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Beer as water and traveler’s revenge…

January 2, 2013

Ellen/Reid: Well, we’ve turned a calendar page so let’s hope we can turn a new leaf, too, on a number of issues.  Too many to mention down here but it would run the gamut from weight to reading more to being more organized.  Same as last year, really.  We see how far that got me.

For some reason, true Southerners think it’s good luck to cook collard greens (with a little bacon fat mixed in) and black eyed peas Continue reading


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A seagull on braided 20 lb. test line…

Before any incriminating photos show up on Facebook, let me state for the record that, yes, I did catch a seagull in Florida on braided 20 lb. test line.

Bob and the three Dave’s: D3 (Bradley), D1 (Hemminger) and our host D2 (Dahlquist) on the beach for breakfast. Another in an unbroken string of glorious meals.

The bird, gull species unknown, put up an aerial fight for a few minutes just above the waves, but ever the sportsman, my prize was treated as a catch-and-release bird.  Only I, in an effort to catch something that swims, could catch something that flies.

D1 in the surf – if you can call calm water ‘surf’ – on our first morning. Rays, fish at the bottom of the food chain swimming for their lives, and birds are a good measure of a sea side environment.  We wondered how long it would stay that way before man permanently screws it up.

That was the low point in a guy’s weekend filled with high points on Anna Maria Island.  This is the third go-round with the three D’s and a Bob (all mentioned below).  With any luck it won’t be the last.

Ellen and Reid read all about it last week:


October 9, 2012

Ellen/Reid: It was really a great few days in Florida with the boys (Dave H., Dave D. and Bob F.).  Fun golf, a nice beach, great weather, good time on the water and equally good food and drink at every turn.  You can’t ask for much more.  It was quite gracious of Dave Dahlquist’s mother-in-law to loan us her 3 BR condo on Anna Maria Island.  We could, and did, lounge during cocktail hour with an elevated fourth floor view of the water and the island beyond.  That was nice.  Our first morning I must’ve waded in the surf for nearly two hours watching the fish and other aquatic and bird life.  Stepped on a ray but it didn’t sting me although if this were the Olympics I might have won the high jump going away.

With Dave’s help we steered clear of most of the tourist stuff.  We did have our share of dives (Rod & Reel Restaurant) plus some nicer spots, but the R&R had some of the best fish & chips I’ve ever had.  It’s out on a pier and while the décor isn’t much, the rest of it was great.  Pretty much the whole environment rotates around the beach life, and we had breakfast on the beach, other dinners close to the beach, etc.

Yours truly, Bob, D2 and D1 at the incredible Concession Club. So tough we stopped keeping score, but we did count the rounds of G&Ts (3) on the 5 star veranda.

The golf was great but what really stuck out for me was the fishing.  We charted a boat with a guy named Cap’n Josh for a half day’s excursion.  He’s about your age Reid and he really knew his stuff.  After he tossed out his net and hauled in a couple of hundred bait fish, we set off for an artificial reef made of demolished bridge pilings that was about a mile and a half straight off shore from our condo.  We dropped the bait straight down to the reef, about 25 feet, and in moments you’d get nibbles from grouper, ‘grunts’ and snappers.  Snapper was what he was really after, and our largest was only about 2 lbs.

D2 smacks his patented power fade on a par 3. D2 and D3 swept this stretch of three 6 hole matches.

What was really fun was watching the sharks and the big cobia pick off the bait fish.  Josh would toss some bait behind the stationary boat, and the big boys would come in to feed.  I had a tough time hauling anything in but when Josh fished he had something on every try.  A cobia came through and Josh immediately hooked him.  He handed the rod to me, and the first thing that struck me was how strong the fish was.  It was incredible.  He stripped off line and before I could get my bearings, he tore for the reef and the line was shredded.  I guess that’s one of the tastier fish around, and there it was, I lost him.  Dave D. had hold of a reef shark, and that was something.  Since we had light tackle and weren’t using steel leaders, there wasn’t much chance that we’d land it, but it was still fun to see while the fight lasted.  As for the unfortunate seagull, it snapped up my bait as soon as it hit the water, and he flew off about 25 yards.  It put up a better fight than some of the fish, but Josh had seen all this before and got the bird off my line in short order.  I like to be on the water rather than in it.  This was a highlight, and Reid, we need to give it a shot somewhere.

