Tag Archives: Des Moines

My pad as an Airbnb? Maybe, but is washing sheets and scrubbing a bathroom really for me? …


One of the chief reasons I bought a three bedroom townhouse was the potential to lure the kids to visit the South. That’s been somewhat unsuccessful and that owes to them living their own lives with a limited timeframe to trek to Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean others might not find my third bedroom palatable for short rentals. It might be farfetched, however, to consider myself a hotelier. I’ve asked Ellen and Reid for the advice. No counsel from them as yet.


June 19, 2017

Ellen/Reid: I’ve enjoyed from afar each of your travels these past few days. Reid, NYC sounds liked great fun, and Ellen, you and the girls seemed to have a great time in California (even though it was blistering hot). Both of you guys just seem to get around. I texted Tim a bit ago and he reported the fishing has been slow owing to strong winds. Those would play hell with a fly fisherman. But the winds will die down and he’ll land tarpon. I’ll head to Charleston early tomorrow. I’m suspicious about the fishing due to warmer water but I can’t go down for the count without swinging. Reid, Cap’n Tripp the kayak guide said they’ve been killing it. But how? He’s been using a bait fish called menhaden that he nets from a boat but I don’t have that facility on the kayak. Otherwise, I’ve been mystified about where the fish are and how to catch them.

There was a nice article about Air B&Bs (sic) in the Sunday New York Times, and it got me to thinking about renting out my spare upstairs bedrooms. How would you two counsel me on the prospect of my pad as an Air B&B?

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I’m mildly intrigued at the idea of my place as an Airbnb. There’s more homework to do, however, before I agree to the idea of washing sheets and scrubbing bathrooms for others.

It sounds like something of a lot of work in terms of changing sheets and buying a TV for the spare room, and maybe cooking breakfasts, etc. But it sounds marginally interesting, and possibly profitable. Of course, the Times wonderful reporting lists both the good and the not so good (rude and demanding guests, etc.). I would appreciate your thoughts.

I’m having a tough time shaking some of the holdover weight gained from before the operation. I mean it’s not critical but it would be nice to stay in the same size pants for a while. It would also make it easier to hike next month. The pint of ice cream I wolfed down last night and today won’t help matters much.

Ellen, in two weeks I’ll be in St. Paul. I’ll still plan to rent a car so you don’t have to haul me around all the time. One question I have for you is: what are people wearing to weddings these days? I’d like to wear a coat and tie but if that’s not the norm, then let me know what you’d suggest. My golf clubs won’t make the trip. There should be a lot of Des Moines people there and it will be fun to catch up. (I just saw an article that lavishly praised Des Moines as one of the top cultural spots in the country.)

And then scarcely 10 days later, Reid, I’ll be with you for a day in Chicago (and hopefully on the way back, too). My workouts have been bruising but the gym work has to be done. There’s no way I’ll head into the hills in as good a shape as last year when the hike was a relative breeze. The knee feels pretty good for a change.

The lettuce out back is kaput. I’ll pull it up later this week. But the container tomatoes are going gangbusters and just this night I had a couple of BLTs, along with a beer. It was too hot to sit out on the porch. It has really been steamy here but that’s what you expect in the South.

Had a pretty good Father’s Day, capped off by talking to the two of you (and the girls). Those two little lovies just sound so refreshing and energetic. I played golf and started out fairly strong but collapsed like a house of cards on the back nine. Just can’t seem to keep any sort of concentration. Maybe that’s an age thing. I cursed like a sailor at some shots.

Here’s some news; Jane and Dave H. may walk a few days of the Camino de Santiago with me. Due to their schedule it may push my departure back a couple of weeks to mid September to accommodate them but that is fine. We’ll probably iron things out at the Furstenau wedding in Minneapolis. I actually think it would be great fun for those two to join me for whatever length of time. One thing I do know, Barcelona will be the likely landing spot for me since it costs so much less than London. The other thing I know is it’s gonna be here before you know it.

Love, Dad

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Should I stay or should I go? … a final answer


Call the old rock group The Clash clairvoyant or prescient, but 35 years ago they sang the very question that tormented me since late last summer: Should I stay or should I go?

The context of the question for the rockers was love; for me it was relocation. And the final answer for me: stay in Charlotte. My roots had worked themselves deep into the red clay soil after nearly 11 years.

