Though his quote was for a Christmas Gift Suggestion, I think it appropriate for a New Year’s Affirmation for us all.
To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.
Oren Arnold (July 20, 1900 – August 30, 1980) was an American journalist and novelist. He authored 80 novels about the Old West, mostly while he was living in Phoenix, Arizona from 1933 to 1970. I arrived in Arizona in 1969 as a senior transfer to Arizona State University. We never crossed paths.
For the December 28, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write in less than 300 words about a ritual. I take you back to the 70s in Phoenix, Arizona before Hannah and I had kids.
I was a fourth grade teacher on the edge of the inner city in Phoenix while Hannah was taking pre-requisite courses, like Organic Chemistry, prior to starting the Nursing Program at Arizona State University.
Each Sunday morning, we would drive from our home in Tempe to the Ramada Inn parking lot on East Van Buren Street in Phoenix. There, we would begin our weekly run along the wide paths of the canals that brought water from the Colorado River to the parched desert. Up before the heat of the day, we hit the trail for six miles of flat, rhythmic, in-conversation running.
Once done, we walked across to Bill Johnson’s Big Apple Restaurant with sawdust on the floor and pistol-packing waitresses poured into their tight jeans. Known for their barbecue sauce that I smothered on my eggs over easy and home fries, I learned to drink coffee there – because refills were free.
Behind Bill Johnson’s was Park n’ Swap at the Greyhound Park where acres of sellers came for the Valley of the Sun’s biggest flea market. It was where I bought my first Barry Manilow album, checked out the hot dogs at Franks A Lot, and later bargained for a sand wedge that I would use at the local Papago Public Golf Course.
And then next Sunday, we’d do it all again. It never got old with Hannah.
My hiking buddy Paul Rosenblum is toughening me up in ways that would make you proud. Believe it or not, he has me hiking in winter in Maine. Though the word on the street had been that I am soft, but maybe, times, they are achangin’.
Let’s be clear, I’m not that tough. Paul originally wanted to hike up Mount Pleasant near Bridgeton in the damn mountains of Maine in winter. That hike was to take place just days after 6-12” snowstorm would hit the area. Wisely, I spoke up, wondering if he had anything coastal?
And coastal he did!
Paul and I hike early, I mean early, in winter when there is less than nine hours of daylight. Awaking to a 4A, I prep for what promises to be a 24F morning. That includes three layers of shirts, winter hiking tights under my jeans, heavy winter coat, ski cap, and double layer mittens, and an “expect the good” attitude.
With 90 miles of driving ahead up the coast through Brunswick and Bath, then turning towards the Atlantic on the Georgetown peninsula, in Freeport (north of Portland) I pick up Dunkin’ coffee and a muffin for me and donut for Paul. The pandemic has eliminated our usual pre-hike breakfast at a local greasy spoon dishing with the waitress and feasting on coffee, eggs over easy, home fries, and multi-grain toast.
Arriving simultaneously outside the gate to Reid State Park, Paul and I have a ¾ mile paved road to Half Mile Beach just as the sun comes up.
With the winds calm, we have an ideal morning for hiking/beach walking. Really, you Arizonans and Californians! It’s quite pleasant to hike in the twenties, as long as there is no wind. Turning south towards the coastal inlet, we have snow-covered sand for firmer walking.
U-turning back up the beach, we cross the rocks to One Mile Beach, with the rising sun to the east. Paul and I go way back to my days as a prof at the U (that is University of New England) and he an elementary school teacher with out-sized enthusiasm who came to my teacher education classes to wow my students. Hiking has kept us connected since I retired nearly ten years ago.
Our early December morning has us getting outdoor, mask-free exercise in these Coronavirus Times. And best of all, a vaccine is on the horizon. Our exemplary Governor Janet Mills is challenged to decide the priority for getting the vaccine; which I will get it in a heartbeat now that Dr. Fauci says so and together Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama are lifting their sleeves to get it publicly.
But who gets the vaccine after front line health care workers and nursing homes? Some wonder why give a vaccine to a 90-year-old with dementia before a single mother of four who works at Wal-Mart? Me included.
Maine’s top CDC public health official, Dr. Nirav Shah, says that he disagrees with the policy of giving the vaccine to the elderly first. His recommendation for his in-laws who, though older are in good health and can socially distance, is, You know what? I’m sorry, but there are others that I need to get the vaccine to first, so that when you guys get vaccinated, the world you come back into is ready to receive you.
No easy decision. I am happy not to be Governor Rothermel.
I found this quote in a recent New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle where “hope” was the missing word in a quote by FD. I’ll let you in on a secret. When I am stuck figuring out clues in the Times Sunday Puzzle, I use my iPhone for support.
For the December 21, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about a Christmas memory or the winter solstice. I choose what’s behind door #2.
The week before Christmas it snowed nearly a foot here on the coast of Maine. Fortunately, it was light and fluffy snow, easy to shovel and push off our driveway. Hannah and I have put up our traditional fake Christmas tree and strung lights on our front porch as an argument against the cold and the dark of winter.
They’ll be no family gathering at our home on Chases Pond Road this holiday season. Our kids will not be bringing our five grandchildren to joyfully dominate our days, then sleep through the night. We are all months from getting the Covid vaccine when travel and togetherness will return.
Hannah and I will hunker down inside with our morning routines of breakfast oatmeal, writing cards for Hannah, drafting a weekly blog for me, going to the nearly empty gym mid-day for me to pedal with Sports Center, and Hannah to elliptical with The View. Napping follows for me, and then we take a late afternoon walk at Long Sands Beach at low tide or through Steedman Woods in York Harbor.
And then it’s time for our presence. Each winter evening, we’ll sit in front of our life-like gas fireplace with a glass of red wine for our time together – our presence to each other.