Bob near the 18th at the Concession Club. 90 members, limited play, and an incredible experience.

The plane ride home was something else.  Lightning struck our 757, and fried some electrical component that had to be flown in on the next flight from Atlanta.  So that shoved the takeoff back a few hours, and then when we pushed off again, the part malfunctioned.  Back to the gate we came.  A lot of passengers bailed at that point but I wanted to move on in the event a seat might not be available in the morning.  We waited another couple of hours for another plane and finally got to Atlanta just after midnight.  Since my morning flight was at 7, I opted to stay in the terminal for the night.  A so-so choice at best.  I only had my golf clothes on since I came straight from the course, and it was cold in the terminal.  I tried to stay warm as best I could by covering my legs with newspapers.  About 3 a.m. I went for a walk to stay active and came across a couple of Delta Airlines blankets.  That made sleeping a little easier, but it was the incessant security announcements that really kept me awake.  I’m not cut out for sleeping on chairs in airports anymore.  Those days are behind me, and good riddance.  Travel just isn’t what it used to be.

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Friends without Facebook

As it would work out, I sent a letter to my friend Norm – he, the ultimate arbiter of words – and how does he respond?

By email.

At least he has the sensibility to put Friends without Facebook in his subject line.  I don’t perceive Norm as much of a Facebook or social media guy.  All his working life he was a journalist or a behind-the-scenes journalist, so you’d think e-things would be anathema to him.

Norm’s name probably doesn’t ring a bell for you.  But his work influences what you read in print and online every day.  He was, for a long, long time, the man behind the Associated Press Stylebook.  The Stylebook is the bible of the sport for newspapers, magazines, and virtually any other entity that puts words in front of you in any form.  If or how a word entered official use by journalists, bloggers and writers – Quran vs Koran (“Quran: The preferred spelling for the Muslim holy book”), e-commerce, nano, JPEG, etc. – that was Norm’s decision.

And he was my editor when I wrote my national housing columns for the Associated Press.  He gave me not only a chance, but he let me follow stories on my own.  He rarely, if ever, interfered let alone second guessed me.  He had confidence and trusted me and that meant everything to my writing career and style.

I am glad to call Norm my friend.


December 9, 2011

Norm: My New Year resolution to stay in touch with you has come a few days early but I suppose the new Post Office dictum to take first class snail-mail to new levels of slowness means this could still arrive after January 1.  Hopefully not.

Actually, there’s not a hell of a lot new down here in North Carolina besides our even farther right than usual right-wing politics. But it is in the 50s here today so at least the weather validates my move.  Nearing six years as a Southerner, so the next time I visit NYC (which is overdue) let me know if I’ve acquired any of the local intonation.

I think you’re onto something with the retirement thing.  The idea of non-work is beginning to dawn on me and I’m thinking of pulling the plug on work in the next year.  Age 63, or at least the 40-some years before it, seem about the right number of years in the salt mines.  I don’t know how you’ve kept yourself busy but I wouldn’t mind finding out how that works.

My daughter is expecting so any advice you have on the grandpa thing would be more than welcome.  Ellen is in St. Paul, MN and likes it very much, although the single digit temps they’ve had the last couple of days may temper her enthusiasm.

Not doing a hell of a lot with my free time except walking and growing older.  I keep threatening to write a book but the inspiration continues to escape me.  That’s probably just as well for the reading public.  There are enough bad books out there.

So what are you up to?  Still freelancing?  I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing.  And Jeanette?  I don’t keep up with the AP much these days.  I see their ‘contact us’ web page still has e-mail with a hyphen even though they issued some decree earlier this year that email would henceforth be one word.  That’s why they still need you in the shop to at least run the Stylebook.  My son Reid still has your signed copy.

Still living alone although I have a steady girlfriend who has quickly moved up to significant-other status.  There is still the very real threat that we could visit New York and you’d have a chance to meet her and give her the third degree: “Felicia, why are you with this guy…?”

Hopefully, you’ll find out sooner than later.  Really, let me know how and what you’re doing.  I don’t need to know the why.  I hope things are well…

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Henry and his buddy Tucker, the black Lab, cool their heels in Ellen's living room. No doubt once the picture was over, it was off to the races - again.

