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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.


Here’s what the kids received last week:


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.


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.


Here is last week’s letter to the kids:


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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Just stuff going on…

We’re on February’s doorstep and it’s going to be a pretty big month.  No real fireworks (knock on wood), just stuff going on.

Reid shoves off for India (he says he’s ready except he has yet to apply for his Visa. Dad and sister to son/brother: ‘kid, you better hurry’), my twin and me become eligible for Social Security (no checks yet, thanks), we head to Santa Fe, Dave comes down from Des Moines to golf at Pinehurst, and the group I’ll guide for another July backpacking trip into the Bridger Wilderness will get together to make plans and no doubt strategize their ‘anti-bear’ measures.   That’s plenty enough on the docket.  (If anyone wants to climb aboard that trek train to Wyoming, let me know.  The more the merrier.)

More than a couple of folks – including Ellen – inquired about last week’s snit.   It’s just that bad news for my friends put a face on largely impersonal economic numbers.  The situation was alluded to, but in no great detail.  The snit has been snuffed, overwhelmed by just stuff going on.


January 23, 2012

Ellen/Reid: Summer has its dog days and winter has what can only be described as its blahs.  That’s what we are in right now.  Overcast, damp, wet.  Awful.  It didn’t keep me from playing golf this weekend.  We got rained on hard at a course just over the border in South Carolina so we could only finish 9 holes and walked off like drowned rats, and yesterday was cold but still comfortable enough to walk a local muny.  There was one light moment when a foursome in the fairway signaled me to tee off, and I promptly snap-hooked my drive into the middle of them.  They scattered like so many bowling pins.  They fled for their lives.

Ellen, thanks for tipping me off to Tim’s 29th.  29.  Yowser.  I was completely daft on it but now it’s archived in my calendar.  It just does not seem possible.  And you’re next.  You’re gaining on it too, Reid.  So no sniveling on your part.  My 62nd is fast on the horizon.  No gifts, please, other than perhaps some music CDs.  Those are a real hit.  How many times have you heard that?

You guys had/have some nice trips.  We’re not ones to be left out.  We’re going to head to Santa Fe in February for a long weekend.  Felicia has never been to the high desert, and while it could be winterish out there it will still be good to get completely away.  Why we didn’t head toward a warmer clime is beyond me.  I just wasn’t thinking right.  We’ll drive into the desert west of Albuquerque and then up toward Taos.  I’m half tempted to take my fly rod for the streams north of town but my guess is the gear will stay here.  I wouldn’t know what to dunk in the water anyway (Tim, thoughts?) but that’s for another time.  Speaking of travels, Reid, make sure your mom and I have your complete India itinerary and maybe a contact phone/email so we can keep in touch if need be.  That is so exciting that Liz will join you for a portion of it.  Ellen, your photos of Cabo were incredible.  That looked so relaxing, and I noticed the temps were close to 0ºF while you were away.  All the better.  You didn’t want it to be 70ºF at home while you were away.

Steve Allen called this morning to say he put his 90 year old mother in hospice in Missouri over the weekend.  It won’t be long now, he says.  She had much of the same situation that affected your grandmother, so it is a blessing in many ways.  She has been slipping steadily for a couple of years – we know that song, don’t we? – and he will call when things are done.  His daughter Margaret spun her SUV on I-80 on an icy patch on the way to Des Moines and slammed into a guard rail.  $5,000 in damage but she was lucky a semi wasn’t on her tail.  No other cars were involved and she came out unhurt other than being rattled.

Some distressing news continues to pour out at work.  A couple of friends are on their way out, and that does not sit well with me.  They were top shelf workers and good people.  It’s just disheartening to see this happen to people that put their hearts and best efforts into it.   Their attitudes are good and they have oars in the waters and already they have feelers if not outright interviews set up.  That’s more than a lot of displaced workers can say.  Been there, done that.

