Thursday, July 31, 2014


It's been a while since I took this long of a vacation, but it went fast.  This morning we fly out of Reno, have a layover in Salt Lake City, Utah, then arrive back home to some sort of reality, where tomorrow it will be August already.

I enjoyed my first visit ever to Reno.  It's a smaller much-downscaled version of Las Vegas and like Atlantic City out there on the East Coast it's best days as a casino town are in its past.  But downscale feels good to me sometimes.  I'm an unpretentious guy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

he hit on the wrong guy

Outside the CVS store in Lake Tahoe, a panhandler, wearing a t-shirt with an American flag on it, came up to me wanting money.

Him:  "Hey man, I'm a Christian and I'm in need."
Me:  "Then maybe you should consider being something ELSE!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

off the road again

We put a bunch of miles on that dusty Prius -- 15 hundred maybe? -- and have come to the last stop on our road trip -- Reno, Nevada -- from where we will fly home after a couple days of recovery.

What a trip, though.  I'm especially surprised how much I liked Northern California.  If I ever decide to "drop out" of my life back home, that might be where you'll find me, being a hermit and growing a beard and drinking some Scotch and writing my book.

Monday, July 28, 2014

scoobert moves back east

I'm feeling sad this week for Ruthie, my niece and one of my faithful blog followers.  She and her family, due to circumstances, just moved into a home that has a policy of No Dogs Allowed, which meant that she needed to, for a time at least, give up her beloved dog Scoobert.  She has had Scoobert for, I'm not sure, 12 years maybe?, and Scoobert has been there with her through thick and thin, including the big move a few years ago from New Jersey to Minnesota.

So what Ruthie did was, with many tears, ship Scoob off to her mom, Vickie, in North Carolina,  where he will be in good hands, being pampered by his "grandma" and learning to bark with a Southern accent.  Hugs to you, Ruthie -- and Scoobert too.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

haydn and the giants

Jerry under the Redwoods
My friend Elke in Germany send me a CD of a chorale concert that she was recently a part of -- "The Creation", an oratorio by Franz Joseph Haydn -- and we listened to this excellent recording as we drove today through the Avenue of the Giants -- the magnificent giant redwood trees of Northern California.

Today's drive was a couple hundred miles of up and down mountains of narrow roads and hairpin curves, and we were glad to arrive at our hotel tonight.

More driving tomorrow but less beautiful and less treacherous.

So far Jerry just has one speeding ticket.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

just north of Mendocino

Highlights of my California trip day today --

--  Lunch in Berkeley, near the University.  It made me remember Mario Salvo, who I bet most of you don't...
--  Not having road rage while sitting in massive traffic jams...
--  The drive on Highway 128 north of San Francisco between Cloverdale and Mendocino...

Tomorrow, the giant redwoods.  Bear with me, this trip won't last forever.

Friday, July 25, 2014

feeling like a wild goose

Jerry was still sleeping and I was feeling antsy, so I hopped in the Prius -- a brand I will never own, by the way -- and am currently having an early-morning Kona coffee and chocolate macaroon at a place called the Wild Goose Cafe in downtown Carmel Valley Village, CA, which is very close to the great cabin where we spent the past two nights.  It's a beautiful morning and feels like every morning should feel and hardly ever does.

Today we explore the Monterrey Peninsula a little more -- Jerry has his eye on doing the Monterrey Aquarium and I would sort of like to stop in at the Steinbeck museum in Salinas -- and then we head north, where there is no way that the scenery can be as nice as it is here.

I'm doing my best to not make this a travelogue blog and am failing miserably.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

California is many things

Have you ever noticed that the coolest people are the people who have no idea how cool they are?  Some people will never be cool, yet they try so hard!

Ah yes, cool, California.

Lots of beautiful scenery the past couple days --  desert, mountains, crops of produce as far as you can see.