As I see it, connectivity has multiple meanings.  The popular sense as used by Ellen and Reid involves wires and tech gadgetry.  Then there’s my way.  What you see below is a recent note to three of my dearest friends – Diana, Jim and Pam – back in the old stomping grounds.  We used to play cards together.  I miss them a lot but I don’t want our continental drift to widen the gap any more than it is now.


December 15, 2010

Pam/Diana/Jim: Why I’ve not done a better job of staying in touch is just beyond me.  I was trudging around at noon today wondering why that is so and then it hit me that I could get off my butt and send you guys at least a short note.

I really miss you guys.  I miss Des Moines.  Stumbling upon friends has been a hit-and-miss proposition at best down here, and most of those that I do have are golfers.  Jim, as you saw it’s just a different way of living down in these parts.  If you’re not from here, well, you are insulated from the rest of the genteel society. 

But I suppose I’m here to stay unless something really whack happens.  The arbiter in the move or stay equation is real estate and the weather.  No way could I possibly hope to recoup what I’ve got in my little townhome.  Prices have fallen like a stone and there’s not much hope on the horizon.  Time on market figures to be about 200 days if, as the mini-Allen Daltons down here say, the house is priced right.  It’s just the Home Marketing System, Southern style.  Stuff just isn’t moving.  It’s really tough on those that over-bought when prices were at the tip top.  If I was certain it would sell for even in the ballpark of what I paid for it things would be that much easier to simply pull up and go.  As for the weather, it just seems hard for me to deal with severe cold any more.  It’s been in the lower teens here the past few mornings and it’s been excruciating to get in the car and drive the half hour into the office.  Maybe it’s that it is a damp cold.  I don’t know, but it does cut to the bone.  But enough whining about that junk.

Jim, I need to know how you’re doing.  Diana, how are the girls and where are they?  And Pam, what are Nick and Sam up to?  Every once in a while I pick up some hearsay about various folks from Meredith and RES, but it’s pretty slim pickings.  I don’t know what Ray is doing or the Prengers or anybody else for that matter.  Since I’m so lousy at spending time on Facebook I guess I’ll just perpetually be on the outside looking in.

Don’t do a whole hell of a lot for fun other than try to golf now and then or ride the Harley.  I’m dating a woman now after nearly five years and it’s nice to have a companion.  Dating down here is a whole different world, and that could be construed to not being too good.  But I found a nice one.

Part of my world is going to be decided in the next few weeks and if and when that does happen I will spread the word to the three of you.  I hope you guys are still playing cards now and again, and if you are, deal me in.

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That a sub-rosa organization can obscond with and then publish tens of thousands of documents – no matter the source and no matter if the material is sensitive or not – speaks to today’s Internet media environment.  They’re just a bunch of Wiki-geeks masquerading as information purveyors.  What have we gained and are we better off knowing what we didn’t know before?  It’s like gaining access to someone’s dental records.  So what?

On the flip side is a report in Psychology Today about the extinction of letter writing and the loss of gratification from handwritten letters.  My efforts may not be handwritten but I’m doing all I can to keep the genre alive.


Today’s letter to mom was written last night before I jettisoned the office.

December 3, 2010

Mom: Well, I’m in the office late trying to get some added work done.  Not sure if anyone will notice but we’ll keep plugging away at it until someone does (or I hope they do).  Someone asked for a spiffy chart and it’s a spiffy chart they’ll get.  It’s actually pretty cold outside so it doesn’t bother me to stay inside a little while longer.  I’ve got a stock-pot filled with turkey soup at home which should make some of the shivers go away.

I’m already trying to wrap up what Christmas shopping there is.  The kids haven’t voiced much in terms of what they want; Reid wanted gloves and outdoorsy-socks and I’ve already shipped those to him, and who knows what Ellen wants.  I offered to pay for a month of yoga for her at her exercise studio but she didn’t give me much of a response.  She really loves that yoga stuff.  I’ve tried it before and it turned me into a human pretzel.  I had to stay in the back row of the class in case someone would see me contorting and twisting in ways my body did not want to go.  The instructor would ask why I stopped going to classes and the answer was easy: I didn’t want to end up in a body cast.

Your other son says you made a return trip to the dentist the other day.  What’s up with that?  I hope everything is okay.  A guy I play golf with has no teeth – and doesn’t want any – and I can’t figure out how he eats when we head out for a bite after our rounds.

