Dan’s Interview on the Sugarbench Podcast

No lie, I was nervous.  The afternoon of April 24, 2020 I was to be interviewed by Andy Akins for his newly launched Sugarbench Podcast.  I remember feeling this same apprehension the day I interviewed for my first full-time college teaching job at Eastern Connecticut State University back in 1999.

Sugarbench podcast icon

I wondered if I could talk coherently and have enough interesting stuff to say for 30 minutes.  Well-prepared, Andy sent me four pages of possible topics and questions.  In turn, I took five pages of notes; it turns out that I rarely used them, but they provided me with a safety net.

As a college roommate of our son, Will, at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Andy is a modern day Renaissance Man; high school guidance counselor by day, gardener, chicken farmer, author, game creator, elite bicyclist on the side, and parent with his wife Sarah to their three kids.


When we finished, I was flying high.  I had such a good time on Andy’s podcast.  I hope you will, too.

Here’s 45 minutes of Dear Ole Dan on the Sugarbench Podcast.


Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad – KGUA #2

KGUA icon

This week’s prompt for KGUA (Gualala, California) Monday morning writer’s hour is to select a song that has special meaning to you.  See the full explanation in Appendix B.

I have some once-in-a-generation classics to choose from: Abraham, Martin, and John by Dion and MacArthur Park by Richard Harris, but I went with a classic Meatloaf song – Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.

Two out of Three Ain’t Bad – KGUA #2

Like Hakuna Matata (no worries) and Que Sera Sera (whatever will be will be), Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad lets you know I’m easy, I’m not going to judge you. I’ve been ranked, rated, judged, held to impossible standards that no longer apply to me.

One of my mentors at the University of New Hampshire, Don Murray, said it was important for writers to lower their standards when writing. By that he meant, high standards can block writers from even trying to write since the bar is too high. We all know the importance of Natalie Goldberg’s wisdom of the need for a shitty first draft.

Shooting for 10 out of 10 is recipe for doing only what is safe. When I smile at myself after coming up short, I think, hey, two out of three ain’t bad. Life is good.

Seeing the artist Meatloaf wail on YouTube singing Two out of Three Ain’t Bad sets me free to be just me, give it a shot and as Davy Crockett said, Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you. I’m at peace when your standards are not my standards.

Being valedictorian, having a 4.0 grade point, and winning every game of pickleball on Thursday mornings are all overrated. You will know me as the guy who skips graduation, then heads out with a case of beer to tube the Salt River with my Arizona State guys while singing “La Marseillaise.”

I’m done. I’m out. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. I’m enjoying the ride, MY journey, and knowing that two out of three ain’t bad.


This week I took one small step for Dankind (you see what I did there!) and sent a voice memo from my iPhone.  How cool is that!  My 275-word piece took me two minutes to read aloud.  I am unable to include the voice memo in this blog because I don’t pay for the premium WordPress package.  Email me and I’ll send you my animated reading of the above writing blast that was played Monday morning, April 27, 2020, on KGUA.

Appendix A – To send voice memos, it’s as easy as A, B, C.  A, find the Voice Memos icon pre-loaded on your smart phone.  B, tap the image (see photo below), then press the red circle at the bottom to record.

KGUA 2 out of 3 voice memo icon

Click on the Voice Memos icon in the lower left of this screen

And C, tap the three dots (see photo below), and then press Share to send it by text or email.  Voila.  And it’s so true, that if I can do it, so can you!

KGUA 2 out of 3 voice memo 2

Click on three dots to the left to get your sharing choices


Appendix B


How many times have we been asked to ‘introduce’ ourselves, tell a short bio about us, or provide some background as to who we are? But does it really?

Now it is time for KGUAWriters to introduce ourselves with- a twist.

What song is “YOU?”  What song do you feel was written just for YOU? Tells us all we need to know or what you want us to know about YOU?

Don’t write about ‘why’ the song is ‘your song. Trust the lyrics to do that. Some ideas may include when you heard it first. Where you heard it. How you felt when you heard it.  How you feel now when you hear it? Who were you with? Who recorded it?  You can highlight the lyrics that speak the most.  Or, if you want to just give the title you can. Trust the song to do the rest!

There is a part II to this prompt that comes after all submissions are in.  You want to be part of this! So, submit!