All the agonizing, yo-yoing and back-and-forth is done. Ellen and Reid were first told in phone calls. Last week’s letter expanded on a thought process behind what was by far the toughest decision I’ve had to make in more than a decade. I will disappoint some people but make a few others happy. Still, a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.


February 20, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Last week was one I’ve worried about for the last few months. Yes, I’d gone back and forth and back and forth. It looked as if I wasn’t capable of making a decision – and that’s right. I wasn’t. That’s not how it appeared. It’s how it was. There’s nothing in recent memory in my nearly 11 years here that applied such a tight mental tourniquet. There there was no clear-cut answer, no internal directive that firmly, and with finality, declared ‘Here is what you should do.’ Every day was consumed, in part, with what to do. Partial credit has to go to your mom since I sought out her advice. We went back and forth about it, not at great length, but in her usual sense of clarity she was able to define the issues and ultimately cut to the chase: ‘Why move?’ That really helped. Locally I talked with my good friends Sondra and Andrea and their distilled counsel – Do what makes you happy – figured into the decision, too. The thing that is troubling is the near-continual public pronouncements about ‘I’m moving’ and now I wear the badge of a turncoat. I do wonder what people think or will think.

So here I’ll stay. The snail’s pace of the house sale figured into this, too. If it had sold immediately in October, as I assumed it would, then I would’ve been up to Des Moines in a flash and that would have been that. But the longer the sale took, the longer it plodded along, the more the doubts came into question.

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Even if I’d moved to the Midwest, it still meant a four hour drive to see sweet little Georgia and her big sister Emma in the Twin Cities. As for Reid, he would have been five hours away in Chicago.

I wondered about reinventing the wheel in all respects; housing, social life, golf, etc. It would have been almost exactly what happened when I moved to Charlotte although not quite as dire. Could I have been happy to lean on Val and Bob, Jane and Dave, Cheryl and Dave and Holly and Dana? Absolutely. But when I stepped back from that ledge I couldn’t get away from the fact that Charlotte feels like, and has felt like, home. Sure, I can get along anywhere I live, but the reinvention part was troubling. The ocean did come into play. I simply love toting Miss Emma to the salt water. Yeah, the weather here is glorious but that was no overriding factor.

I really appreciate how you guys took it. Ellen, I truly sweated over breaking the news to you. I had no idea how you’d take it other than that you might have a very strong opinion. Reid, I knew you’d defer to the same advice as Sondra and Andrea. Part of the final answer is a commitment to get to Chicago and St. Paul more regularly. That feels right. I do want to be part of Emma and Georgia’s lives and that can, and will, happen. I worried, too, about how friends in Des Moines Continue reading

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Guilty as charged…


Ellen and Henry try to escape the 102F heat in St. Paul by snoozing on the basement floor

I am a habitual offender when it comes to one of my friend Betsy’s cardinal rules: send thank you notes.  Guilty as charged.

In the spirit of turning over a new leaf, I finally got around to writing my hosts, Stacey and Bruce, who allowed me to stay in their home during my May trip to Des Moines.  As lateness goes, maybe it was still in the 30 day grace period (if such a thing exists) for such niceties.  But if nothing else, it gives me latitude to add Stacey and Bruce to the ever-expanding circle of folks I can write to.

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June 1, 2011

Stacey and Bruce: I’ve let a month slip by without sending you guys a proper thank you for allowing me to crash at your home and come and go as I pleased for more nights than should be allowed.   But it sure beat the alternative which would have been some motel on the outskirts of town.  It was a real treat to stay there.

It is remarkable to see how Jack has grown, and I can only imagine how Max and Alex have matured.  Are they getting older or is it just me?  One in China, the other in Philadelphia?  It just doesn’t seem possible.   The next thing you know they’ll be married and you’ll be grandparents, although let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  One way to look at it is you have enough room to accommodate a visiting brood.