My little house needs to have the insulation revisited.  The attic doesn’t have near enough and the windows are, in a word, drafty.  If you put a candle by a window the breeze would blow it out.  They just don’t put in good windows or wall insulation as a general rule down here.  Not sure why that is because it would be really important during the hot summer days.  But you sure as heck freeze your you-know-what off in the winter months.  It’ll start warming up on late February – I think.

Not much else is going on.  I’ll watch Nebraska get crushed by Oklahoma on Saturday night – the Big Red doesn’t stand much of a chance – and that will give me something to do at home for a change.  The pro teams down here are just awful.  One of the guys got fined for doing something stupid like yelling at the refs.  His one game check that he won’t get is over $100,000.  For one lousy game.  Hey, give me half of that and I’ll make most of my jump shots.

Well, I’m out of here Mom.  Hope to see you soon, and want to assure you I still love you with all my heart. 

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Good for something…

Mom at dinner. It's so good to see her smile after the rough stretch of months she's endured.

Well, it seems the Internet is good for something besides porn (I’m not a viewer) and putting newspapers and book stores out of business.

The staff at the home where my mother lives sent a batch of photos of mom that made my heart skip a beat for the first time in a long while.  She just looked great – smiling and happy for a change.  She’s got a new buddy – I don’t know her name – but it’s always good to have a pal to pal around with.


November 11, 2010

Mom: You can’t believe how happy I was to get a batch of photographs of you the other day from the staff there at Country House.  You looked so good and so happy.  And who was the baby you were holding?  It was really good to see you smile.  The surroundings there look pretty nice.  The staff sent the pictures over the Internet, and be sure to tell them thanks, and to keep the photos coming.

Played golf yesterday with a couple of my buddies at the bank.  I’ve been trying to stay away from the course but they demanded, as only bankers can.  As usual, I got crushed by those thieves.  But we had a great time.  One of the guys had his 11-year-old son with him, Jack, and for the first time in his life the young lad broke 100.  He had a 98 and that’s pretty good shooting for a little kid.  You’ve never seen a kid smile so much.  He was on cloud nine.  It was a beautiful day in the low 70s and bright sunshine.  If my God-awful long swing isn’t enough, my short game went to hell in a hand basket.  I couldn’t get up and down to save my life.

We’re cooling down here.  It was in the upper 20s a couple of nights ago and that’s pretty much taken care of any tender, growing plants.  I planted some pansies in the window box out front and they still seem to be living.  The lettuce is doing fine, too.  I’ve been wearing a coat and hat to the office for a change.

Tomorrow I may try some fly fishing for the trout up at a spot called South Mountain.  It’s about an hour drive from here although there is no easy way to get to it.  There’s no real easy way to get to anywhere in North Carolina.  Anyway, the fish are reported to be quite large, some up to 20 inches.  All rainbows.  Those are a little bigger than we used to catch up in the Rockies.  I saw the pictures from a friend so I can verify that the fish are big.  I’m angling to just get outside, really.  Felicia and I will take her daughter’s dog, she’s a Labrador mostly, along for the ride.  Maybe that will tire the dog out to take a long walk.

Finished my church newsletter last night.  When it’s printed I’ll send you a copy.  It’s 12 pages and it takes about 25 hours a month to do.  But I enjoy it and the minister seems to like it so I guess that’s what matters.  It’s not the best looking thing you’ve ever seen but the content isn’t bad.

I talked last night to Henry and Mary up in Portland.  He seems to be doing fine although Mary holds the fort down for the most part.  He was full of questions about North Carolina and how I like it down here.  I assured him that it was fine enough although some of the Southern ways take a little getting used to.

Well, gotta run to the office.  You be good, and keep the beautiful pictures coming.

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Being different…

Bryan's "designer" cast. He has limited sympathy for Bob's texting injury.

A friend of mine posted a message a few days ago on my seldom-visited Facebook page about a recent blog post, and I just got around to taking a look at her message today. It was a nice note, and I really appreciate Jane’s concern and support.

My tardiness could mean one of several things; A) I err by expecting others to instantly read my posts yet can’t take the time to read the messages of others, B) I don’t spend much time roaming the Facebook landscape and C) Facebook doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me.  I hope ‘A’ isn’t entirely true, but I think ‘B’ and ‘C’ hold smidgens of truth.

