Post-mortem on a self-induced ‘three alarm fire’ …

The dust has settled on my three day disappearance; one thing for sure, it gives a person something to think about. Notably, this is what friends are for – to keep you on the straight and narrow or, at the least, to stay in touch. And bust you upside the head when necessary.

(On a side note, police officers Bajic and Akers couldn’t escape being on the receiving end of a letter. But more on that next week.)

May 22, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Well, what a helluva week that was. Geez. Saturday and Sunday were spent kicking myself for putting you and others through the wringer. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, the least of which is to not rely on snail mail to let you know where and when I go traipsing about whether it’s to Wilson Creek or Charleston or wherever. It’s interesting how any of us react at the very real possibility of the dire and the unknown and the truly serious; there are elements of panic, finality, danger, loss, and any of some other things. I’m chagrined that so many people rallied to your plea for help; Sondra, Jody, Chiana, Troy, John, Ted, my neighbor Dan and more. It’s interesting, too, how urgency creates an instant community among folks who would not otherwise be in this mode if not for precarious circumstances. People are used to the cordial familiarity of their social bonds, not the ‘what the hell?’ news that comes to bind them even tighter in unexpected emergencies. What that potential bad news does, in the beat of a heart, is reinforce what is valued and held dear. So if there was anything heartening to come of this three alarm fire it’s that it put your belief system to a very quick test. It sorts things out for you in a New York minute. I had a moment of instantaneous panic, too; Tim’s ‘call me as soon as you get this’ text really sent my mind racing about ‘Oh my God, what happened to Ellen or the girls?’ That really put me in a full sweat. I’ve spent some time, but not enough as of yet, to thank people for caring. I’ll do that in the next day or so. There was some dark humor, however, in hearing about the full-court sleuthing you two and Sondra, et al, did when you all went into full CSI mode; calls to Charleston Outdoor Adventures, Harris Teeter, ex-flame Felicia, the police and whoever else you badgered. That was pretty impressive on your part. And a key under a doormat? That’s my idea of security? Holy cow, what a doofus.

But that’s over and done with. As for the hike to Wilson Creek, it was great. But the fishing was a bust. I worked my tail off for a few small fish. That’s the price you pay for an area that sees a relatively high number of trekkers/fly fishers. The water just gets a lot of pressure. The fish get no respite from the volume of baits tossed their way. But it was beautiful and the company was wonderful. I would go unplugged again with certain caveats (see above paragraph) since that’s really the best way to enjoy the wilderness. One thing I wouldn’t do is buy a dehydrated meal that includes a ‘heater’ that negates the use of a stove. All you do is add water to activate the heating element. The package literally chugged steam like an old locomotive as the food got super hot. It was bizarrely wild. Then you have to lug the soggy thing back out again.

The new smoker will be put to the test again this Sunday when Troy and Jill and a few others come over to sample brisket. It’s a 14 hour gig so I’ll have to be up really early to fire that beast up and get to cooking.


The new smoker got a workout – and less than a week after I got grilled by family and friends.

I’d better produce an edible meal or I’ll never hear the end of it. I may throw a pork shoulder on there that can be shredded and put in the freezer once we’re done cannibalizing it. On balance, Tim does a more focused and methodical job with his smoker. He’s the Gold Standard right now for barbecue.


Went to the Y this morning but the exercise center was shut down as staff was set to install a whole new set of Machines of Torture (aka ellipticals) that I’ll need to prime for the Bridger. Played golf on Saturday and got over the post-surgery jitters pretty quick although in hindsight another week of rehab might have been more prudent before swinging the sticks. But this past week wasn’t too much about prudence, was it?

Love, Dad

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If only … if only … if only … and the prescience of paragraph 4

For those of you enlisted to a frenetic ‘search committee,’ if only this letter had arrived a day earlier rather than be read at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. If only.

It’s all about six benign sentences in paragraph four.

Think of the angst and anxiety and hand-wringing a simple call or text might have saved everyone. But my armchair after-the-fact analysis/critique will be saved for this week’s letter to Ellen and Reid you’ll read next week. Really, it will be an open letter of appreciation to the rest of you.