From a simple title to 300 words to 15-20 minutes writing-GO!

If this sounds like some writing you’d like to do, contact Mark at KGUAWriters@gmail.com for the guidelines.  Mention my name for the time of your life.

Dan and Hannah Get Their Vitamins Hiking to Inspiration Point in Santa Barbara, California

Whether hiking or pickleballing, Hannah and I feed off our interactions with others in small groups.  Classic introverts!  This morning four new hikers dropped into our lives thanks to a tee-shirt and a baseball cap.  Let me explain.

Unity map Carp to IP

With no trailhead parking for Inspiration Point, we park along Tunnel Road, then walk the ¾ of a mile on a damaged paved/gravelly fire road to the trailhead.  Once on the actual trail, we find a delightful single track along a dry riverbed.

IP D on trail

Now for the value of wearing distinctive shirts on the trail.  Wearing my iconic white Ithaca Bombers tee-shirt, a woman coming down the mountain says, My son went to Ithaca.  Are you two from New York?

I say, No, we live in Maine.

Where? she asks.

Since hikers usually don’t know the little town where we are from, I say, south of Portland.

That piques her interest, Where?

York, I respond.

In disbelief on this southern California mountainside in the middle of February, she says, York!  We’re from York.

It turns out Eric and Carol own the Dockside, a popular restaurant/watering hole/wedding venue in town that we have been many times.  Hum with me, It’s a small world after all.

IP 2 H on real trail

Jazzed by our conversation, Hannah and I hike along a trail that meanders through the brush and woods of the Front Country beneath the 3000’ peaks.

IP 2B H on trail

IP 2C H on trail

IP 2A more of trail

On the way up, I notice a man with a hat with has hockey national champions.  Ever the chatty one, I ask him, What school is it from?

He says, It’s for my hockey team.  Turns out Karl is here from Minnesota for a weekend tournament of 60+ year old players at the local Ice in Paradise rink in nearby Goleta.  How cool is that?  Of course, it’s cool, it’s a hockey rink.

IP 3A from the summit

Fifty minutes after we parked our car, we are at the overlook on a hazy day, unusual for Santa Barbara.  My video puts the inspire into Inspiration Point.

Hiking down the rocky, dusty, never perilous trail, we meet up again with Karl and now his wife Beth.  Walking and talking with them, we know very soon that they are America’s version of Canadians.  They are from Minnesota.

For the next forty minutes we make connections in that we each have five and seven year old grandchildren and love being active.  Learning that Karl plays right wing on his hockey team, I crack, Do they assign position by politics?  They both laugh no, no; we are among kindred spirits.

After forty minutes of conversation with the couple from the Land of Ten Thousand Smiles, we have quite the morning of Vitamin N and Vitamin C.   By that I mean, Vitamin Nature and Vitamin Connection.

I Don’t Remember – KGUA #1

Our local friends Tree and Scott moved from one paradise that is York, Maine to another 150 miles north of San Francisco.  They are living the dream of whale scientists around the world – tracking the migration of gray whales along the Pacific coast of North America. Along the way, Scott and Tree have become a vibrant part of their small community.

KGUA map

Their local KGUA radio station is all that is good about small town America; by that I mean it’s community-oriented. One of their initiatives during this Time of Corona is the KGUAWriters, a Monday morning writer’s hour.

KGUA icon 2

Each week a prompt is posted for writers from novice to novelist to respond to spontaneously.  Writers share first draft writing that is not to be edited or fine-tuned. This is a community sharing project not a contest or a time to preach.

This past week’s prompt was to start I Don’t Remember. This past Monday (April 20, 2020) mine was one of the 18 read. Here’s my 202 words.

I Don’t Remember

I don’t remember exactly when I saw my life as possibilities rather than expectations. I was the good boy, got along with everyone. I got good grades, was reasonably athletic, though not exceptional in either case. I followed the company line, and by that I mean what my father wanted. He was the high school principal and I don’t remember when, but I was not going to rock the boat.

I went to a good college in Ohio where my dorm friends were either valedictorians or salutatorians. I was not. I do remember graduating 61 out of 594 at Fair Lawn High in New Jersey. At college, I remember that that is where my being the good boy started to let me down. I had trouble making friends. Classes were teachers blabbing and me trying my damnedst to memorize enough to get by with a B.