It was great being back in DSM for even a long weekend.  I was telling Jane Hemminger that I miss the old sod and the people there and there’s a lot of truth in that.  When you look at all the factors, Des Moines isn’t faring too badly vis a vis some of the cities down this way.  Real estate is holding its own, the schools are still good, unemployment is in single digits, commute times are manageable.  None of which you can say about North Carolina, let alone South Carolina.  It adds up to a pretty nice picture.  I was really impressed with how things have pulled together in the downtown.  Charlotte should send a contingent up North to see how it’s done.  When I moved here the city was living the high life in all respects, but when things crashed we went down very hard face first.

I sense that Ellen is on a mommy-track.  All of her friends have little ones and I get the suspicion – she’s never mentioned anything to me so my view may be unfounded – that she’ll join them before long.  She seems to be nesting a bit in that they have gutted the kitchen in their older home in St. Paul for a total makeover.  The tear-out is complete but the work has yet to begin and she is still of the Pollyannaish view that it will be completed by the end of June.  Dream on, kid.  I’m hopeful of getting up there before long to view the work-in-progress although I perceive that they just want me to walk their dog and do their yard work for them.  That would be okay.

Reid is another matter all together.  He has gone incommunicado for another long stretch.  When he surfaces will be anyone’s guess.  I think he’s just getting on with things which I suppose is what boys will do.  We’re on a need to know basis and apparently we don’t need to know.  He likes his new agency and his neighborhood, but that was as of three weeks ago so who knows if the landscape has changed.

Well, gotta run.  But thanks again for letting me intrude for nights on end.  It was great to see both of you, and if by chance you ever get down to the Carolinas, you have a place to crash, too, although my guest room is Spartan by your standards.  See you soon.

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Road hunting and coffee with Ray…


Back in the day, I hunted birds.  In my early years it was about the killing but as I aged, it became about the seeing.  There was greater reward in watching pheasants and quail scurry through brush and thickets as they rushed to escape me.  (If they knew of my shooting prowess they could’ve taken flight or moseyed at a leisurely pace or simply stayed put.)  My gun, a fine 20 gauge Beretta, was ideal for the ‘sport’ yet it has resided with my son-in-law, Tim, for half a decade.  I won’t need it again.

Many of my hunting sojourns were with my buddy, Ray.  For a long while he was my boss but was more friend than boss.  Invariably, he’d pick me up before dawn in his forest green Ford Explorer, we’d hit the nearest convenience store for donuts and coffee and off we’d go for the morning’s hunt (if you could call it that).  We’d walk the fields when we could but were perfectly content to cruise the roads ever vigilant for the stray bird that might cross our path or poke his head up from a weedy patch.  If we saw the “prey”, great, if not, it was still a good morning.  It was about road hunting with Ray and a cup of coffee.

I hadn’t seen Ray in a while until I returned to Des Moines a few weeks ago.  I followed up with him on my return to North Carolina.

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May 12, 2011

Ray: It was incredibly great to see you at Hemminger’s on Friday night.  Ironically, if you’d not been there I was planning to stop by your place sometime on Saturday and take my chances that you’d be home.  No doubt that would have taken the new owners of your old home – and me, too – by complete surprise.  Everyone really looked the same, it’s just me that feels the aging process has taken a toll.

I’m glad we had a chance to catch up and go back to the old days.  Jeez, are we really aging that fast?  It would be wonderful to get in the shotgun seat of your Ford Explorer and cruise the back roads toward Winterset sipping coffee and looking for stray birds along the roadside.  Those were the days, they really were.  Glad to hear that you still get down that way.  It’s been an easy 6-7 years since I’ve hunted pheasants.  My Beretta is in the safe hands of my son-in-law in the Twin Cities and it’s never even crossed my mind to go quail hunting down in these parts.  You really don’t see much of that kind of news item in the paper down here.  It’s either fishing or maybe the stray story about killing the small deer they have down in these parts.  But nothing on birds.

It’s been five years down in Charlotte, and most of it has been fine enough.  The job is what it is and I do like most of it.  I’m ensconced in a 3 BR condo that masquerades as a three story townhome (I am starting to rue the multiple flights of stairs.  Better purchase decisions have been made).  I bought for convenience which means my commute to the downtown area is about 20 minutes vs. the smooth 45-60 minutes it would be elsewhere.  Just this week I’ve started to work at home as something of a telecommuter although it is my option to go to the home office when I am so moved.  The bank has several satellite offices around the outskirts of the city and those are options, too.  We have 15,000 employees here, which is actually down a fair number from even a couple of years ago.  I miss those days at Meredith.  I can’t believe what a job the city has done in the formerly ragged stretch from the airport to the downtown.  It is incredible.  Charlotte could learn from that.  It’s very impressive.

