Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dear ol' Dad.

What?  Who visits South Florida in July?  I do, because there’s no guarantee I can get down there in the middle of winter, and I want to enjoy the company of my Dad. 

Remember the “green banana” joke.  You know, “I’m so old I quit buying green bananas.”  It’s a good sign when an 85-year-old man is investing not only in bananas, but also rental properties with the idea of earning an annual return on investment that will zero out the initial investment in about 12 to 15 years.  The good news is: he’ll make it to 100.  The bad news is that I have the same genes, so I need investments to last me another 47 years, or so.

My first night in town, I got to see the whole clan thanks to a 4th birthday party for little Troy.  Gloria’s kids and grandkids are a sweet, loving group to be proud of. 
We made a few trips to the latest condo to do prepare it for the first tenant.  We walked the mall (providing a quick performance on the piano for passers by) and the beach and the pier.  And we supported the local restaurants.  Plus, we had some time to sit and chat about things. 

But mostly, we perspired.  After all, it’s July in Naples.

Here's a video of the piano man playing one of the ol' favorites. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Busy in a Trout Lake kinda way.

Saturdays in July are prime time in Trout Lake, Washington.  We did not even have time for the Saturday Market. 

Morning into afternoon, we hiked the Salt Creek Trail with neighbor Dale and his two dogs.  It’s an easy trail, which, allegedly, has a great pay off where two rivers converge with an in-your-face mountain view.  Unfortunately, the “Trail End” signed fooled us into thinking we went the wrong way, so we turned around before the pay off.  So, instead, we enjoyed a 4+ hour hike through the woods, with views of one river, and a big pond / wetland engineered by beavers.  Evidence of their work in progress is below. 

Then, we popped into the Trout Lake Festival of the Arts to see this-year’s offerings of art and music.  I caught about four songs from The Humphrey | Hartman | Cameron Trio.  A cellist plus two other women who played guitar, and or banjo and sang with beautiful folky charm.  Their songs were funny, too.  One was a ballad on payday loans, another about the “cleavage” of the rear kind, inspired by sitting on the bleachers of a baseball game sitting behind people with shirts too high and pants too low. 

Kent and Karis then stopped by the J & A rest area to reconfigure their gear and get some food.

Later, we joined neighbor Susan and her friend Claudia on her back deck, which feels, like a picnic spot in the forest.  There, we enjoyed conversation, dogs and the rest of our homemade (by someone else) Huckleberry Pie as the as evening turned to starry night, which is best appreciated in our hot tub at home.  

Next morning, as I had sipped my coffee and read on the back deck, one of our other deer neighbors could not let me go without stopping by.  

Enjoying our Good Luck on Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th was a good day.  

A weekday / workday in Trout Lake means we place ourselves above our work.  It means sitting, watching the jays at the feeders, home cooking, and shoulders relaxed to a level at least two inches lower than times when we are at our desks keying out paragraphs and fending off E-mails like ninja warriors defending against samarai sword swipes. 

So, this morning, bicycled about 11 or 12 miles around the bucolic valley, with cows, views of two mountains and two rivers.  Then, we finally made our way to the local swimmin’ hole (bottom photo).  It’s too secret to disclose how to get there.  The water is cold, so we figure we must get inner tube float toys so that most of our bodies can absorb the hot temps while our butts and feet keep us cool. 

When we are in Portland, we think, “Why do we have a second house that we hardly visit?”  When we get out here, we think, “Why are we living in Portland?”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Returning to the Scene

July 10 in Portland's International Rose Test Garden. Appetizers in the garden before dinner in Northwest Portland. As Uncle Benny would say, nine "GOOD" years.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Monte Cristo Hike in Gifford Pinchot Forest

July 7, 2012, Trout Lake.  We made it to Monte Cristo today.  Once again, we were the only people on this hike, which affords dramatic, top-of-the-world views and beautiful wildflowers.  It's a good workout.  To the former fire lookout and back takes about 3 hours of up and down, through woods and open meadows.

More photos here.