And then I had enough of being the obedient poli sci major. I transferred my senior year to Arizona State to try my hand at teaching. I don’t remember exactly when I ended up under the bushes at Grady Gammage Auditorium with a flask size bottle of Southern Comfort, but I was far enough away where other’s rules didn’t apply.


For more information about participating in the KGUAWriters click here.  Contact Mark at kguawriters@gmail.com  By the way, Mark will handle your writing with care, encouraging you along the way.  He’s all that you would want in a writing mentor.

Dan in Praise of Parents During the Time of Corona

As with many parents during the Time of Corona, our daughter Molly with her hubby Tip are on all day with Max (six next month) and Owen (eight this summer).  Our son Will with his wife Laurel have their hands full with their nearly two year old Brooks; and you see, it’s not just Brooks, Laurel is set deliver identical twin girls next month.

Parents Ithacans

Brooks, Laurel, and Will

Brooks’s motor never stops. As parents around the world know, it can be a challenge to reason with a two year old. But Will and Laurel roll with it, cajole when necessary, set boundaries which Brooks takes as starting points for what he’ll actually do, and breathe deep when his afternoon nap time comes.

Parents Rawdings in California

Tip, Molly, Dan, and Hannah in the back, Max and Owen up front in sunnier times in California weeks before the Coronavirus shut us all down

Max and Owen have similar energy but at a higher speed. They also have to do schoolwork. Max (kindergarten) and Owen (first grade) Zoom with classmates and have math, reading, and writing that comes to them online. Twice a week, Hannah and I FaceTime with the boys as they each read us a picture book.

Parents Max book

Max with Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems

Parents Owen book


Then the inevitable jokes about parents becoming teachers/enforcers emerge:

Homeschooling is going well. Two students were suspending for fighting and one teacher was fired for drinking on the job.

The next day, one of these little monsters called in a bomb threat.

The day after that, my child said, “I hope I don’t have the same teacher next year.”

I don’t believe our kids and spouses have turned to song yet to pass the time, but they just might be inspired by these Brits.

Can we agree that we could all use some distractions during these crazy times?  For families that valuable distraction is right at their feet or in the next room.  Let me explain.

There are no doubt many blessings in being a parent despite how challenging and exhausting it can be.  But their kids’ ever present needs keep parents in the moment, in the now, maintaining their Zen.

One advantage of having kids is they can be a positive distraction for parents; so the adults are less likely to focus on their own fears and doubts during this global pandemic. Yes, I know the importance of self-care, but I am speaking of the dwelling, the ruminating, the fear-creating that can come with the uncertainty of how long these crazy times will last.  Kids provide a delightful, important distraction.

In a previous life for Hannah and me some thirty plus year ago, we were fortunate to have the distraction of two year old Will and six year old Molly when our four year old Robyn got really sick. Having two other kids to focus on, helped us navigate that crazy time and not obsess about Robyn’s health.  Will and Molly provided a much appreciated distraction.

Kids are so much more than distractions, but they can be meaningful distractions during times like these.

Dan and Hannah Get More Than They Bargained at Escondido Falls in Malibu, California in 2020

You know, it just may be that Dan and Hannah are a little smarter than you think.  Sure, the jury is still out, but check out our story and see what you think.

Esc map

Driving south on The 101 to the Pacific Coast Highway  (US 1) in early February 2020, we come to Malibu, the home to the rich and famous.  Though there is a small parking lot at the trailhead that costs $8, we park a mere 100’ away on the PCH for free.  That’s just how we roll.

Esc 1 park by roadside

Parking on The 101 in Malibu

For the first ¾ of a mile, we walk on a dirt trail just feet from the paved Winding Way East of Malibu Mansions.  See below.

Esc 2 H on Winding Way

The narrow dirt trail is center left in this picture.

Esc 2B one mansion

Malibu starter home

Esc 2C another mansion

Granny shack (Granny Gates that is)

At the trailhead into the back country, we notice three highway patrol cars without an officer around.  Hmmmm.  Later we see them coming out as we are hiking in; at about that same time, we see a helicopter above.  I channel my inner Magnum PI and come up with a theory about all this activity.  I’ll fill you in at the end of the blog.

