Monthly Archives: December 2015

The curmudgeon in me …

Of my nearly 10 years here, most Christmases have been on the quiet side. But as my circle of friends (mostly golfers and some Caldwell people) has grown, it’s given me other outlets for the holidays. So this year was a mix of friends offset by a slight curmudgeonly side. The former was much more prominent than the latter, and it’s good for my two to know their old man has seasonal options.

December 21, 2015

Ellen/Reid: The curmudgeon came out in me this season. For the first time, the tree stayed in the box. Just not much of the holiday spirit floating around the house. Maybe it is that I’ll get the right dose of it up in the Twin Cities, Ellen, when I drop in to visit you guys. Still, I won’t be entirely alone on Christmas day in that I’ll play golf with some folks from my group.

There were quite a few from my golf group who were by themselves for Christmas, so we walked a golf course.

There were quite a few from my golf group who were by themselves for Christmas, so we walked a golf course.

The pro gave us the green light to walk the course even if it won’t be open. Reid, I still need to get the link to the FitBit shirt you want. We’ll just spread out the gift giving season a bit. The traffic around here going to and from the big mall has been totally whack. Out of control.

I hope to get to Charleston tomorrow. It’s largely on a whim and it will be the all-too-typical down and back jaunt. The temperatures are forecast to be in the 70s which means the water temperatures are staying up which in turn means the fish should still be sticking around The Barge and the sand marshes.

I always thought of myself as a landlubber and never dreamed I'd like being on the water so much. That's why there's appeal to Charleston.

I always thought of myself as a landlubber and never dreamed I’d like being on the water so much. That’s why there’s appeal to Charleston.

The replacement parts for the kayak aren’t here yet, so I’ll literally use duct tape to cover the holes. I sent the sand-filled reel to Penn for repairs. Sand literally covered a newspaper on the kitchen table as I dissembled it in an effort to clean it out. But some of the fine parts are covered in ocean grit and it’s probably better for someone who knows what they’re doing to tackle the job. The trip has a secondary purpose. I sure like Charleston a whole lot. The more I’m down there, the more it appeals to me. Once the boat is out of the water and rinsed down of sand, salt and brine, I plan to drive around a bit to check the lay of the land. My habit has been to clean up as best I can and head to Bay or Market streets for a nice post-fishing meal and a beer or glass of wine. Thus, I’ve seen some of the outlying housing areas near the downtown. Charleston has really been on the radar for the past 18 months and somewhat coincides with how long I’ve had the kayak. I’ve contacted a Realtor to nose around for me but nothing has come of that as of yet. It’s an area that’s seeing a huge influx of people and thus nice places are in high demand. I’m not unhappy with my situation in Charlotte by any means so if fate has it that I stay here, that’s okay, too. Miss Emma knows the route to the water. I’ll admit, though, there’s a sense of adventure/re-invention to the whole process. I’m not afraid of it.

The idea of dating has been placed on the shelf. It’s just not apparently in the cards for me right now.  I’m not washing my hands of it, it’s just been relegated to the back burner for the time being. You get bruised often enough and it starts to feel normal. But if you don’t take some lumps I suppose it means you’re not really trying. The other part is that I’m still wrapping my arms around this whole retirement ordeal and that’s moved to the number one spot in the pecking order.

My Medicare card arrived in the mail the other day so that’s one less thing on the to-do list. There are still some benefit and pension things to clear up. Ellen, when I’m in Minnesota, one of my days will be to drive to Des Moines to meet with John. I still don’t have a good handle on how that whole process works but I don’t plan to draw Social Security unless it’s necessary.

My plans for England are still in the works. I was at my friend Jane’s place yesterday for the Panthers game but didn’t corner her for ideas. She’s a Brit and goes home for relatively frequent visits. Reid, I’ll draw on your London experiences, too. I’d like to venture over to the south part of France to see where the Camino de Santiago begins then maybe end up in Portugal. But my passport application still languishes on the kitchen counter. That’s job one, to get that sucker taken care of. Maybe that ought to be on top of today’s to-do list.

Love, Dad


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Bang – bang – bang went the kayak …

Some of us have to discover the hard way that the ocean always wins. It is undefeated vs. man. Hopefully, Ellen and Reid don’t think their dad is as dumb as a box of rocks. Although for one day, I sure appeared to be.