May 15, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s kind of weird to walk into the garage and not see the Harley. I’ve taken a second look several times, and when I pull the car in the garage, the subconscious takes over the steering wheel to pull the Camry a tad to the left so as to give clearance for the bike. It’s only when the car goes into ‘park’ that the realization is made that there’s no longer any reason to give the Road King leeway since there is no Road King. But I don’t miss it at all. There are no second doubts, no ‘yeah buts …’ – none of that. It’s gone, someone else is the proud new owner and that’s perfectly okay. It really is.

Miss Emma is atop the car and that was the real acid test for the surgery. It was awkward to lift it into position but I really didn’t feel anything other that some anxiety. I thought there was a faux-pinch in there but it hasn’t hurt since then. It’s been a four and a half weeks and the literature and the surgeon said return to full activity after four weeks. But I reserve the right to ask some of the Charleston Outdoor Adventures staff for a bit of muscle power tomorrow when the time comes to hoist her back atop the car. There shouldn’t be much of an issue on paddling since my legs are bent and my feet get some leverage against what amount to foot pegs inside the boat. I’m excited about again going down – and back – again although the weather is warming up in a hurry and that doesn’t spell much in the way of good fishing. I’ll view it as a shake down cruise of sorts. There won’t be any oysters this time around; that season is over and I’ll miss the back-and-forth banter with the black oystermen. I don’t know what they do for off-season jobs. Maybe work the shrimpers?

Ellen, you looked great in your cap and gown. It’s okay you didn’t go to the actual ceremony. In a way that’s sad, however, since going through the ritual seems to be falling by the wayside. I would have gone to yours too, Reid, if you’d wanted to go through it. It’s a nice recognition for all the work that you guys have put it. I do still grin at the thought that your ‘ceremony’ was last weekend and not this one.

I’m going to go hiking and camping with some new friends Wednesday through mid-day on Friday. I’m kind of excited about it. The Osprey is all packed and ready to go.


The dehydrated meals for the Wilson Creek trek served as a metaphor for added food-for-thought: as in telling someone – anyone – when I head out of town on an extended excursion.

We’ll head to Wilson Creek and my fly rod is making the trip with me. Don’t know what’s catchable but one of the guys is supposed to be real knowledgeable about the fishing thereabouts. And Reid, there won’t be any infernal bear barrels.

Got invited to Adrienne Furstenau’s wedding the weekend of July 8 in Minneapolis. It’s an honor to be asked. It has me rethinking the plane flight. Scarcely nine days later I’ll pull back through the Midwest to pick up Tom and head west to the Bridger. What if … I drove up for the wedding, spent a few days in MSP, drove down to DSM for a couple of days, then headed east to Chi-Town for a few days before journeying West? I guess that would remove me from Charlotte for virtually the entire month of July and a few days into August. Ellen, are you guys going up to the lake that weekend of July 8 since the 4th falls during the week? That may figure into my plans so let me know ASAP.

The Spain trek is coming together. Ordered the guide book today and a new Osprey Kestrel pack. It’s about one-third smaller than what I tote into the Bridger so it should be a good option to carry just about everything I’d need without being too big and bulky. I’ve yet to pour over Tom’s gear list for the Camino but will do that in earnest when the guide book comes in. Now, I’ve got to get some sort of camera. Reid, any ideas? Nikon? Canon? Other?

Love, Dad

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A trip North, the girls, and black dirt …

For a long while there was active thought given to pulling up stakes in Charlotte for a move to the North. Aside from closer proximity to Ellen and Reid, part of that allure was the specter of a small garden (which I miss terribly here) where the good earth isn’t poured from a plastic bag bought at a home center. It’s already there.

The dirt is black and fertile. If you can’t grow anything there, you can’t grow anything anywhere. Reid I sure hope that’s the case after we left a little something for Emma and Georgia to enjoy a year or two from now.

