Monthly Archives: March 2017

We were all Irish for one day in Asheville … and the hunt is on for a PT job


An old saying has it that we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

That was true in Asheville, a town that didn’t invent fun but has perfected it. What went on in Asheville will stay in Asheville except to say Jamison and Irish Car Bombs were the order of the day. Mercifully, it was an early night.

And, like Reid, I’m prowling around for a part time job, if nothing else than to fill 6 – 8  idle hours each week.

One final note: next week’s 697 word letter to Ellen and Reid was written in 9 minutes. That is likely a personal record, but who’s keeping track?


March 20, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s really been colder than it ought to be down here. Our morning lows (20s and low 30s) and yours aren’t that far apart. Maybe it’s the higher humidity in these parts, but it’s just bone chilling. Windier than normal, too. I made a new platform for my container garden alongside the driveway and fully intended to sow the first seeds of romaine and spinach over the weekend but shelved that to stay inside. I won’t wimp out today and will get it done. The planting is at least two weeks overdue. This time last year the seeds had sprouted.

Had an extraordinarily fun St. Patrick’s weekend with my friends Sondra and Jody and Sue in Asheville. It’s just one helluva town. Lots going on and lots of fun people. Sondra and Jody wanted authentic corned beef and cabbage (the boiled variety, mind you) so we started with that and then wandered over to a jam-packed Irish Bar where Jody somehow snagged four primo corner seats at the bar. We proceeded to idle the next five or so hours there listening to locals play Irish music

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It’s not often Irish music gets jam session treatment, but that’s how they do it in Asheville. And these folks did a pretty damn good job at Jack of the Wood.

until we finally called it a night although it wasn’t that late. It was great fun. We left my car downtown overnight and wisely Ubered it back to the motel. The next morning Sondra and I were up around 6:30 to go retrieve my car. I made a side trip to Starbucks and camped there for an hour or so to read the local paper and enjoy the strong black eye-opener. We played golf at the posh Grove Park Inn. It’s a mountain course, tight and really a challenge for being a so-called short course. Jody shot lights out while the rest of us kind of muddled around on a nice day. We pledged to do the ‘Celtic Open’ again next year. St. Patrick’s Day will be on a Saturday. Yikes.

The Medicare thing is getting really old really fast. Just cannot get any straight answers no matter how many people I talk to on the phone. I mean, it’s been hours of conversation and questions. Very frustrating. In fact, one of the Social Security people said it could be up to another 60 days before a resolution is determined. Fortunately, the hernia isn’t worsening as of this writing but you never know. But if it drags on much longer it’s going to make a mess of my Wyoming plans and perhaps the Spain trek in the fall. There’s been a physical toll taken, too, in that I haven’t visited the Y in a month and walking 4 – 8 miles per day just doesn’t cut it. I can feel my conditioning slip away. The scales don’t lie, either. This predicament is all consuming for me right now.

Applied for a couple of part time editing jobs on LinkedIn. We’ll see if anyone bites. Reid, have you plied those online waters very much? I was surprised Continue reading

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It’s Monday, meaning another Monday letter is nearly out the door …


True to form, it’s another Monday which means another letter to Ellen and Reid is about to be stuffed into #10 envelopes and posted at my development’s mailbox. 

The writing (about 15 minutes) was polished off over a cup of coffee. There’s no real formula to how the letters come together; at one time I kept a cheat sheet of notes but now I sit down and write whatever comes to mind in whatever order. That’s pretty much it.

(Here’s the letter sent last week. I wait one week before posting each letter so Ellen and Reid see the single pages first.)


March 13, 2017

Ellen/Reid: The tepid stream of prospective buyers will no longer be trouping through the house. I took it off the market at mid-week and my W Group Realtor, Scott, took the news like a champion. Really a good guy. He did confide that he thought my asking price – the one he and I agreed to at his suggestion – was a shade too high since other homes he’s represented have been selling very quickly. But in the end that didn’t matter. He’s sent me a few more smaller townhouses to take a look at since he thinks I’m still in a tad too much space; he’s probably right. The taxes and such might be less elsewhere, particularly if I relocate to the suburbs in South Carolina but I sure like the SouthPark location. As you’ve seen, it’s right in the thick of things and I can – for the time being – still navigate three sets of stairs. But after months of keeping the joint clean (let’s hope that trend continues) it’ll be nice to just live in it for a change.