Esc 3A D with trail sign

With the Lower and Upper Escondido Falls as our destination, we meander along a wide dirt trail skirting the creek for the next mile.  Evidence of the Woolsey Fire (November 2018) is evident along the creek bed.  Yet, I am happy to report that the charred trees and landscape is returning to its natural state of green.

Esc 3D use H on trail

Esc 3C H on trail

With no rain to speak over the last two months, we are not surprised that there is just a trickle coming down the Lower Escondido Falls.

Esc 4A lower falls

The trickle is barely visible amid all the mossy green.

One falls down and the upper falls to go.  Not so fast, my friend…

To the right of the lower falls, we make out slender ropes up the cliffside to the upper falls.  Can you make them out in the photo below?  There are thin.

Esc 5 the rope

Really!  On the Internet, I had read that ropes would be available for hikers/climbers to get to the upper falls, but these are not ropes!

But then to our right we see two twenty-somethings take to a side trail up the mountain side.  Deciding to follow them, we soon see a very steep slope with loose, small to large stones on this parched mountainside, bracketed by jagged rocks to our left and branches, mostly charred, to our right.

Esc 6 starting the climb

Hannah grabbing a metal stake on her way out

Almost immediately, our hiking shoes slip on the stones as we grasp the hillside rocks to steady ourselves.  Inching up as loose gravel/stones cascade down the hillside with each step, we turn to our right to grab charred branches, some of them no longer attached to a tree!

Esc 6A higher up

In ten minutes, we have climbed but 60 feet up this, what seems to be, a 70 degree slope.  Looking ahead, we see 20 more feet of loose gravel without branches to cling to.  Aware that climbing down is going to be no walk in the park, we show maturity beyond our years and make a 180.  Never to see the upper falls.

Our drama continues.  Inching backward feet first, we slip on the loose gravel and stones up to 5” in diameter.  Twisting, we grab onto tree branches burned in the Woolsey Fire.

Esc 6B using the strap

Hannah using the strap to descend

Soon to reduce our center of gravity, we go butt first to negotiate the steep hillside.  Spotting a one inch wide strap secured to a tree, we inch backwards down another 20 feet.

With 25” still to go, we grab on to fresh branches sprouting from the nearby tree and take baby steps as we dislodge more loose stones.  At last, terra firma.  In past blogs, I’ve often described many trails as not perilous.  Let me tell you, today’s final 80’ of the trail is indeed perilous.

Looking at each other, Hannah and I have zero regrets about turning around, grateful that we are not heading to Malibu Urgent Care rescued by, yes, the officers we saw earlier on the hike.

Here’s my theory.  The three officers were there for a rescue of a hiker who, once to the top of the Upper Falls, thought he/she could not descend.  The helicopter was ready to airlift said hiker from the upper falls if the officers couldn’t manage the rescue.  Just a theory.

Your call.  Maybe we are brighter than we look.  Then again maybe not.

Click here for more hiking details to the Escondido Falls.

Dan Wonders Is This a Prelude to Old Age?

Like you, I have a lot of time during this Time of Corona.  (I am workshopping various descriptors of this time of the Covid-19 coronavirus global pandemic.  I am looking for something not too clinical (Covid-19) and not too generic (coronavirus) that has a lyrical ring to it.)

Old age cane

Anyway, I am wondering if our current Stay at Home mandate is preparing me/us for old age.  Is all this time at home, restricting my opportunities to be physically active, giving me a peek into the future (horrors, my future!)?  Our pickleball courts, our gym, our beaches, our cliff walks, our Mount Agamenticus are all closed here on the coast of Maine.

When I am in my 90s (I got a shot since my parents each lived into their 90s), I may not be able to climb mountains, whack the pickleball, or get my heart rate to 130 on the elliptical.  I may be restricted more than I can imagine.  I know that my physical well-being is not going to last forever.

So, and I bet you know where this is going, I’m going to be in the present, enjoy what physical activity I can do during the Time of Corona (i.e. walk daily, bike our country roads now that warmer weather has come to Maine).