The one place on this trip I requested that we see:  Big Sur and the Pacific Coast north and south of it, not just for the scenic beauty of it but for the artistic history associated with the area:  Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, etc.  Today was Big Sur day.  I tried to take pictures of it all, but I can't do any of it justice:  It's just too big.

One more check off my Bucket List.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2 bad passengers in a Prius

Volkswagen used to have an advertising slogan that went something like this:  "On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers.  Drivers wanted."

I admit to being the world's worst passenger, and Jerry isn't much better, and we both enjoy driving (And being in control?).  It doesn't help my nerves that he is a super-aggressive, tail-gating driver, and it seems to annoy him that as a driver I'm way more cautious and, let's face it, practically perfect.

So the next six days on the road through California in a rental Toyota Prius should be interesting.

Today we face about 8 hours of taking turns driving, ending up at the Pacific Ocean, staying somewhere near Carmel.

In a few minutes, we once again check out of Las Vegas.  Three nights here is plenty, but then before long I'm anxious to get back.  Some people have their lake cabins or boats or other vacation homes as their escape.  I have Vegas, that symbol of capitalistic excess that politically I might find obnoxious but in my heart of hearts I love.  I guess that I'm more American than I like to admit.

California, here we come!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

let's give thanks for the pill

Back in the mid-60s, I heard Bob Jones III (one of the Bob Jones University's Bob Joneses) giving a sermon in which he lamented the invention of penicillin and the birth control pill because they took away two of the weapons fundamentalists had historically used to scare followers into not having sex:  certain venereal diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

For some reason, his stupid comments keep coming back to my memory as I hear the current discussions about birth control following the Supreme Court's "Hobby Lobby" decision.  Certain religious figures still think of unwanted pregnancies as punishment for having sex that doesn't have procreation intent.  I wonder what percentage of their pew-dwellers think that it's all a crock while nodding in solemn agreement.

the border kids

I've been thinking a lot about the kids in detention along the Mexican border in Texas that have been smuggled from Central America after escaping unimaginable violence and other dangers and are apparently going to be sent back... And trying to understand the anger at these kids from the American political right-wing, whose compassion, real or pretended, apparently goes no further than inconvenient fetal tissue.  The attitude seems to be, once babies are out of the womb, then the hell with them.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Hey, we're going on a California road trip, after a flight to Vegas and three of those free nights at the Bellagio that I have a hard time resisting.

For some time now, Jerry has been wanting to do a leisurely drive through parts of California that I personally haven't been to and that he has only seen parts of.  The plan is that we will drive from Las Vegas (Nevada, of course) across California to the Central California Coast -- Monterrey, Big Sur, etc., and then up past San Francisco to the giant redwoods and whatever else is up that way.  He has it all planned day by day, and we'll be gone about ten days altogether.  It's an unusual kind of vacation for us -- except for the Vegas part, of course.

News out of California these days:  A severe drought in most of the state -- all kinds of water restrictions.  Not fun.  Also, there is a sort of a movement in that state and a referendum that will be on the 2016 ballots to divide California into six different states.  That's a bizarre concept, and even if it wins the vote, it still would have to be approved by the U.S. Congress, which is probably a major obstacle.  How many other states would want to split up if this happens?  California often leads the way and not always in a good way.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

unlikely comrades

Something odd has happened.

One of my main concerns when we bought this suburban home, even though it's just barely in the 'burbs, was that suburbs are cold and have no soul.  Where, for instance, do Golden Valley-ites gather, where do they meet each other, where do they socialize as a city?  This particular city didn't even seem to have a neighborhood bar, a watering hole, a place where everybody knows your name?

One evening back in January, though, on a whim, we stopped in at the local American Legion club because we knew they had a bar, so we skeptically thought, Why not?  My image of an American Legion was a place full of right-wing old soldiers exchanging war stories.  I mean, I served my time in the Army after being a reluctant draftee, followed by all these years of being a pacifist veteran, but the last thing I wanted to ever do was be reminded of those two years of mine.