So now the garage has to be cleared out of the two twin beds and cardboard boxes that will no longer be of use. In one sense the purge of stuff was a wholly good thing, plus I got some free decorating and rearranging advice. I really do like how the first floor dramatically opened up. It just looks so much better and is more livable.

I’m not sure how a move might have gone physically if this hernia operation goes on as scheduled. There’d of been no packing or lifting for a month or so. Still no word or update from the Social Security/Medicare folks. Somewhat perturbing in that if the letter doesn’t arrive today then I will pull the plug on Thursday’s surgery and delay it until the situation is clarified. The condition hasn’t deteriorated so a rescheduling might not be bad. What’s lurking on the radar is Wyoming; I want to be in good shape entering the mountains and need several months of solid workouts to deal with the climbing and walking. We shall see.

Since it looks like the knife will be staved off later this week, I’ll proceed to Asheville with Sondra and Jody to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy golf with them on Saturday. Since my dating life has per usual ground to a halt/is non-existent, it’s an easy solo trip to make.

My Irish friend Luke and his daughter Kate came over for dinner last night (she’s in the states for another 10 days or so before heading back to Dublin) and I asked if they’d like to come to Asheville too, and it looks like they might take up the invitation.

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My friends Jane and Luke and his daughter Kate show that the English and Irish can indeed get along.

He’s really a great guy (Reid, he said he wanted to talk to you again) and a good stick. He can be the jovial life of the party and jazzes up any room in an instant, such is his pleasant, outgoing personality. So that pair will be a good addition to the soiree. My English friend Jane was here, too, and she and Luke dispelled any notion the English and Irish can’t get along. After my unfortunate faux pas linked Ireland and England, I was told in pointed terms that Ireland is not part of the U.K. Learn something new every day.

Sunday’s snow event totally fizzled. It never ceases to amaze me how people here launch into a tizzy at the mere mention/hint Continue reading

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Eating like kings … playing golf like a dog


The long-awaited trip to Florida with my Iowa buddies – Bob and the two other Daves – came and went too quickly. Ellen and Reid have read regularly about these annual golf/foodie extravaganzas with my friends they know well.

The high point was in the kitchen and the table. Meal after meal, we ate like nobody’s business. Golf was another issue. I ate like a king but played like a dog. Some weeks that’s the best you’ve got.


March 8, 2017

Ellen/Reid: If you gauge the trek to Florida only on the fishing experience, it was a complete and total bust. The offshore winds were so high that no boats – not even the 50+ footers – left their berths. All the rods that made the trip never saw the deeper open ocean waters. I’m glad Miss Emma didn’t make the trip. She would never have left the roof of the Camry. But that’s not how you ought to look at such a trip. It was really fun and relaxing. Dave H. is such a good host to share his nice home with us and it appears we may be repeat visitors because the Deerfield Beach locale offers just about everything we need; fishing (when the wind lays down), golf (across the street) and plenty of good food. We ate like literal kings.

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Mike LaValle can flat-out bring it to the kitchen. He is a chef’s chef. He turned everyday ingredients into gourmet meals. (Left to right: Bob Furstenau, Dave Dahlquist, Mike and Dave Hemminger.)

A new addition to our group, Mike LaValle, is a chef extraordinaire. He has a sterling reputation in Des Moines and has had a number of solid, successful restaurants. He honestly can whip up an incredible meal with ingredients on hand. He raided Dave’s cupboards for available spices and I’m telling you, give the guy a stick of butter, some heavy cream, olive oil, some garlic and any sort of vegetable and you will get a five star meal. He cooked some whole red snapper like no fish I’ve ever had. He allowed me to observe as his sous chef (I was an awestruck bystander for the most part) and once he does his magic, viola, you have one helluva culinary experience.

The golf was another matter entirely. I just ran out of oomph through our second round. Just can’t keep things together. Dave Dahlquist was my partner and I completely let him down. Dave H. and Bob Furstenau just took us to the cleaners.

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The Champions Course at PGA National ate my lunch – and put my head on the platter.

The courses were great but somewhat over my head. I’ll give it to Florida; the state has some nice golf and a lot of it. It’s wonderful to be around those guys for a few days. They’re all creative in their own sense.