May 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: I must say the high point of the trip was your graduation ceremony, Ellen. It was hard to hold the tears back as you walked across the stage to accept your masters diploma.

No, wait. Ha ha. How could we miss it by a week? I laughed about that several times on the ride home. But those things happen. You just gave us something to grin about. Let me know how the real ceremony goes this coming weekend.

It really was a good trip. What I do know is I don’t possibly have enough energy to keep up with the girls. They are just a whirlwind of go-go-go all the time. Emma just goes non-stop. The house is coming together nicely although Tim has his work cut out for him on the yard. It was neglected for so long. I don’t know how you get rid of the weeds without spraying copious amounts of weed killer, and you don’t want to do that while the girls are running about.


While under “close supervision” by a site manager who lounged in a chair nursing a beer, Reid does the heavy digging to prep a raspberry patch. This black Minnesota soil doesn’t need organic matter to improve its fertility.

Thanks for letting Reid and me plant the raspberries. In hindsight, Reid, I wish we hadn’t of mixed in the peat moss. It just created such a mounding effect, and that good black dirt probably didn’t need the added organic matter. But Tim can sculpt that space a bit if he thinks it’s a tad too unsightly. I sure wish I had a bit of a garden like that, let alone that good black soil.

Thanks, Reid, for driving up and back with me to MSP. That you could spell me behind the wheel really helped. And it was good to talk. Just keep your head up on the job thing, keep working your contacts, keep plugging forward. All it takes is that first conversation, that first proactive outreach and that will set the tone for what will follow. I think sometimes it’s hard to take that first step but once you do the ice is broken and the process will become a little more habitual and old hat, and it will build your confidence at reaching out and putting yourself on the line. That’s really how you’ll land a job. Just keep at it. Going after a job is a job in itself.

It was a tough drive home from Chicago to Charlotte. I was running a fever and had the chills and it was just a slog all the way. Bunked at some fleabag north of Knoxville, Tennessee but didn’t sleep a wink. Should have kept going. I alternated between shivering and being hot. But I just set it on cruise control and let it go.

I did stop in Asheville to check out those small homes I’d emailed you guys about. I was so hopeful about them. But they were packed into what basically was a flat hole carved out from a hillside. The homes were nice but the setting left something to be desired. There was absolutely no view of anything, and there was no covered garage on the smaller units. So those were crossed off the list and I’ll move on from there. It was very disappointing since I was ready to pull the trigger on those style of smaller homes. I’ll head back up that way before too long to take another look. I really don’t have much of a feel for Asheville.

Just RSVPd to Adrienne Furstenau’s July 8 wedding in Minneapolis. I’ll fly this time rather than drive. They have events all weekend. Then, scarcely 10 days later, I’ll zoom through the area again as Tom Bohr and I drive west to the Bridger Wilderness.

The new microwave was installed this morning. It’s a behemoth. It sticks out a few inches further than the old defunct model and that will take some getting used to. All that money just to be able to nuke a cup of coffee. Then it looks as it my water heater has gone kapoof. It’s only money.

Love, Dad

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A successful surgery, the march and falling on the side of the average Joe and Jane …

Last week was kind of a good news week. Ellen had successful melanoma surgery, their old man carried a sign, and Reid was just days away from a father and son trek to Minnesota. 

May 1, 2017

Ellen/Reid: This note will no doubt hit your mailboxes while I’m in your midst, but so be it. This serves a useful function since I will likely forget most things I need to tell you so might as well put thoughts down on paper while the remembering is good. Yeesh. It’s hell to get old.

Reid, it’s good we’ll take the drive. Actually, you will drive and I will ride shotgun. The car will be relatively light except for the Legos and bird feeders that will be in the trunk for the girl’s birthdays. A couple of books for each might be a good idea, too, so there will be a side trip to Barnes & Noble sometime today. It this sort of trip that is fun to look forward to, just hitting the road with a cup of coffee and some tunes. Which reminds me, there are a few more favs from Pandora to download today.

