Tuesday, August 17, 2010


After instructional set-up at my buddy's in Costa Mesa . . .

. . . first outing in Kings Canyon NP (that's a bear box Erin is hiding behind) . . . note slide-out diner . . .

. . . slumber party in Tahoe: Sam and Beck (grandson #2) . . .

. . . note fold-out galley . . .

. . . galley left, diner right, breakfast cook center in the coolest Gear Queer shirt ever . . .

. . . underway near Mt. Shasta, NorCal.

Friday, August 13, 2010


My first birthday present today to myself was to re-read all of my Politics posts and congratulate myself on a bunch of prescient (note the dates), cogently written, insightful, beautifully formed little essays. Dang, they're good. I kid you not. Go ahead, read 'em if you haven't already, you'll see what I mean; there are only eleven of them. You don't have to agree, simply admire. Time or Newsweek really ought to use me as a contract consultant, Don't you think?

Now that the Leo-nine narcissism is out of the way, the bad news is that I'm 68. The good news is that I may become 69 in a year. My brain doesn't feel that old but my bod increasingly does; I won't list my physical afflictions because no one really wants to hear about them, including my doctor. It's enough to say that I do my utmost to just keep moving, even though my 'wheels' seem to be progressively morphing from round to square. Or maybe oblong is more accurate. Sigh. It could be worse. (It can always be worse).

My second BD present to myself will be a dinner this evening at our best local Dago restaurant, Mezza Luna (yeah, the same chain where OJ and Nicole were last seen fighting). You used to could get Gulf oysters for half price (.50) during Happy Hour but no longer. Them days is over. Nowadays they get most of them off the coast of North Carolina. I like them better than Gulf oysters, actually, but they cost more. But after the first of two martinis, the taste doesn't really matter. After the second martini, I don't really care--on to the entree.

I resigned from my church job a few days ago. I gave it a good go for a season, but I'm afraid that kind of work just isn't for me anymore. There were good reasons I left that kind of work in 1985 and apparently those reasons haven't gone away in the interim. I will miss those few wonderful people, though, a few of whom I came to really love in my short time with them. My teacher Jim Vail just took a new church position not terribly long after resigning from the one he had held for forty years. He's 86, I think. Some people really do love it and I'm glad for him and his new church home.
I'm a lucky man as I begin my 69th year of adhering to the planet: families old and new that love me, two fine grandsons, a good woman, a good dog, enough money left after the Bush Debacle to live decently and travel a bit for a few more years, a fairly busy lineup of professional engagements to keep me both interested and involved, including a Christmas concert with a superb choir on Taiwan come December.

And I do love the slower pace of retirement; I am stunned by what I used to pack into a day for thirty-seven years.

Happy Birthday to me.

Monday, August 9, 2010


It was great to be back in Italy after twenty years; a gorgeous country with wonderful people. The national party that went on after Milan beat Munich for the European Cup (for the first time in 40 years) was not to be believed; we stayed with it until about 1:30 AM and then finally went to bed. It was also fun to speak that language again; it came back faster than I had imagined it would. Erin's tour was a smashing success, particularly for all of those Bama kids, many of whom had never been out of Bama, a few of whom had never been on a plane. And they performed an extremely difficult repertoire beautifully. Oh, and Patti and Gene Colwitz had a blast--they were the stars of the trip, especially on the bus.
And I was back in Bulgaria for the first time since 1999, but working and earning a few bucks this time at a choral/orchestral workshop. The six conductors worked with two teachers for two weeks on the Mozart Requiem and a Sinfonia Concertante, performing both in a final concert. They had a fine professional orchestra and a beautifully trained Bulgarian choir to work with, and I got to know Danail Rachev, who is the new conductor of the Eugene, OR Symphony. He and I worked together well with the six conductors. While everybody there (especially the young) now seems to speak a bit of English (it wasn't that way in '99), the second language was German in the resort village where we stayed, so I had no problems whatever with my second language, only the boorish tourists who spoke it--Germans have replaced us as the most despised, arrogant tourists around. With good reason. Wilkommen an unser Welt, Freunde. The hotel, food and folk dancing were great, by the way; Eastern Europe is a place all its own, especially around the Black Sea.
Then a month of camping in our 2004 Fleetwood Bayside Elite pop-up camp trailer with hot and cold running water, slide out diner, fold out galley, and heater that came on automatically when the temp went below 50F several times. We picked it up at my buddy's in Costa Mesa and drove to Kings Canyon NP. After that, Patti and Gene then joined us (two full king size beds) in Yosemite NP, Jedediah Smith SP, and Tahoe (Sugar Pine Point SP), where we all camped with Libby, Lee and the Boys, celebrating birthdays of the Boys (late), Lee, Libby, and me (early). It was a fantastic time and the best birthday present imaginable--we all just wished Meg could have been there.

Then to Glacier NP, where these pics were shot (the second entitled 'Man, Dog, Fire.' Grunt). I'd never been there and I'm delighted we went: spectacular beauty, Sam learned to swim in Lake MacDonald, Erin and I did a bit of minor whitewater rafting (nine in the raft, only I got wet), historic, picturesque lodges.

And finally, a week at the 11-acre Colwitz Estate in Wisconsin that is Valhalla to Sam: he rolls in the acres of grass, runs in the oat field with only his tail visible, poops where he wants, swims in The Lake That Gene Dug, and runs free without leash at all times. It was a fitting reward for the superb traveler and camper that he was; he's now a confirmed Western Mountain Dog.