Make no mistake, I am a gnat bite on the globe-sized entity that is Facebook.  Part of my reluctance relates to time; recently, a local mother made news when she banned her teen daughter from Facebook for a week.  The young girl claimed withdrawal symptoms from her four to six hour a day Facebook habit.

Bob sports his real cast. Empathy, let alone sympathy, have been hard to come by.

It’s hard to spend one hour, let alone the young woman’s four to six hours, on anything every single day.  Sure, I like to know what people are up to but there is an intimacy that is missing online.  At least my obsessing with letters can be measured in minutes, not hours.  Perhaps it’s my way of being different.


Bridger update: Two more inquiries have come in.  The able-bodied Reid looks to be on board, too.  FYI…airfares from Charlotte to Denver appear to be in the $430 range, and $528 round trip to Jackson Hole.  Denver is a sturdy but esthetically pleasing 5-6 hour drive to Pinedale, WY while Jackson Hole is roughly two hours.


October 11, 2010

Ellen/Reid: Well, it seems I’m in danger of becoming one of “them.”  By them, I mean a Southerner.  Because in the last few weeks, I’ve cooked okra twice (it’s pretty good) and also fixed up a mess of fried green tomatoes (also better than you might think), finally got a North Carolina license plate for the Harley, watched some NASCAR (just a few minutes), and while tooling around on the bike stopped by fields for a first hand look at peanuts and cotton.  On one stretch of road saw some tobacco over yonder but we didn’t stop.  I don’t think anyone down in these parts will ever confuse me for a local but the assimilation is happening as we speak.

I’m starting to learn where towns are like Florence, Laurinburg, Chester and Reidsville.  What I do know after this weekend’s bike ride is that there are no, or hardly any, straight roads in the entire region.  It is as if state road planners dyed a pot of spaghetti and poured it out on a large piece of paper.  Where ever the spaghetti hit the paper was the road scheme.  We rode to Danville, VA on Saturday, and according to Mapquest, the trip was roughly 150 miles.  That’s a shade over two hours at Interstate speed.  But the trip took nearly five hours because, without exaggeration, we took no fewer than 15 different roads to get there.  There weren’t enough bread crumbs to help us follow the path.  I couldn’t replicate it now by memory if I had to.  It was just bizarre.  Felicia and I laid the road maps for North Carolina and Iowa side by side.  It was hilarious.  Iowa was almost totally a grid of north-south, east-west straight lines, while North Carolina was a literal jumble of roads.

I’m going to make my plans for Thanksgiving this week.  Ellen, I will likely get up there on Tuesday because I’m late enough in making plans that all the Wednesday seats are filled.  Part of me would like to drive to get the stink blown off but let me see what the airfares are.  I’m excited to see your refurbished digs and the new furnishings.  Reid and I can handle all the cooking and whatnot.  That will be our role as guests.  Glad to hear you have a touch because mine is where a fair amount of my sleeping is done.

Your uncle did all the work to rid much of your grandparent’s house of stuff this past weekend.  He wasn’t too pleased that I wasn’t there to help him out but as a practical reality it just wasn’t a reality for me to be there.  All of your stuff is in the basement of a friend of mine, Pete Z__________, who was nice enough to hold it until you, or your mom, can get to Omaha to retrieve it.  I e-mailed your mother to see if she could help but she won’t be back in the Midwest until past the middle of December, so we’ll lean on Pete to hold your stuff a little bit longer than we might otherwise want.  Ellen, this includes the china, and Reid, this includes whatever it was you picked after the funeral plus some kitchen stuff Ralph and Gayle thought you might need to stock your new little kitchen.

My cousin Tom was the first to step up and say “yes” to a trip to the Bridger Wilderness at the end of July in 2011.  He’s always been an outdoor guy and the drive isn’t too onerous from his home in Eugene, OR.  It’s closer than Charlotte, that’s for sure.  I’ve got room for 8 to 12 folks so if either of you want to go backpacking…Ellen, you could even bring Henry along for the hike.  He’d love it.

Well, I’m gonna sign off for now as there’s a conference call on tap in about an hour that I have to prep for.  As soon as the T-Day plans are known, you two will be the first to know other than me.

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