I’m gonna skedaddle and get back to it so I won’t be among those numbers.  Reid, it’s too bad I couldn’t make it up there before you ditch the states for the Far East (is India the Far East) but there’s always March-April, and you know where we’ll be when the Springtime Baby arrives.

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The streak is broken

There have been times when, for one reason or another – our travel schedules, family issues, etc. – that I haven’t written the usual Monday letter to the kids.  In 10 years I could count the total missed weeks on my two hands, and maybe a couple of toes.  Sometimes if I missed a Monday then the letter was posted on Tuesday, and if Tuesday got by me there was still a Wednesday drop off at the post box.  They almost always got something.

Last week, however, the decade-plus string of weekly letters was intentionally broken.  Monday came and went.  Nothing was mailed.  The streak, such as it was, is done.  I don’t feel very good about it.

That’s because I harbored residual anger that welled up and most assuredly would have spilled over in writing.  That’s nothing the kids need to read about.  Rest assured, what made my blood boil had nothing to do with them.  In lieu of anger, a civil person might call it ‘deep-seated frustration.’  I am still worked up about things today.

It had to do with good people getting bad news.  People I care about, here and elsewhere, who are good if not spectacular at what they do.   And for their years, and in one case, decades, of loyal efforts?  They have been summarily kicked to the curb.

Of course anger is a legitimate emotion worth sharing with Ellen and Reid.  Heaven knows they’ve read about everything else.  But they know at least two of these wonderful people, and anger for anger’s sake isn’t worth the effort.  To be sure, I have vented before and no doubt will again, but not to the volcanic extent that would’ve erupted last week.

Already, today’s letter to my duo is out the door.  Along for the trip to the post box are separate envelopes addressed to my friends on the receiving end of the kicking.

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A lesson in the amateur naturalist world…

A boreal chickadee is a new, but now regular visitor, to the feeder just outside my kitchen window.

Birds have nothing to do with today’s post.

Our feathered friends were not mentioned or alluded to in last week’s letter nor any letter in recent months.  I’d have to search (highly unlikely this morning) to find the last time a cardinal, common flicker or rufous-sided towhee or any other species – other than the Thanksgiving turkey – made a cameo appearance on any of the single pages.

Instead, last week’s letter lauds Reid for his pending trip to India and is hopeful for Ellen‘s current trip to Baja, Mexico, and other normalcies.

But I have a relationship of long-standing with birds.  The actual genesis of it rests with Ellen and Reid’s grandfathers, both of whom fed birds.   My dad, for most of the second half of his life, put out a daily spread year-round and enjoyed their visual company.  Heaven forbid a marauding squirrel would raid his feeders.  If dad’s aim was true (which it frequently wasn’t) the tailed robber would feel the sting of his aging BB gun.  Not powerful enough to inflict lasting damage (not what dad intended), but enough to teach a lesson.  Until the next raid.

My father never really shared with my brother or me how he came to adopt these friends or why he so warmed to keeping his feeders stocked.  As with many things you notice with your parents, you pick up the non-verbal lesson here and there.  One of the things my dad evidenced to me – and once I stopped shooting at game birds – is that there is something to tending to birds.  He was a back yard naturalist, he with his garden and his birds.

So now I have picked up on his practice.  And the kids know it.  They read short discussions about birds often enough.  Maybe they’ll pick up the unspoken lesson, too.  As I think about it, dumping a jar of black sunflower seed into the trough is one more lesson in their dad’s amateur naturalist world.  They need to see there is value to strap on a backpack, recycle plastic instead of pitching it, plant a garden and walk the golf course.  Just as their grandfather taught me.


January 9, 2012

Ellen/Reid: It is highly doubtful, Ellen, that this letter will make it to you before you and Tim depart for Baja.  In some ways it’s too bad that your Minnesota winter hasn’t totally sucked (i.e. unbearable cold and mountains of snow) before you shove off.  That way you could say you’ve left the worst of it behind for at least a few days of warmth and fun.  Still, it will be a good respite to get away and finally use sunscreen with plenty of SPF protection.  Both of you yahoos have nice trips coming up while your poor old man languishes in North Carolina, home to muddy, dormant Bermuda fairways and…  Wait, I can’t think of anything else bad (other than our politics).