My fatigue jacket.
This particular American Legion turned out to be the friendliest place I have ever walked into and over the past six months has become our go-to hang-out.  Jerry tells me that in all the years that he has known me, he has never seen me as comfortable in a social setting as I am there.  We have made good friends and had fun.  Occasionally somebody tells a war story.  Maybe I have made peace with my own story.

Friday, July 18, 2014

which ones are the murderers?

What a brutal week in the news.... Civilians on all sides being killed in the Middle East, which leads to revenge murders, which leads to more killings.....  A passenger plane being shot down over Ukraine for no reason except intimidation.... It's not going to get any better, is it?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

just you wait, 'enry 'iggins!

We could have danced all night, but instead we spent a wonderful evening sitting in theater chairs watching the Guthrie's new production of My Fair Lady.

My Fair Lady, is, of course, a classic and probably the best-written Broadway musical ever created.  It premiered on Broadway in 1956 with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews -- hard acts to follow -- as Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle.  For me, an admittedly sentimental and nostalgic guy, it's a favorite, so last night I treated 15 friends (mostly co-workers and their significant others) to tickets.  Some had never seen a show at the Guthrie Theater before and just seeing the Guthrie is a treat in itself.  Some others had never seen My Fair Lady staged before or had never seen it in any form.  The show was a hit with all.  The Guthrie, as expected, did a phenomenal job.  All of the performances were top-notch, but one stand-out was Tyler Michaels. Even though in a relatively small role, he perhaps stole the show with his rendition of "On The Street Where You Live" and his portrayal of the goofy character Freddy Eynsford-Hill.  Amazing sets, loverly costumes, all the stuff you expect from the Guthrie.  If you're local, it's there at the Guthrie until the end of August.  Lots of sell-outs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

'forever' keeps getting shorter

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

"Forever Young"
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Trout's in Minneapolis

Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game is tonight, and, guess what, it's right here at Target Field, just a few blocks from where I'm sitting in my office.

I'm not going to the game, but it's fun having all this excitement downtown.  This afternoon, there is a "red carpet" parade featuring each of the All Stars and a bunch of other hoopla.  I'll walk over there for that, hoping to get a chance to wave to Mike Trout, arguably the best overall player in baseball.  Mike Trout and I, you see, are from the same hometown, Millville, New Jersey, and how often is there another Millville guy here in downtown Minneapolis?  Besides being the best player, he also has the reputation of being the nicest guy in baseball.   He has made Millville proud.

So, I'm wearing my Trout/Millville t-shirt today, a throwback to when he was on the Millville High School Thunderbolts team, and people say, "Where the heck is Millville?"  So I tell them.  Jersey pride, you know.

Check out this link to an article in USA Today about the Mike Trout/Millville connection:

USA Today story from May 2014

ADDED LATER:   Way to go!  Not only did Mike Trout play in the All Star Game, but he won the Most Valuable Player of the Game Award!

Monday, July 14, 2014

another 14 juillet!

Todd just came in my office to wish me a Happy Bastille Day (He knows that I have an irrational thing for Bastille Day).   So Germany had its day of celebration yesterday, France today.

Happy Bastille Day, all you Francophiles!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

congrats to Germany for winning the 2014 World Cup

And I bet this is the last time I blog anything about soccer for 4 years! (If blogs still exist in 4 years!)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

the 'rach 3' rocks downtown minneapolis

The Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall
I have several versions of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #3 on vinyl and CD, but there is nothing like witnessing an exceptional performance of it in person.  The concerto, also affectionately known as the "Rach 3", perhaps my favorite musical piece of them all, is known for its extreme difficulty, and it is only the rarest of concert pianists who can play it the way it's meant to be played.  I had seen the Rach 3 once before, several years ago, and last night I got to see it again, and maybe it will be my last opportunity to ever see it, but it was memorable.

The Minnesota Orchestra, one of our country's finest symphony orchestras, did an excellent job at their home at Orchestra Hall with the 45-minute concerto, led by an amazing guest pianist, Natasha Paremski, 26 years old.  As an lazy amateur pianist, I sit there amazed that anybody has the physical and mental dexterity to handle this thing.  Kudos to all involved.