This is how they heard about the whole maddening, sordid affair that damaged Miss Emma and had me sitting in the rain on the beach wondering what the hell had just gone wrong.


December 14, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Still reeling from the insanity of trying to launch in the heavy surf last week in Florida. My left shin still aches and is bruised and swollen (eds. note: hairline fracture, sic) from the constant bashing as I tried, in vain, to keep the kayak square to the waves, which continued over and over and over in the space of 45 minutes to push the little boat to the side and thus bang – bang – bang against my left leg. I got madder, and more frustrated, by the minute when I couldn’t keep the bow square to the angled 3 – 4 foot waves. Only when I turtled and was under the boat trying to muscle it upright was the decision made to bag the whole thing. It would have been doable if I’d had someone who could’ve held the stern perpendicular to the waves and given me a good shove.

Miss Emma awaits a tow to the water's edge the day before our abortive attempt to launch in heavy waves.

Miss Emma awaits a tow to the water’s edge the day before our abortive attempt to launch in heavy surf.

Miss Emma would’ve been home free after the first 15 yards. What was really crushing, beyond losing some gear, was finding the waves had pushed me 200 yards to the south from my original put in point. It meant I had to hand-pull the kayak 300 yards in the wet sand back to the car. It was raining at this point, and only when I got back did I discover the hull had taken water through the hatches. This marked the low point in my kayak career. It really did. I still love it to pieces but will need a second person to help me launch in the open sea. Once I got out there the waves were no problem, fun actually, but it’s the getting out there that is problematic. That my lines fouled the first day was a problem I could deal with. The next time I’ll have a far better idea of how to troll two lines. I’ll have it nailed down. Just not this last time. It is amazing to me how strong the sea, the weight of water, really is; you cannot defeat it, beat it, outsmart it. You have to look for the openings it allows. It was inordinately disappointing to pull it back in the sand (both me and it soaking wet), empty the boat of 3 inches of water, wash everything down of sand and salt and grit, wrestle the wet boat atop the new Camry, lash it all down and tuck my tail all the way back to Charlotte. The left leg just killed me the whole way back. Got home about 1 a.m., put everything away and hit the sack about 2 a.m. Although it was a downer I still covet the very idea of being on the water and can’t wait to try again.

But the bright side is I’ll be up in St. Paul over New Year’s, Ellen. Can’t wait to see you and Tim and the girls. Really, get out on New Year’s Eve for at least a few hours. Emma, Georgia and I can handle ourselves just fine. Hopefully the meals I prep for you guys will be acceptable to everyone. There’ll be a fair amount of baking, too. I’ll keep an eye on the forecast and will be prepared for the worst of things. Haven’t really been in seriously cold temperatures for a long time.

I’m having a hard time with all this gotta-have-guns-mania these days. There was a CBS report today that shows Wyoming has 197 registered guns per 1,000 residents. That’s the highest rate in the nation. Of course, the South is among the leaders in guns-per-capita. Maybe we’re subliminally arming ourselves for the next attempt at secession. This week is the anniversary of the Sandy Hook slaughter and there’s still nothing that’s been done to curb the mad rush to arm ourselves. The question would be: arm ourselves from what? I know you and I differ on that, Reid, but aren’t the police and National Guard the well regulated militia the founding fathers intended? How is it that every other developed nation sees the dark side of guns but we still cling to the notion that of all the constitutional amendments, the second is the most sacrosanct? Don’t get me started on Trump. Don’t go there.

Okay, the coffee has run out and it’s time to make more. And for crying out loud, make sure I know what you want for Christmas. The clock is ticking on delivery.

Love, Dad

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Pride goeth before the fall – or version 2 …

For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a book.

In fact, I did just that about six years ago. With pride I mailed a very rough 175 or so page manuscript to my former Assoc. Press national editor. After all, he was in charge of all the A.P. book reviews in thousands of U.S. newspapers. Who would know better than him when he saw a book of profound and great quality? (Little did I know at the time, however, he was probably glad it arrived in a plain brown envelope. All the better not to be associated with what he was about to critique.)

In short, he asked me ever so gently and in great kindness, ‘does this seem very rough to you?’ That’s friend-to-friend code for “this stinks.” Pride goeth before the fall according to the Book of Proverbs. Look up the idiom ‘tail between my legs’ and you’ll know how I really felt then – and now, too.