Reid, I was wondering about immunizations before you shove off for India.  What’s the scene there?  What do you need to have, and what meds do you need to take with you in the event the local water or some strange food takes you down?  You should call up episodes of ‘Bizarre Foods’ with Andrew Zimmern that might deal with exotic foods in that part of the world.  It could be enlightening.  That would be half the fun to try local delicacies such as bugs and stuff like that as long as it looks cooked.  Your friend over there will be a good guide on that score.  And what’s the tourist dress code?  My guess is jeans and stuff won’t cut it.  Anything that you can rinse-and-wear is probably what will work best and travels well.  Patagonia will have some good nylon stuff that would do just the trick.  Minimal packed goods, one would think.  I just cannot wait to see the photos and hear the stories.  You really ought to try some Tweets or a blog if you can muster that while you’re over there.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall while you’re mashing about in the countryside or milling among the local street vendors.  I’m afraid as close as I’ll ever get to the reality that is India is “Slumdog Millionaire.”  That was a great flick.  Just make sure we know your total itinerary.

It’s cloudy and gray here today, with the threat of showers.  This is my sixth January in these parts, and knock on wood, this is by far the mildest of those six Januarys even though by Midwest standards this part of the Southeast is mild all of the time.  I bought an ice chopper in December just in case we get any of that damned black ice we are so famed for.  I hope to keep the chopper in reserve and unused.  The weather really has been sterling here and for more than just a few weeks, too.  That is probably the kiss of death to say that.  Now watch it really turn nasty.  Blame it on me.

Reid, some tragic news about Chicago with Charlotte ties.  The daughter of my golf buddy here, Tom, was not at home on North Michigan when a fire broke out on the 12th floor of her building.  The woman directly across the hallway stepped out of her unit to use the elevator, and when the elevator doors open, a blast of 1,500F heat and flame immolated her.  She was the only death from the fire.  That could’ve just as well been Tom’s daughter.  As it was, hook and ladder units had to fight the blaze, and to do so went through her apartment.  All her belongs and possessions were destroyed or damaged too badly to salvage.  As I told Tom, all that other stuff can be replaced, it’s his daughter that cannot.  Tom and his wife are trying to figure out where their daughter will sleep, where she will live, etc.  You ought to look into some cheap renter’s insurance.  It can’t be very much per month, but even with your meager belongings, it would still be a good deal and worth some peace of mind.

I have to slave on my church newsletter the next couple of nights.  12 pages of monthly penance.  Since my actions are still devious, I’ll have to hope the newsletter can atone for my missteps.  Beyond writing you two, it’s about my only creative outlet.  I guess the blog is too.  I’ll send you each a copy once it’s hot off the presses.  At least I’m thinking about atonement although, granted, I’m not very close to it.

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What about Reid?

Reid, sans beard. He heads to India next month. The kid is a digital whiz and a free spirit.

If you follow these weekly posts, you’d think it was all about Ellen and her faithful Golden Doodle, Henry.

But Ellen has a brother, too.  What about Reid?

He’s a good kid.  His man-bio reads ad agency up-and-comer in Chicago (to listen to him explain his digital agency world in even simple terms by his standards is to still have this knowledge sail over your head), scruffy beard, nice girlfriend, sneaky good photographer, biker (pedal variety) and an all-around guy with lots of interests.  He’s soon bound for a solo trip to India.  Just because he can.  Just to go.

I don’t hear directly from Reid very much.  He’s not like his sis who routinely sends along photos of Henry lounging around or otherwise looking faithful to she and her hubby Tim.  The temptation is to dismiss Reid’s lack of contact as a guy thing (as others have advised).  People have on occasion asked ‘when do we get to see Reid?’.  He granted me permission to dip into photos on his Facebook page.  Images from Reid’s world may become a regular feature on these pages.  (Note to Reid: post more photos.)