Friday, July 11, 2014

oh what a great show

Sometimes you have a hard week and you just want to be a couch potato and let your TV do your thinking for you.  My couch-potatoizing the past couple days has been re-visiting episodes from Seasons 5 and 6 of The Big Bang Theory, one of the best TV comedies ever.  Thanks, Jon, for giving me all the seasons' DVDs. They come in handy.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

today's Shakespeare quote

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

--  Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, Scene II, Line 73, spoken by Dick the Butcher.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

if i were brazilian

I was just reading that on this day Brazil is the most collectively depressed country of all time.

I can't believe that I am blogging again about soccer, in this case the World Cup, but I am sort of fascinated by the agony being felt in Brazil.  You see, in case you don't already know this, they are hosting the every-four-years World Cup right now and have won more World Cups than anyone else and were expecting to win this one on their home turf.  Instead, in the semi-finals, they lost yesterday to Germany.  And they didn't just lose the match -- they were humiliated, 7 goals to 1, in a World Cup where most of the final scores have been 1 to 0.

Of course, I was rooting for Germany (but cheering for the Netherlands overall, a team that might lose to Argentina a few hours from now), but the despair and shock on the faces of the Brazil fans is kind of heartbreaking.  If I were Brazilian, I bet I'd be shedding tears too -- because I would instinctively have some idea why their beloved "futebol" is such a big deal.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

something is eating our hastas (or hostas)

The deer are the obvious suspects.  We have deer roaming the neighborhood, and deer love hastas, or so I'm told.  But we didn't see them chewing on anything, so is it fair to blame them?

It's weird to talk yard-and-garden talk.

The radishes are good.  That's what great about radishes.  They are ready to eat way before anything else.  It's almost like instant gratification.  Peppers, beans, maybe tomatoes will be ready before too long.

What's on my mind isn't the garden at all, nothing nearly that cheery or optimistic.  Let's discuss over drinks.

Monday, July 7, 2014


The flight is at 9 a.m., so we were up at 4:45 packing our one suitcase before heading off to breakfast.  Stepping out of the car at Waffle House, our glasses steamed up immediately, and I started noticing all of the mosquito bites on my arms.  Now we are sitting at the tiny Tunica airport, waiting to board the charter plane, suffering through Fox News blaring on the TVs.  It's a very Mississippi July morning, by far the most humid of our days here.

We were commenting on the drive to the airport that we never once saw a bicycle or a jogger while in this area.  Considering that Mississippi has the highest obesity rates of all the fifty states, are we surprised?

Ready to move on but not ready to go home.  It's going to be a difficult week, but I can't tell you why.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

your memphis to-do list

This is my third trip to Memphis, and it now feels familiar and cool to me.  I mean, you wouldn't want to live here.  For one thing, it's in the politically screwed-up state of Tennessee.  And it's a friendly place, lots of Southern charm, but you might be afraid to go out by yourself after dark.  The weather here this particular weekend is perfect, but summer heat and humidity can often by oppressive (Did you used to read the John Grisham books that took place in Memphis?)

BUT, as a place to visit, I highly recommend Memphis.  Some unique places to see:

1). Graceland, Elvis Presley's home, and don't say to me, "But I'm not an Elvis fan!", because you'd like it anyway.  It's a hoot.
2). The Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated.  It's of course not a motel anymore but is the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
3). The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, located in the building that used to house Stax Records.  If you were a fan of '60s soul music like I was, you'll find this place fascinating.
4). Beale Street, the home of American Blues music.
5). The Peabody Ducks.  I know this sounds weird, but these ducks live on the roof of this elegant old downtown Peabody Hotel and take the elevator down to stroll through the lobby a couple times a day, then they get back on the elevator and go back upstairs.  They draw quite a crowd.
6). The Rendezvous restaurant, which you'll find in an alley a couple blocks from Beale Street.  Best ribs I have ever found.  Festive, fun atmosphere.
7). The Memphis Zoo, which is apparently one of the top zoos in the U.S.  Okay, I haven't been there yet.  Maybe next visit.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

while surrounded by southern accents

Jerry, to me, as we ate fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas and candied yams for lunch:  "Don't you think it's kind of weird that we ever go to Mississippi?"