The drive down was something else. It was 10 hours of pedal-to-the-metal stress each way down and back. If you’re not gunning it at 75-80 MPH you might as well be in the right hand lane with your flashers on. And the traffic was so heavy. Luckily, there were no notable accidents that brought the lines of cars to a stop. If that had happened, I’d still be on the road. The driving is cathartic in a way, however, in that you just get a big cup of coffee, turn on the tunes and hit the road. Not a bad recipe and beats a plane in some respects.

The big task today is to break the news to my Realtor, Scott, that the home will be taken off the market. He’s sure to be Continue reading

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A spiffy space for my girls … and the specter of the knife


One week it’s St. Paul, the next week it’s Florida. By my standards, this is a fairly active travel schedule. Ellen has a completely made-over home and my granddaughters are enamored with it – as is their grandfather.

But the travel is about to grind to a halt, at least temporarily. What’s a month on the shelf?


February 27, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It was great to be up in St. Paul to assist – at least partially – with your move, Ellen. You and Tim did a ‘wow’ of a total makeover to that house. Don’t sweat the stone-topped coffee table. Of all the things that are wonderful about the home, that is a blip on the design radar.

The girls sure seem to love it. What a pair of total goofs; Emma ever the Drama Queen and showperson, Georgia and her angelic little presence. There’s more space for them to roam (and spread toys) but they each get their own rooms.

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Bedhead or not, sweet little Georgia loves her room with a view.

The upstairs windows are to die for; such light is magnificent. It seems highly unusual that an older home would have such spacious wraparound windows but that is a real plus for you guys. And you seem to have a nice amount of storage vs. the other house.

The kitchen is the real star of the show. It is a real cook’s kitchen. I could’ve been content to spend all my time in there to whip things up. You’ll love cooking and baking with gas. There is absolutely no comparison to that hard-to-clean glass cooktop that was tough to control temperature-wise. Gas is so much more efficient and manageable. And again, all that storage. Then again, you might jettison some things that aren’t needed; i.e. tupperware up the wazoo. That is hilarious. A whole drawer devoted to the stuff. On a more serious note, I’m already shaking from the DTs after going without Tim’s smoked pork shoulder. To call it incredible is to sell it short. It was unbelievable. 11 hours on a smoker will do that to hunk of meat.

The move didn’t really bother the hernia thing. But it was a mild downer to find out today the March 16 surgery would be a double hernia affair. The doctor said 4-6 weeks of recovery before full activity. There can be very limited movement after a couple of weeks. But I suppose the good news is it’s not very invasive in the sense of not being sliced open. Three small holes on each side of the abdomen. A week of feeling pain and then it should subside. The operation has caused me to cancel a golf/St. Patrick’s day trip to Asheville but it will be a good tradeoff to be able to do my floor exercise and full daily YMCA regimen. I miss the pilates and other floor exercises. Already, I’ve added a few pounds and can feel the lack of hard work in the gym. But he said there were no restrictions on the trip to Florida which will begin early tomorrow morning. That’s a relief. With me will go four rods, associated fishing gear and my golf clubs. We plan to fish offshore a couple of times and golf a couple of times. My guess is I’ll see significant kitchen duty which is okay with me. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll probably make a stopover in Charleston to fish. If I’m up to it. In some ways I’m anxious for the surgery to be over and done with. Still have a few Medicare issues to work out and if those don’t pan out I’ll dip into my own pocket. It’s gotta be done.

Pretty good response to the non-move. People here are accepting of it although there’s been almost no contact with friends in Des Moines. One thing that was noticeable in St. Paul was how cold the wind can really be. It was bitingly cold on the walks to the hardware store and around the block with Henry. Those temperatures are something that won’t be missed by any stretch.

Reid, I do want to plot a trip to Chicago. Let me know what dates in April or May work for you. I’ll be totally on the mend by then. I’ll drive as far as southern Indiana then head due north up your way. Probably a Thursday – Sunday excursion if that’s okay with you.

The next big decision is do I keep the house on the market and find smaller digs in most likely an outlying part of Charlotte. My tilt right now is to take it off the market and stay put since it’s an incredible location and one I like – a lot. Not as nice as your spiffy new space, Ellen, but good enough for me.

Love, Dad

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