Ellen, your surgery sounded routine. What a relief that it was caught in stage 0. That your surgeon suggested ice cream – and ‘buy yourself new shoes’ – was a great, assuring response from him. The scar will be wavy and ugly for awhile but that fades away and smoothes out over time. You’ll be back to normal in no time flat. Ah, the sins we pay for from our over-sunned youth. At least you have time to educate the girls and keep them covered up. And all the sun you can keep off yourself now will pay healthy-skin dividends down the road. I’m covered head to toe each time outside right now and don’t mind looking like a nerd. Any more than I already do, that is.

The climate march in Washington was interesting. I hadn’t done anything like that since my college days and the Vietnam war. The chants are pretty much the same, only different words. Lots of marchers were gray hairs; maybe we feel we need to demand climate action for the Emmas and Georgias of the world since all of this has happened on our watch. But I think the march fell on deaf (and dumb) ears. Honestly, the more that is seen/heard from Trump, the less I trust him (not that I ever did). He is just a loose cannon, and despite his grandiose self-proclamations that his presidency has done more in 100 days than any before him, none of it is true.


There’s something good about being part of a larger, citizen-mobilized effort. There are significant doubts, however, about whether Pres. Trump and his cadre of non-climate change believers were paying attention.

What is astounding is he has almost completely abandoned his campaign oaths to his base; he’s put it to them on The Wall, 52 percent of his tax cut goes to the 1 percent, he’s shafting Trumpers (and us) on health care, and he front loaded his cabinet with billionaires and Wall Streeters. He is about smoke and mirrors and deflection and distraction. Drain the swamp? Are you kidding? How can that be when D.C. was already in the hands of Republicans? How’s that help the average person? As for the protest itself, there has to be a better way. Sure, there is strength in numbers, but we might be better off taking the message to the outlying areas where Trump supporters live. The dialogue needs to be civil but forthright; is dirty water and filthy air in your best interest? How well do you want your kids to be educated? How’s your health care working out? Oh, and those manufacturing jobs? When do you expect those to come back? The only thing that will really matter is the mid-terms in 2018. But ‘spin’ and fear mongering are art forms in politics now. Who knows what it will take to put government on the side of the average Joe and Jane.

My rehab is on pace. Been walking 3-6 miles a day with no discomfort or set backs (knock on wood). At the check up last week they gave me the green light to start light work on the elliptical today but in view of the road time this week those workouts won’t begin until I return. What bugs me most is the air-bloated, skin-stretching nature of the surgery. I don’t know when that will truly go away. We’ll see. Just gotta keep the weight off, I guess.

Well, enough blather and pontificating. See you both – and the girls and Tim and Liz – real soon.

Love, Dad

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And a time to every purpose, under heaven …

It took Pete Seeger and The Byrds to put a few verses from Ecclesiastes into perspective for many of us:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

So it would seem for the contents of last week’s letter.

April 24, 2017

Ellen/Reid: By the time you open this, Ellen, surgery on your arm will be done and you’ll be all sewed up, good as new. Good for the dermatologist to catch it in the apparent early stages. There’s nothing wrong with check ups every three months. I’m still on that quarterly regimen, too, as is your mother and your uncle. Reid, I know Tim hit you hard about a skin check up but really, get in since this insidious beast can lurk around almost unseen. Almost the entire family has had melanoma. So please, get checked.

It rained all day yesterday around here and still is this morning. I didn’t realize how much of a downpour we had until I brought up the digital Charlotte Observer. Apparently some neighborhoods were badly flooded and are still out of power. The little creek behind the house is bank full. I guess it’s good for the reservoirs but it washes all the litter into them.

It’s a relief in a lot of ways that the Road King is nearly gone. I’m quite fine with it. It was just time. Not my favorite of all the Harleys I’ve had and maybe if it was the old Heritage Softail then there might still be a bike in the garage. But there’s not and that is just great. The guy who bought it was excited and he picks it up sometime in the next couple of days if the rain stops.


The Road King needed a new owner who could put the bike through its deserved paces. And it got one in a great young guy named Matt.

