a solid track.

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Here is last week’s letter to the kids:

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January 31, 2012

Ellen/Reid: I’m looking out my window this morning – while keeping an eye on my real work, of course – watching the birds dive bomb each other for eating rights at the window feeder.  At this very moment a great blue heron navigated its way through the stand of trees out back to land awkwardly in the little creek.  It must see fish I have never seen because believe me I’ve looked as I go down to retrieve trash off the banks and in the water.  My BB gun has only managed to irritate the marauding squirrels because they circle back for more food as soon as I retreat to the office.

A good review is keeping my job safe at least for a little while longer – or until my next bad week, whichever comes first – so that is a smidgeon of good news for the week.  I’m happy enough for that.  I like what I do.  I head to the doc’s later this week and hopefully the good news trend will continue.  That would be great heading into the weekend.

The idea of a book is gaining steam but it would be good to get your two sets of thoughts on it.  While we’re in the air to New Mexico I’ll trot out my leather binder and scribble away at notes.  It will be a wholesale revision to what you saw before, more anecdotal, although there would still be some common themes.  Not sure how to weave in any comments from you (or even if you want to do so) but there will be room set aside for you both.  In a backhanded way, Bob Furstenau is encouraging me to continue down the creative path, both with the book project and the blog (he has some suggestions for it which are sorely needed, and I’ve also joined a local group of blogging techies in the hopes of glomming onto some ideas from that crew).  We’ll see.

Stuck some passenger floorboards on the Softail this past weekend.  Should make it that much more comfortable for Felicia.  She just didn’t have enough foot positions on the pegs.  But I swear (and I did, profusely) that Harley provides, without question, the worst product instructions of all time of any industry.  NASA satellites could take clearer pictures from space than what is provided on the faux instruction sheets.  Gobbledygook would be an upgrade from whoever writes their stuff.  The instructions are just God-awful bad.  Plus the machining of some parts was just a tad off, and that means nearly having to force parts together.  What a nightmare.  And it’s not just this instance but virtually anything I’ve ever done with Harley.  I’m not that much of a total mechanical doofus but holy smokes, schematics for nuclear plants are easier to comprehend.

Folks who are contemplating going into the Bridger Wilderness in late July will meet this weekend to talk about the details.  Looks like the last full week of the month.  The thinking now is to make it a significantly hardier jaunt.  We would in essence do “The Loop.”  Reid, you and I did it back in ’06 and Tim and Tom went a big chunk of the way on their one day trip this past summer.  My guess is it’s about 25 miles all tolled.  Ellen, we’ll push it the first day to make at least the campsite where there was a steep drop to the river and we cooked on the rocks for two days.  That will be a good shakedown cruise.  Not that we would have gone the Loop last year, but we would’ve run smack into the territory where the grizzly sow and her cubs were seen.  No doubt we’ll talk about how to fend off bears – my guess is we’ll ship anti-bear pepper spray to the motel – and leave it at that.  My guess is we’ll have 6-8 people sign up.  Even if it’s just 3-4 of us that’s close enough.  Maybe I’ll still be around to take my granddaughter up there.  What a swan song that would be.

Okay, enough of this drivel.  Reid, get me your India plans and itinerary.  Hopefully your Visa is in hand by now.  Ellen, send pictures of the bathroom demolition and of your designer plans.  We put in a hand-held Grohe shower this past week.  It’s a nice upgrade to a shower that was already nice.

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