Sunset with a Beauty

Mt. St Helens from Sleeping Beauty
July 5, 2012 - Trout Lake, Washington.  Sunset on the top of Sleeping Beauty has been on my list for a couple of years, so I was eager to make it up top after a long day of work and chores.  It was about as perfect as I could imagine.  Peaceful, light breeze, and 100-mile views.  The three big mountains to see from up there are Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, 60 or so miles away, and Mt. Adams, which looks close enough to touch.

Mt. Hood from Sleeping Beauty

Some people were in the gym after work.  I got my cardio in on the stair master walk through the woods to the top.  
Mt. Adams from Sleeping Beauty

Zydeco & Blues on a Hot Summer Day

‘Round midnight under a full moon in October, south of Rosedale, Mississippi, Robert Johnson approached the crossroads.  One legend has it that he met the Devil-man, who enticed him to sell his soul for mastery of the Delta Blues and all the whiskey and women that would, naturally, flow from such talent.  Robert Johnson kept walking, sealing his fate, and his legend lives on in art and music. 

Today at the Waterfront Blues Festival, I heard another man play the guitar in a way that must have come from another deal with the devil.  Roy Rogers is his name, and he played a song or two from ol’ Robert Johnson.  Mr. Johnson only had his guitar.  Roy Rogers had who-knows-how many watts of amplification.  When his top-drawer drummer pounded away, I could feel the shock wave hit me.  As one would expect when a festival has dozens of acts, not all can be terrific, but Roy Rogers was, and I will look for him again.

Some Zydeco fans promote the genre in Portland, and the Blues festival features several Zydeco acts.  I caught a couple of acts, and it makes me want to take some Zydeco dance lessons. 
Hot temperatures, blue skies, and thousands of people out on Portland’s waterfront enjoyed the final day of the annual bash that raises nearly one million dollars and tons of food for the Oregon Food Bank.  (And I think I have the blues .  .  .  . )
July 8, 2012, Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rodeo Score: Bulls 11 - Cowboys 2

St. Paul - July 3, 2012.  It was a beautiful evening in the Willamette Valley, a place known for its farms or wineries.  We noticed how more and more land owners are growing nursery crops while driving to St. Paul.  To set the mood, we found Garth Brooks on the iPhone, and we made it to town just in time to avoid Allyson jumping out of the fast-moving car because of the bad music.  We looked forward to our first Rodeo of the summer - first Rodeo of the century, for us.

St. Paul is a good rodeo, with big enough money to draw some of the best cowboys.  In fact, the number one bull rider in the world was there.  He was one of only two cowboys to make it the required 8 seconds on the bull.  It's all or nothing for bull riding.  The unfortunate guy who busted his body for 7.72 seconds earned no points for his bruises.  The other event we caught was roping and tying up the calves.  Under 10 seconds was the best time we saw.  All in all, we sat in the historic grandstand about 1 1/2 hours for about  2 minutes of timed rodeo activity, some jocular and informative info from the announcers, plus pretty, sunset clouds behind a big flag of the U.S.A.

A comment on those bulls. Like AKC dogs, they have papers documenting their inbred lineage of nastiness.  But you don't need documents; just look at the nearly 1 ton of beef with 3 tons of attitude.  The poor cowboys who get flipped off lie a fly on my arm don't have any more chance than the poor little calves who get manhandled.  I think only two of the cute little four-legged innocents avoided the humiliation of being tackled, wrestled and tied up.

We retired early, like many others, to the Tack Room bar under the historic stands, which served up a historic White Zinfandel to poor Allyson.  It seemed like a scene that had not changed in about 40 years: a few cool-looking young guys and some upstanding-looking older men with cowboy hats to match their stations in life.  I had no hat, a goatee and urban-looking eyeglasses.  Clearly, I was an outsider, despite my cowboy boots that no one could see because the place was too packed.

Under a full-moon sky on the way home, I thought, "I'll bet no one would have left the stands for the Tack Room if they's switched up the animals tonight.  How 'bout they have the cowboys try to wrestle the big nasty bulls?"  "Quit picking on the little, innocent critters and see how manly you feel."

The new name for the event could be "St. Paul Rodeo and Paramedic Olympics."

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Road to Here.