We didn’t haggle much on the price, and I threw in lots of misc. gear like a cover and tour pack and a jacket and cleaning supplies and a helmet and some Harley tees just to be rid of stuff. I’ll use some of the proceeds to recover the kitchen cabinets, maybe re-carpet the place and buy tickets to see you goons. Whatever is left will go to my trek in Spain this fall. I’ve started to go to weekly coffees about how to plan for the Camino de Santiago. Since I’m not the planner extraordinaire, even a few tips will get me down the road.

Ellen, I’m close to a ticket for your graduation. Are you absolutely sure you’re okay with me visiting since you guys will need to be in a motel? You may not need me as a fifth wheel so help me make the call. Why aren’t they having the graduation there on campus? Wouldn’t that be the Continue reading

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Sit down, stand down, pipe down …

Ellen and Reid have met a few of my friends in person. So they know some of the ‘personalities’ I have to deal with. Those they don’t know, they hear about.

But it’s those sort of folks that make my life bearable – especially in the post-operative world. Thank God for their kindness (even if I have to endure the occasional zinger).

April 17, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Well, your old man is sitting around in loose, non-binding clothing this morning as this double hernia recovery begins in full. Knock-on-wood, but there have yet to be any setbacks and barring doing anything goofy or outright stupid, there won’t be. But already I’m going stir crazy. This sitting around stuff doesn’t do much for me. I’d better get used to it: there’s at least another 4 – 6 weeks (and maybe more depending on what the surgeon recommends) of nothingness ahead. I see him in about two weeks and hope to get more of a handle on when I can return to full activity. That’s in the context of getting in shape for Wyoming. I told Tom Bohr I’d be in ready and I damned well better be in relatively good condition.

The surgery in itself was remarkable. It was done robotically. The surgeon sits at a screen perhaps 10 feet away from the patient and manipulates two robotic arms as if he’s playing a high-stakes video game. Apparently, they bloat you with gas so the metal arms have room to roam unfettered around your innards. At least that’s what I think they do. He sews in a patch of plastic mesh that seals off the intestine from protruding any further. The upshot of the robotic surgery is, according to what I read, a faster recovery. We shall see. Before I went under I asked one of the nurses about the particulars of the robotic surgery and she said I didn’t want to know. So I looked at the video on YouTube and she was right. I didn’t want to know. There was strict hell to pay the first 24 hours in terms of sitting or rolling over in bed. I thought I’d torn the internal stitches at one point just trying to get out of bed. I’m moving much better now and am in no pain. If anything it’s mild discomfort. I put the 30 pill hydrocodone prescriptions through the shredder. No way would that stuff make it into the house, let alone my system.

This is when you know how your good friends step up. Sondra and Jody brought over a full Easter dinner yesterday. My mistake was thinking they’d stop at the grocery store for a roasted chicken and some deli food, but no, she would hear none of that. She told me to sit down, stand down and pipe down. There’s was no fighting that sort of directive. She commandeered the kitchen and had everything pre-cooked or she cooked it here.


It’s these sort of friends – plus many others not shown – that make life in the Carolinas livable. From left to right: Lynn, me, Luke, Jody and Sondra.

So much for the high-fiber diet that was supposed to be the norm for the first week or 10 days. We ate, and (d)rank wine, like there was no tomorrow. Our buddy Luke came over, too, and it was just a lot of fun. We decided what was said here table around the dining room table would stay here. The headache I awoke to this morning took my mind off the other sort of medicinal-related discomfort.

Reid, I finally made a reconnection with my mentor, Don. You two were babies when you met him, but he was a guiding light for me early on. I wish I’d of stayed in touch with Ferg through the years but I completely dropped the ball on that. Make sure you touch base with Tom and Gene. Those guys are ready and will to help. Both have business smarts and Gene has connections as you know full well.

Ellen, Easter must’ve been a blast at your new place. Georgia coming off her birthday, and Emma in high gear just because she’s Emma. If the physician gives me a green light to travel, I hope to snag a late, cheap fare to make it in time for your graduation and Emma’s fifth b-day. She’s five already? That doesn’t seem possible. It really doesn’t.