The kids are faring just fine.  Ellen is teaching up in St. Paul, and Reid is toiling at some digital ad agency in Chicago and although he tries to explain precisely what he does, all he sees is the dazed look in my eyes.  He gets it and I don’t.  I don’t know when Ellen and her hubby Tim will join the parenting brigade but my guess is it won’t be too far off.  The peer pressure from her friends with babies must be enormous.  I’m not sure I’m ready to be a grandpa or whatever it is the kids would call me.

Still have the Harley, and last year was the first year I’ve put some serious miles on it.  I have a delightful girlfriend, and she and I put about 8,000 miles on the rig.  Great roads down here.  Great.  County road crews don’t have much practice in paving straight lines.  Everything is a curve.  The paths aren’t as maintained as they are in Iowa but it’s been a lot of fun to hit the different ‘bergs down here.  You haven’t seen the South until you get out in the boonies, and believe me, it doesn’t take much to reach the boonies.  Good for you to head back to Sturgis.  Wish I could go.  I’m playing a little golf but my swing is sooo bad that it’s ceased to be as much fun.

Well, listen buddy, it was great to see you.  Say hi to Jan, keep me posted on the lurid days in Sturgis, and maybe I can borrow that stray gun you mentioned when I come back in October.

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You can’t go home again…


Ellen is about to become acquainted with dust as she and Tim kick off the remodel of their 1920s kitchen in St. Paul, MN.

I don’t know why, but the blog hasn’t been top of mind for me the past couple of weeks and the posts seem more tepid than usual.  I’ll get back in the swing of things here shortly.

Perhaps that’s because it has felt like old home week the past few weekends.  Whoever said ‘you can’t go home again’ was only partly right.  It does not apply if you need to box stuff and get it out the (garage) door to UPS

All the loose ends related to parental goods are now tied up.  Fine china to Ellen, antique cameras (dating back more than a century) are in Reid’s hands with the rest shipped to Charlotte.  It is all resolved and that chapter is closed. 

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May 9, 2011

Ellen/Reid: This morning I’m in a bit of a fog after yesterday’s travel.  Went to bed late by my standards (midnight) and was up very early and got to work about 6:30 to wade through a mountain of e-mails and that’s only from being out of the office a couple of days.  I shudder to think what the truly higher-ups have in their e-mail queue when they get back from vacation.  It was tough to get rigged up and out the door.  The coffee was particularly weak so it might necessitate a visit downstairs to Starbucks or Caribou when this letter is done.

All in all it was a pretty good weekend.  Steve’s wedding was appropriately low key and his girls did a fabulous job with their remarks.  Good to see lots of old friends and invariably they ask how you both are and what you’re doing.  I try to fill them in as best I can.

Jane Hemminger just cannot be rivaled as a party hostess.  Clad in her bare feet and a red apron, she and Dave threw a nice bash out on their deck on Friday night.  It was a beautiful evening.  The whole crew was there; Dickinsons, Cornicks, Sculforts, Hestons, John Leonhardt, the Kobes, Fustenaus and Shifflers.  I know I’m leaving some out but it was a very nice affair.  Jane can cook and prepare gourmet foods with the best of them.  And she makes it sound like it’s no big deal when it actually is.  I had a great time but was habitually overserved.  Not to sound like a broken record, but people habitually asked about what you’re both up to.

I stayed with Staci and Bruce all three nights.  Max and Alex are doing college things so they had plenty of spare room in their 5 bedroom abode.  That was nice.  We stayed up all three nights yakking and drinking wine way past my bedtime.  That’s why the mornings were fairly groggy.  My original plans were to stay at the house but am glad that did not happen.  Saw some of the neighbors, and they also ask what you’re up to.  Gave some of the boxed plates and tableware to Mary and Frank’s daughter Gianna who is setting up her first place.  Now she’ll have some dishwasher safe plates and bowls.  Quite a bit of the boxed material is going to Goodwill which is just as well.  Reid, you clearly don’t have the space for items, and Ellen you just don’t need anything but you will get the fine china which I hope arrived intact.  The big prize of the weekend was finding the glass-covered roasting pan which was your great-grandmothers.  That is the one thing I wanted from your grandparents house and I thought it had gone missing.  So that was a coup.  Really, it was hard to wade through everything.  It brought a lot of emotions to the surface.  I know whoever buys their items at whatever thrift shop they’re sold at won’t have the same attachment as we might.  That’s okay.  In reality, it’ll be less stuff for you two to clear out down the road if you know what I mean.  In a morbid way, I thought of carting some of it home to sell on EBay but since I don’t know how that works, let alone what stuff is worth, the boxes went over to the Goodwill pile.