Margaret Overton, a high school classmate, published a book entitled, Good in a Crisis.  With witty humor and frank insights, Margaret peeled the bandages from the bleeding wounds of her mid life for all to see.  

This was a trying time for Margaret: nasty divorce, dating after a 23-year hiatus, near-death brain aneurism, date rape, the death of dear friends, and the declining health of her mom.  But this post is not a book review.  Instead, I feel like expressing my own comments on aging, roads not taken, acceptance and happiness. 

It was not just Margaret’s book that got me thinking, but also our circumstances.  She and I attended the same advanced placement high school classes in Elmhurst, Illinois.  She turned down Stanford for the six-year college/medical school program at Northwestern.  I turned down Northwestern for Stanford.  She lived in Chicago condos. I used to wonder how I’d have liked the Chicago lifestyle.  Margaret had, and probably still has, the good looks of Charlize Theron – Ashley Judd.  Brains and beauty.  I used to look like Brad Pitt. (Well, would you believe . . . Marty Feldman?)

A thought that crossed Margaret’s mind when she contemplated her own death from the aneurism was the “lack of lasting impact . . . a person such as me makes during life,” (p. 74) as if raising two daughters and keeping people alive in trauma centers were not enough.  Those of us in high school a. p. classes were children with high expectations for ourselves.  Those expectations drove us to set and achieve goals.  Such potential also creates the risk that we may deem ourselves failures for not setting and achieving higher goals.  If Jesus Christ, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Franklin Roosevelt are the role models, then we are doomed to feeling like losers.

Possessing great potential might have prompted Margaret’s following words, which saddened, angered and motivated me to write this post. While watching marathon runners pass their homes, she and her neighbors talked about their bad knees, etc.  She started “thinking about how life chips away at our potential, athletic as well as otherwise, and defines the roads not taken.” (p. 36)

On one level, we all have such thoughts as we age.  It’s too late for me to try out for the Chicago Cubs.  I can’t sprint 800 meters without disabling pain for at least a week.  What if I’d avoided my first marriage? 

Here’s the thing.  Even stem cells must differentiate; one cannot become a heart valve AND an optic nerve.  A tree cut to frame a house will not support a Marbled Murrelet.  Childhood potential must grow from myriad choices and circumstances into something.  A life spent building a business is a life not spent as a professional golfer. Potential will be exploited in some manner, thereby becoming unavailable for exploitation in another realm. Regardless of the road travelled, we are in this spot at this moment in time.  Accepting and working with our realities, I believe, is the key.

“Acceptance” can get a bad reputation when used as a waiver or release from diligence.  Acceptance, as I use it, is not a philosophy to support slackers.  One must continue to set and achieve self-directed goals.  The focus must be forward-looking and positive: the half-full part of the glass.  I accept the fact that I cannot run a marathon.  The reality is that I do not resemble Brad Pitt in the slightest.  But, I feel like I possess skills, abilities, and judgment that I could never have imagined 36 years ago.  Some potential is gone, but new potential exists. 

So, when my former classmate refers to life as chipping away at our potential, I acknowledge her declaration as an expression of her entirely appropriate depression, but I reject it as a statement of true fact.  Everyone reading this post has enormous potential that cannot be exhausted in one lifetime, I’d argue.

As for happiness, we all would benefit from consistently taking stock of the good things in life.  Some days I walk around Portland with a broad inner smile of appreciation for all that is around me: sights, smells, people and their works -- the wonderful things that others are doing that I cannot and need not do.  (Of course, other days I curse the clouds and read a book.) I marvel at the things I’ve witnessed in my life, from new technology to centuries-old temples.  As days become fewer in number after our mid lives, we must strive to make them better in quality.  For me, the quickest fix is to avoid that which makes me unhappy (e.g., news of global environmental Armageddon) and focus on what pleases me. 

Nevertheless, at times one cannot simply change channels because shit happens in our own lives.  It certainly happened to Margaret Overton.  As my sister urges, seize a good hour if you cannot carpe a full diem.  Zoom to focus on that pleasant spot of beauty or gratitude whenever there's a break in the shit storm.

This morning as we parted for our jobs, I hugged my wife and told her I loved her.  Honestly, I’d feel greedy to want much more.