The post-op literature advises patients to get off their duffs and walk as much as possible. In that vein I’ll grab my coffee in my Emma-Georgia mug and mosey – slowly – toward the mailbox to see if there’s any mail of non-junk interest. Don’t be strangers.

Love, Dad

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The bonehead and another fishless trip …

What was it that Forrest Gump said? If memory serves me it was ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’

I can relate.

And don’t ask why I mention a recovery period twice and in two different manners. Letter writing must not be an exact science. But refer again to the Gump quote.

April 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Sometimes your dad is just a complete bonehead, and last night was one of those all-too-frequent times. Sondra and Jody invited me to watch the final round of the Masters with them, and when I was leaving and with a clear head after only a couple of glasses of wine, your knucklehead of a father inadvertently backed his car into a tree, giving his left rear bumper a good indentation even though the car was hardly moving. What an idiot, moron, klutz. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s just so irritating. Geez.

Well, knock on wood, but the Medicare thing has at long last moved through the pipeline. Finally, my Part B insurance is restored and the surgery is scheduled for this Friday morning at 9:00. That would give me ample time to heal completely (about six weeks to full activity) and still get in adequate shape for the Bridger Wilderness. Man, this whole process has taken a long time. The Social Security and Medicare systems are just big bureaus that move at their own pace. They’ve got tens of millions of ‘customers’ and it just takes a while to move through the snake. I’ll keep you posted on how Friday goes down.

Since the surgery appears to be set in stone, I’ll celebrate with a final short trip to Charleston to put the boat in the water and fish since it would be my final time on the water for quite a few weeks (4 – 6 according to the hernia literature). Miss Emma and I journeyed down last week and snagged a few nice black drum toward the end of the day so it wasn’t a total bust. There was kind of a different ending to the excursion, however. As is my custom, I gave one of the big drum to one of the black oystermen, and he in turn gave me 25 lbs. of what they call South Carolina oyster clusters.


Not even a picturesque and fully-rigged Miss Emma could bring her handler any good fish karma on a beautiful day outside Charleston. Skunked again.

Since the fish need to go on ice, my routine is to stop at a nearby gas station for a 10 lb. bag of ice. When I pulled in there was a guy parked near me with what appeared to be a full load of beer in the open hatch of his SUV. I made an offhand comment as I walked by that ‘I need one of those,’ referring to the numerous six packs and cases in plain view. As I got to the car, he said ‘what do you drink?’ I said ‘anything’ and he proceeded to walk over a six pack of IPA. After we shook hands and exchanged ‘thank yous,’ as he turned away I told him to hold on a minute: ‘Do you like oysters?’ and he replied ‘you bet.’ I opened Camry’s trunk and handed over the bag of fresh clusters, in what seemed like a pretty fair trade for both sides. In turn, he gave me even more beer since he worked for Stone Brewery. The two six packs and another separate large bottle of amber ale when into the trunk and off I went. It’s never dull down there in terms of the people one meets. That’s what’s so very fun about the whole down-and-back thing. I’ll miss it immensely during the rehab.

The idea of a book continues to gel. It’s gaining a critical mass. I dream about it, think about it and on occasion talk to myself about it. Some of that owes to the TED Talks inquiry. The specter of that made me put two and two together and begin to consider how this narrative might go down. Since there won’t be any heavy lifting or golf or walking or fishing or YMCA perhaps there will be ample time to built in at a coffee shop to sit comfortably in loose clothing and write, of which I make scarcely enough time for anyway. I write for you two and a few others and that’s about the extent of it. My mentor, a guy named Don whom both of you met when you were toddlers, is a very successful author of journalism books and he might be willing to lend an ear and grace me with his advice. He and I just reconnected and my intent is to ask him.

Okay, you two. Over and out. I’m off to the store and to contemplate bird feeders for the birthday girls. Two will be sent in short order.

Love, Dad


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