It’s interesting to see Des Moines after all this time.  They have done an incredible job downtown.  Lots of towns, including CLT, would be envious of the restaurants and nighttime haunts from the Capitol on west.  It’s just very nice.  They’re not rolling up the sidewalks at twilight like they used to.  Bruce and John and I ate downtown at some funky little place Thursday night and it was fabulous.  Great to see those two.  The persistent question comes up about moving back to Des Moines and that’s a tough one to answer.  You guys are in that same boat because you get the same repetitive question.  It’s like that old saying: how do you get them back on the farm once they’ve seen gay Parie?

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Job one and job two…


United and U.S. Airways combined to do a nice job of scooting me back to Charlotte on time and intact Sunday night.  Job one of the long weekend was Steve’s joyous wedding, and job two was to sort through what remained of my parent’s household possessions and ship out plates and roasting pans and a menagerie of other items to points north and south; St. Paul and Charlotte.

It really was four days of mixed emotions.  It was great to see friends Jane and Dave, Pam and Greg, Sam and Bryce, Staci and Bruce, and all the others to say nothing of the wedding itself.  The dirty work was somewhat less so.  Deciding what to keep and what to donate was tedious and trying emotionally.  But UPS says the boxes will arrive at the destinations by Thursday.  Ellen will be happy when she unwraps her surprise package.  I’ll open mine, too, but we’ll see if any of the feelings I had in the garage in Clive made the trip along with whatever it was I wrapped in newspaper and bubble wrap.  Right now, I can’t remember what most of it was.

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May 2, 2011

Ellen/Reid: I guess I’m looking forward to the trip to Des Moines later this week.  Steve says everything about the wedding is in place.  From the sound of things it appears to be relatively low key; they have instituted a ‘no gift’ policy that I plan on violating with a box of ProV1 golf balls for Steve.  The way he plays efficient golf, a dozen golf balls will last him a couple of years.

Job #1 in Iowa is to pack up items for shipment to Charlotte or to your locales.  Ellen, it sounds as if you have picked up just about everything you need.  Reid, the assumption is that you have neither room nor immediate desire for most of those things so I will preemptively have those items sent to North Carolina where they will remain until such time as you want them.  That’s fine.  You can look through things the next time you come down here.  And, might I ask, when will that be?  (That applies to you, too, EP.)

I get in about 3:30 on Thursday and will head straight to the hardware store for boxes and tape and get cracking on fillin’ the boxes.  That will consume all of Thursday night and into Friday morning.  Bob and I will have coffee at Grounds for Celebration then head to The Wave for a hearty Midwestern breakfast.  We have a lot of catching up to do.  He just had some surgery to overcome the effects of too much text messaging.  He just had one wrist worked on a few months ago, and now it’s the other.  And guess what I keep getting from him on my phone?  Steve has a pre-wedding golf outing set for Friday afternoon, and then I’ll head to Jane and Dave’s party on Friday night.  Rumor has it that there will be more golf Saturday morning, so at least we know where Steve’s second priority is.

I have mixed feelings going back to the house.  That’s where I’ll plan to stay to avoid hotels.  But it is a visit that needs to be made although I don’t know the full extent of what must be packed and UPS’d.  There was a lot of good that went on there for a lot of years.  It might be good to see some of the old neighbors although they might wonder what in the hell is going on.  Your mother has asked me to tend to some fresh sod that was just laid to lessen some of the standing water in the back yard.  I hope it’s in good shape.  As much as I might have groused about mowing and such, there are portions of yard work, especially the gardening aspect of it that I miss the most.  I liked digging in the dirt.