I couldn't disagree, of course.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Happy 4th!
Somebody, in an apparent burst of unbridled patriotism, placed a flag out in our front yard on the curb, and, when I looked, every house down our street had a little curbside American flag.  It feels like it might be the 4th of July!

It's a beautiful 4th morning here on our creek.  We are having breakfast with my sons Jon and Tom, after which Jerry and I are hopping on a plane heading to the Deep South.  It's one of those free flight/hotel gambling junkets to Tunica, Mississippi.  We've done this before, so we know that there is nothing in Tunica except for several casino hotels plopped down in the middle of cotton fields -- not exciting! -- BUT just a half hour north of Tunica is Memphis, Tennessee, a city that we like a lot.  So it's gonna be a Memphis weekend of good Southern food and Beale Street.  Back Monday.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

sweating it out the day before liberation

The Liberty Bell
Tomorrow marks the 238th birthday of this country, created in Philadelphia by slave-owning Founding Fathers in the name of liberty, a term the definition of which is still being disputed in a fractured nation.

It was very hot that particular summer of 1776, and, if you have ever been in Philly in July with no air-conditioning, you have to wonder how those guys functioned in those wigs and layers of clothing without killing each other, let alone finding the wherewithal  to create a Declaration of Independence.  Fortunately they finally got it signed on the 4th.  Another few days and heat stroke might have set in.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

no belgian waffles for breakfast

Well, the U.S. is out of the World Cup, and there are 8 teams left (if I'm understanding this right), and I have paid more attention to soccer (a/k/a "football") in the past couple weeks than I ever have before, and there are a few reasons for that.  The U.S. had a better team than usual, for one thing.  I have a new friend, Kevin, a former high-school soccer coach, explaining some of it all to me and inspiring some interest.  And Todd, my old friend, is down there in Brazil seeing some matches and taking in the atmosphere, and he sends me an occasional email.

The cool thing about the World Cup is that it brings some common ground to the whole earth -- more so everywhere else than in the U.S., but it's growing here too -- although hopefully not ever inspiring the same extreme passion that has other country's fans sometimes beheading referees or murdering players that lose a crucial match.

While we here were watching the game yesterday where the U.S. lost to Belgium, my friend Elke was simultaneously watching in Germany and my friends Heike and Joerg were watching in the Netherlands, seven or eight time zones away, and it's just kinda cool that we were all sharing the experience.  Their country's teams are still among the final eight, as is Argentina, where my friend Norbie is from originally, so I'm rooting for one of those three countries to win the Cup.  Cheers!  The whole world is watching!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

the difficulty of finding an airport in Nunavut

It's the First of July -- Happy Canada Day!

A couple years ago, after I completed my goal of visiting all 50 states, I briefly thought that next I should try to set foot in all the Canadian provinces.  There are only 13 of them, but have you ever looked at a map of the Canadian provinces?

OK, I've done Ontario and Quebec, and I can set my sights on British Columbia (Vancouver) and Manitoba (Winnipeg), but look at those northern provinces!  Northwest Territories would certainly be a challenge, but, even more so, how the heck would a person ever do Nunavut?

Did you even know there was a province of Nunavut?  Well, here's your educational moment for the day:  Nunavut until 1999 was part of the Northwest Territories and was split off then into a separate province.  It's roughly the size of Western Europe in area but only has 32,000 people!  So, if you could find a way to get to Nunavut, what the heck do you do once you're there?  Could I even find a bottle of Scotch?

Well, anyway, have a great Canada Day, even you Nunavutians!