Old age Willard Scott

I want no part of being remembered by Willard Scott, NBC weather personality, for my 100th birthday.  I lean on the wisdom of a wheelchair-bound 92 year old that I met when I took my middle schoolers to the local nursing home for a day to interview residents and write observations about what they saw.  She said, 92 is too old.  In so many words, she was ready to cash in her chips.

That last paragraph notwithstanding, I’ll be fine hitting the century mark if I am as healthy as I am today at 72.  You just never know.

Dan and Hannah Hike the “Unity Trail” above Santa Barbara, California

This was not part of our plan.  You see, Hannah and I were ready to be inspired by hiking to Inspiration Point above Santa Barbara on this first Monday in February 2020, but…  Well, let me explain.

Unity map Carp to IP

Arriving at Tunnel Road, having hiked in this area before, we know there is no trailhead parking.  Since the only parking is along the road leading to the trail, we park and walk nearly a half mile to the trailhead.  There we spot a small sign at the gate to the Edison Road.

Unity 1 H at trailhead

It’s that little sign to the left of the gate

Unity 1AA sign at trailhead

By looking at this sign, especially the last line, you tell me how worried would you be, from 1 to 10, that you wouldn’t be able to hike to Inspiration Point this morning.  My concern was a 3; possible, but not likely.

Before we get to the real trail, we have ¾ miles on a charmless, fractured paved road that Southern California Edison uses to maintain their power lines into the mountains.  It’s a steady climb on a road with new sand/dirt berms to keep mountain gazing hikers from sliding into the canyon.

Unity 1A berms on fire road

Berms along the So Cal Edison access road and then road continues in the distance

Unity 1B fire road

At the end of the now dirt fire road, we see orange pylons; that’s never good!  And then two city workers say in so many words “No dice” to our plans to hike the trail to Inspiration Point.  It seems Santa Barbara City crews are working on the trails for the next three days.  Ergo, mild mannered that we are, we shrug and figure it’s a Doris Day day!  That is, que sera sera.

Unity 2 pylons

When straight ahead to Inspiration Point is blocked, we juke right.

Spotting a rocky, rutted sandstone trail with no name to our right, we take it to get a heaping does of Vitamin N on this morning in paradise (That’s right, Vitamin Nature).

Unity 3 unknown trail

Unity 3A more of new trail

At this point, we shift into Unity mode and head into mountains.  What’s Unity mode, you ask?  Let me explain.

Unity unity of SB

Each winter when we come to California, Hannah and I are part of Unity of Santa Barbara, a spiritual community.  People ask is this Unitarian/Universalist?  Nope.  So what is it?

A recent talk/message (not sermon) by the minister (not preacher) Cathy Norman of USB focused on three points that may begin to help you understand UnityUnity folks (1) look for the good in any situation, (2) embrace setbacks and see them as course corrections, and (3) believe in the importance of positive I am sentences (i.e. When you start a sentence with I am it should reflect your goodness, your potential, your possibilities, not what’s wrong with you.)

Today we see this new trail as a literal course correction, an opportunity to experience something new; focus on it’s possibilities rather than wah, wah, wah.  You know the old joke, Want to make God laugh?  Tell him your plans.

So, the Unity Trail?  There is no Unity Trail, it’s just in our minds.  Asking hikers that we pass if they know the name of the trail, none do.  Maybe the Tunnel Trail, one says?  Maybe not?  So for today, it’s the Unity Trail that reminds us that obstacles are opportunities (from Unity 101).

Enjoy the sandstone Unity Trail into the Front Country of Santa Barbara and its views to the Pacific.

Unity 3C H on trail steepens


Unity 4 out to the ocean

Channel Islands in the distance beyond the Pacific Ocean shoreline


Unity 4A green has returned


Unity 4B out to channel islands


Dan and Hannah’s Neighbors in These Crazy Times

Typically on Sundays, Hannah and I drive the three miles to our local Hannaford grocery store for the New York Times, fruit, cat food, and almond milk.  With the panic buying of the first two weeks of the coronavirus subsiding, the parking lot is only one-third full at 730A.  But things are different than in weeks past.

Only 75 people are being let in the store at any one time.  Once in the store, more than half the people are wearing masks.  Last Sunday I saw no masks.  Zero!