Quite the news this morning about bin Laden.  About time they got the bastard.  Of course, one of the news programs had some right winger on who said it “took a Muslim to catch a Muslim.”  He went on to say the Republicans set up the apparatus to catch him, so already the party that couldn’t catch him is laying claim to it.  What a bunch of crackpot idiots.  I don’t go along with those who say that terrorist bunch is DOA; rather, it’s like cutting the head off the hydra.  There will be someone else to come along and do the dirty work.  So this battle is far from over and done with.  But a big chunk of it is gone.

Watched four little chickadees spring from their nesting box this weekend.  One by one they popped their little heads out and flew to the nearest branch.  They were unsteady, but since then have found their wings and have frequented the bird feeder outside the kitchen window.  It’s good to know that there are now four little birds that might not have otherwise had a good home on the tree out in back.  I’ve really enjoyed the comings and goings in the nest.  I yanked the neatly made nest out in the hopes some other occupants might try the same thing.  At least the nesting box will be in clean and in place for the bluebirds next February.

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On the mend from another surgery…


For the second time in three weeks, my Midwestern road trip continues; today it’s off to Des Moines for my friend Steve’s wedding and to box and ship my side of the family’s items held over from my parent’s home in Omaha.  Most of it will be sent to Ellen and Reid.  Some will be shipped to Charlotte.

I sent a letter – the fifth mailed to him since last July – to my friend Bob to apprise him of the trip details.  He’s on the mend from yet another surgery for a self-inflicted texting injury, his second bout with this over-use malady (de Quervain Syndrome, aka mother’s wrist).  Apparently he can open envelopes but not much else.

Bo strikes a post-surgery woe-is-me pose. At this pace he may have to start texting this his toes.

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April 27, 2011

Bob: By this time next week Jane Hemminger will have had her fix, albeit temporarily, of party hosting.  Her invitation was just a scream.  I have to shake my head every time something arrives in the mailbox or the front door that has her name attached to it.  I tried gently to stave off this event, but Dave dissuaded me knowing that it wasn’t a battle worth escalating all the way up to her.  It will be fun to see everyone although I don’t know who those people will be just yet.

I blast into town late Thursday and commence with packing boxes right away.  That will consume more of Thursday night and well into Friday.  I don’t know precisely how much stuff there is to send but no doubt it is a pile.  It is a guarantee that none of it is Harley stuff.  Kathy has whittled down things as she’s prepped the house for sale although she has had some viewings but no takers.

Your Key West vacation with your girls sounded like it was a hell of a lot of fun.  You have this knack for finding just the right travel outlets.  Coincidentally that is the one place Felicia says she would like to go but as of yet I’ve not summoned the effort to search for airfares and lodging.  When I’m in DSM you will have to remind me of just how in the hell you found the place you stayed at.  That sounds like a pretty good gig.  I’ve been grossly negligent in using my timeshare points to rustle up places such as the place you stayed.  This is where your life trumps mine in that you travel around all the time on these little adventures and you use all the Internet sources at your disposal to find deals and doings.  Me, I still look for newspaper coupons.  You’ll have to be my life coach.

So, when is this text-induced surgery (your second) supposed to take place, and how long will you be on the shelf?  You are reminded that this is prime golf season that you will be taking off.  Are you sure this couldn’t wait until the colder months so you could ride the bike and swing the clubs?  I don’t even need surgery to put my clubs away.  My swing continues to deteriorate and the game isn’t as much fun as it used to be.  The problem is completely between my ears.  A friend in my singles golf group says to just let it go and to let it be what it will be.  She’s probably onto something with that.  I need a golf shrink.  But it just kills me to have such anxiety issues.  Ask whoever is doing your slicing if a two-for-one deal might be available.  We could be on adjoining tables, you getting your wrist whacked and me getting a frontal lobotomy.  Maybe that’s the cure I’m looking for.

I’ve wondered how things are progressing on your home front.  Let me know how all that is going.  Your ready supply of $1 bills has been shrinking by the week but hopefully I’ll be able to make a deposit into your account in the relatively near future.  Well, I’d best sign off for now but you’ll get me soon enough next week.  I’ll text you when I land, and let’s hit Grounds and the Wave early Friday morning before I get to boxing in earnest.

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