Bombs away. This has gathered dust for half a decade. But it's time to again dust off the concept.

Bombs away. This has gathered dust for half a decade. But it’s time to again dust off the concept.

In truth, however, any writer worth her or his salt ought to be tough enough and professional enough to respect the thoughts and criticisms of equally professional editors. I took his low key pan of the book in grateful stride. He’d of done me no favor to bestow faint, tepid praise upon it if only to avoid bruising my feelings. He did me the greatest favor of all.

So, what was this potential – no, sure fire! – New York Times best seller?

On letters, of course.

Ever since that soft thud of the go-no-further-with-this landing, the manuscript has remained untouched and gathered dust below my TV. If I’d had a shredder back then it might well have ended up in a compost bin somewhere. Indeed, that utter failure led directly to the creation of this blog. Deep down I felt there was something to letters even if I wasn’t skilled enough to put my finger on it.

Times are a changing, however. Momentum is building toward another stab at this topic. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make, I think, is to re-write what has already deserved the round file treatment. Instead, ‘the bomb’ has gestated to the point where it makes great sense to me to approach V2 from another angle altogether. It will be a wholesale reinvention of the wheel. Ellen and Reid know a revision is in the works and they’ll have something of a hand in its creation.

This must be what retirement does to a guy. It makes him think of literary greatness although if it ever gets to the stage of a publisher, I can only hope they’ll let me down as gently as my friend Norm did a half dozen years ago.

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A reflection on things you’ll never read …

From time time to time I take a little gas about wearing too much on my sleeve in the weekly letters to the kids. ‘Why do you tell people so much?’ is a query that has made the rounds.

But there’s a fair amount you don’t, and won’t, see and read. Highly personal thoughts are routinely wiped clean from the blog; granted, I accept that this space is a public forum but untold numbers of passages never make it beyond the letters. I post what is mailed to Ellen and Reid because I think letters are a wholly worthwhile, and completely underutilized, form of expression. Over the past 15 years years the nature of the letters has evolved from filling Ellen and Reid’s college mailboxes to a running narrative and reflection on how a mobile life from Iowa to North Carolina (not to mention their situations in Minnesota and Illinois) is changing before our eyes. As I bare more to them, there’s somewhat less to share with you. As they know, in a lot of ways it’s far easier for me to write what I think, feel and experience than it is to say those things aloud. My two are my sounding board.

So it is that entire paragraphs are removed last week’s letter. As Reid and I drove back to Charlotte after Thanksgiving in Hilton Head, we talked of what is ahead. He heard about it in person. Ellen had to wait for what arrived in her St. Paul mailbox.


November 30, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Ellen, Reid prompted me more than once this week to put Thanksgiving 2016 on the calendar for St. Paul. That doesn’t sound like altogether a bad thing. And Reid, it’s kind of funny that you are still upstairs sleeping as I write this. It’s been wonderful having you down here for a week. You needed the down time. There is a sense here that grad school is a stress, a good stress at that, but it’ll be over in short order and you can get on with the working world.

Reid got to meet close friends during his time in Charlotte (at Macs, of course). It's good for him to know the people in my life.

Reid got to meet close friends Doug, Christie and Sondra during his time in Charlotte (at Macs, of course). It’s good for him to know the people in my life.

So today will largely be about cars; removing whatever remains in the bowels of the ruined Camry, visiting with the GEICO guy about what happens now that the car is deemed ‘totaled,’ and talking to ‘Big Al’ at the Toyota dealer about a new car.

It was hard to drop Reid off at the airport. The letters close some of that distance, but not enough.

It was hard to drop Reid off at the airport. The letters close some of that distance, but not enough.

I’ll stick with a Camry since the last one was virtually problem free. I’m not much into car labels anyway. In my view a car is largely just a way to get from Point A to Point B. Plus I need wheels that make it easy to get the kayak on top.

It’s raining outside this morning which makes it a pretty good day to do the dirty work that lies ahead. Ellen, we need to talk about your plans for Christmas since I might well make a road trip in the new car. That would include a long overdue stop in Des Moines, too. But for now, it’s on to other things and, possibly, other places.

Love, Dad

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