Mask Hannaford

Hannaford’s 730A Sunday, April 5, 2020 with the red lines separating customers checking out

Masks?  Did I miss the memo?  Where do I get masks?  I figure hospitals need masks and none are available.

So, I do what I am wont to do, I take a picture of the scene and text it to locals we know to update them about what is going on.  My text:  Hannaford’s at 730A this Sunday.  They are only letting in 75 in at a time.  Many more masks.  Where does one get masks?

Mask Dust mask

Dust Mask from Nolan

Almost immediately, our neighbor Steve texts back that the local hardware store sold them in normal times, but he doesn’t know if they have any.

Then our friend Mandy texts that she is making some out of napkins.

It turns out our son-in-law Tip is making some for our grandsons and Molly.

Mask Tip

Tip’s masks

Soon after, Nolan texts that he has a bunch and he’ll drop off a few for us.  Nolan is our son Will’s best friend from high school and watches over us like family.  He plows our driveway when we are in California.

Mask Cloth mask

Mary Lynne’s cloth creation

Not much later, in-town neighbor Mary Lynne says she has started making masks from scraps and will drop a couple off in our mailbox.

Our neighbor Laurie mentions that she is making “no sewing” masks using rubber bands from a video she saw on Facebook.  She sends us the link.

Mask No sew mask

Later we learn from Steve that he has an N95 mask for us.  These are the ones distributed to the residents in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties (California) during the wildfires of the last few years.

By noon, we have a mask bonanza.

I’ve learned that (1) we have neighbors who look out for us if we’ll let them know how we are doing, (2) many of us find meaning in giving and caring for others, (3) we have masks if you need them, and (4) we will come out the other side of this pandemic if we realize and act on the belief that we are all in this together.  Dan and Hannah send you love and light.

Dan’s Small Victory in These Crazy Times

It may not seem like much to you, but it still feels like a sweet win to me!  Let me explain.

Hannah and I are now in “Stay at Home” mode due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, wisely instituted by our Governor Janet Mills.  As with many, we are in lock down except for walks in town, grocery shopping, and the occasional Subway run for take-out.

Small V Dr. Z

Dr. Zieja

Today, the first Monday in April 2020, I have a follow-up appointment with Dr. Zieja at Kittery Eye in the next town.

You see, four weeks earlier during my annual eye exam, the good doctor found an irritation in my right eye beneath my contact lens that concerned him, not freaked him out, but concerned him.  Checking the pair of contacts I was wearing, he found that they were not the source of the irritation because they were scratch-free.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my other pair of contacts.  You see, I alternate days using my two pairs of contacts.  Dr. Z wasn’t sure if the irritation was due to a scratch from this second pair of lens at home or that the shape of my eyeball had changed so that I would need a new lens.

Small V hard lens on finger

First getting contacts in 1970, I remain old school using hard lenses.

Dr. Z recommended that I wear the first pairs of lens exclusively to see if the irritation cleared up on its own.  If it did, that meant the second pair of contacts was the likely problem, and I’d replace them.  If the irritation did not go away, it was a sign that my eyeball had changed and I needed new contacts.

The irritation was not a big deal, especially since earlier in the appointment, Dr. Z had said that I was not entering the Danger Zone:  macular degeneration or glaucoma or their Inevitable Nephew: cataract surgery, which is still a ways down the road.

Calling at 930A on the Wednesday before my follow-up appointment, I learned that Kittery Eye was closed, but I could leave a message.  I understand the risk he and other health professionals are taking by coming to the office.

Small V hard lens

My eyes have felt fine these past four weeks wearing one pair of lens all the time.  Still his uber-microscope looking into my eyes may reveal something.  I would just like to know, but the world won’t end if my appointment is postponed, for months!

My message on the office answering machine was: (1) is my appointment on, unlikely as that was, or, if not, (2) could I just drop off my other pair of contacts to see if they were the source of the problem?

Small V Kittery eye sign

I didn’t hear back Wednesday or Thursday.  Then late Friday afternoon I get a call from Gretchen, the scheduler at Kittery Eye.  She says Dr. Zieja will be in next week.  Hallelujah Brother!

And just like that, I will see him next Friday at 1030A to find out what’s up with right eye.  It’s a small W when victories are hard to come by in this Era of the Coronavirus.

Any small victories in your life?