That he contacts his mom or me at his own discretion is hardly worth losing precious sleep over.  It was like this in college, like this after he graduated and first on his own, and like this now.  It was no big deal then and no big deal now.  That’s what makes him so interesting.  He’s not a momma’s or daddy’s boy, which makes his contact with us all that more pleasing.


January 2, 2012

Ellen/Reid: Since most of my banking is done online, I’ve yet to err by writing ‘2011’ on a check written in the new year, which I have done more than several times over the decades.  Some habits die hard.  My guess on how we all rang in the ‘rousing New Year’ is that yours was a 9 on the scale of 1-to10 Reid, while Ellen and I were more in the 6-ish category.  But that’s just an estimate.  10:45 p.m. came and I was in the sack for the night.   That’s how it goes for older men.  We went out and split a burger and had a few cocktails, than it was home for the bowl games until I persistently nodded off on the couch before ultimately being sternly instructed to go to bed.

Ellen, the CDs you and Tim concocted are unbelievable.  I told Tim to expand my horizons, and that he did.  If “Jolene, Jolene, don’t take my man just because you can” or “lots of good people have had a lot of bad news, how’s about you?” doesn’t rattle your timbers, than nothing will.  You guys went from “Neck Music” to Wilco.  Incredible.  Thanks so much for that.  It makes the trips in the car that much more enjoyable.  And it’s not every day you receive CDs slipped into a sandwich baggie.  That was a hoot and they did survive UPS, but now they are in much more protective wrapping.  You guys can cut CDs for me anytime.  Remember, I have a B-Day coming up.

The weather more than cooperated this past weekend, so I’ve had my fill of golf.  It was a mixed bag of results but it felt good to get out in the pleasant weather.  I like to play with friends down here and we had a great time.  A few birdies now and then with a few mindless doubles tossed in.  My granddaughter will learn the game.  Guaranteed.  That’s what grandpas are for.

Reid, what is this about a ticket already purchased to India?  Good show, old man.  That will be incredibly exciting.  I like that you have a little spirit of adventure about you.  Just be sure to get all your shots and don’t drink the local water.  I would put India on my bucket list.  You’ve been sparse on the details, so be sure to fill your old man in on the schedule and itinerary.  I think it has the makings of an incredible trip and I am so proud of your independence.  Why not go while you have all your faculties and a little cash jingling in your pocket.  Is it correct to assume that you could set up some Skype deal or Twitter account to keep us posted on your location and adventures?  You’d better drag that Nikon along and take plenty of good shots.  Can’t wait to hear about the pre-planning, let along the post-trip display of photos.

The new master bath gets a bit of an upgrade very soon.  Because I was incredibly short sighted (not to mention miserly) I erred mightily in not installing a hand-held shower to go with the big sunflower on the ceiling.  Now, it will cost me a tidy $1,500 extra just to have the hand-held installed.  The plumber has to drill through the travertine and break out some drywall to make the installation.  But it will make it a complete shower.  Reid, I’m almost, but not quite, resembling you in the long shower department.  I love that big sunflower on the ceiling but my water heater is a few gallons shy of a full load, if you know what I mean.  An on-demand water heater might be the next step.

Dave Hemminger is coming back down for golf in mid-February.  Jane gave it to him as a Christmas present.  She’s quite the wife.  Then he heads to Argentina for a few weeks (maybe a month or so) to check on hundreds of acres of cherry trees he’s planted down there.  He is the silent entrepreneur.  They are checking into colleges down here (Elon, etc.) for Will and Ellie and I’ve encourage Butler, too, but it doesn’t appear to be on the top half of the list.

Okay, guys, over and out.  Be good, have a great 2012.  Hope to see you both soon.  Reid, shoot me January dates so I can see you in Chi-town before you board the jet for the Far East.

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