Home to the most beautiful harbor on the coast of Maine, Camden holds a dear spot in our hearts. When Hannah and I were running on empty, out of gas as parents, my mom and dad (Jean and Dan) stepped up and took our kids for a long weekend while we escaped to Camden, 125 miles up the coast from home. Camping at the base of Mount Battie in the Camden Hills State Park, the following morning we’d take the ferry to the channel island of Islesboro for a day of biking in what I imagine is what 1950s Maine looked like.
Arriving after a morning walk into the bay to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, (click here for that blog), Hannah and I arrive by noon for our hike to the top of Mount Battie. Though there is an auto road to the summit, Hannah and I are pumped for a fall hiking experience in shorts and tee-shirts on this most unusual mid-November day in the mid-60s.
Walking the auto road for two hundred yards, we come to the hiker’s parking lot with the only port-a-potty we see on the entire grounds. TMI?
Puncheons (parallel planks) greet us through a what would be a boggy stretch if the summer rains had come. We have a well-marked trip with blue blazes on the trees every 50-100’.
The hiking challenge is that the brown fall leaves cover the trail, hiding its roots and especially rocks. Stumbling on rocks is an occupational hazard of hiking in the fall. But using a favorite word of our grandsons Max and Owen, we are agile enough to hike without incident today.
Nearly to the top of this 1.5 mile trail that will take us about an hour, we are told by descending hikers of an owl just off the trail. Totally missing the owl some 30’ of the trail, we are fortunate that another hiker draws us back to the spot where it is perched on an oak branch. Not wanting to spook it, get in the way of mice it might be stalking, or owlets it might be protecting, I use my iPhone to take its prom photo. Later I zoom in and edit the picture.
The 780’ in elevation to the mountaintop gives us a good work out. At the top fifteen cars and motorcycles are parked with folks out and about enjoying the coastline below. With the warm air of the day and far fewer gleaming white sailing craft than would be there in the summer, the view to the harbor is a hazier memory of paradise. Still, the Camden Harbor remains numero uno for me.
On the way down, we walk carefully on the slippery dry leaves. At the hiker’s parking lot, I ask a young man if I can take a picture of the bird on his head. Happy to, he tells us that it is a rainbow lorikeet (kin to parakeet?), native to Eastern Australia, though he said he got it just up the road in Belfast.
Three coastal hikes in Bristol, Newcastle, and Camden (home to Don McLean – singer/songwriter of American Pie) and two lighthouses (Pemaquid Point and Rockland Breakwater) over two days is our kind of two-day warm fall getaway on the coast of Maine.
Refusing to wear a mask is today’s equivalent of drunken driving. The odds of killing someone are low, but collectively this year the refusal to wear masks will kill far more Americans than driving under the influence.
Nicholas Kristof, multiple Pulitzer Prize winner
Alerting Hannah and me to three little known organizations that are making the world a better place, Nicholas Kristof has guided us where to donate this holiday season.
Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) to support girls to learn, thrive, and lead. Girls’ education is key to tackling the world’s greatest challenges. Yet, even before COVID-19, 52.2 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa were out of school, and millions more are now at risk.
OneGoal helping close the college divide. OneGoal is working to create a world where all students can earn a college degree and define their future. This one-of-a-kind program partners with high schools in low-income communities to bridge the postsecondary degree dive.
Himalayan Cataract Project giving the gift of sight. Of the more than 36 million people worldwide suffering from unnecessary blindness, half are due to cataracts that can be surgically treated. The cure exists, but remains out of reach for many living in low-resource countries.
On Monday, December 7, 2020 everything changes. (Click here for the previous blog to set the stage.)
When I think Hannah and I are all set for California, on December 7, 2020 I learn of the Regional Stay at Home order by California’s Governor Gavin Newsom that prohibits leisure travel including vacations. The order based on regions of the state limits such travel to those areas which have less than 15% ICU capacity. The order lasts until at least December 28, 2020. We are scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on January 9, 2021. Tension builds. Cue the violins.
You see, the Southern California region of the state, which includes Santa Barbara County, has just 13.1% of beds available, which means hospitals’ ICUs are certainly stressed.
And Who Knew? #2 that a California governor would have such influence over two country mice from Maine? Our winter plans for California are on hold. Again, we just have to deal with it.
And then the sun shines through the clouds!
On December 10, 2020, I go to the website for the Regional Stay at Home order in California to dig into the details about long term rentals. And I quote,
When any California region is under a Regional Stay Home Order, no hotel or lodging entity in California can accept or honor out of state reservations for non-essential travel, unless the reservation is for at least the minimum time period required for quarantine and the persons identified in the reservation will quarantine in the hotel or lodging entity until after that time period has expired.
Since Hannah and I will be there for 60 days, we can easily quarantine in California. Ah, there is peace in the valley again.
Despite these Covid Times, Hannah and I still plan to fly to California this winter. In early November I notice online that the price of our non-stop round-trip tickets on American Airlines from Boston to Los Angeles remain at $227. I figure that means the plane won’t be full, which will be great during this pandemic. It turns out it means something else.
On December 4, 2020, American Airlines informs us that our non-stop flight from Boston to Los Angeles has been changed to a one-stop in Philadelphia. Damn. Though bumming that we have to touch down into another terminal during a pandemic, I get there is little I can do since the airlines are hurting so. Que sera sera.
And get this! The flight from Boston to Philly takes 1h 30m, then there’s an hour layover, and then it’s 6h 19m flight to LA. Remember that last number. Our original Boston to LA flight would take 6h 30m! So you are telling me an additional hour and a half flight to Philly makes the subsequent cross country trip only 11 minutes shorter. Cheese and rice, are we going by way of Miami!
Then on Monday, December 7, 2020, I think, what if another airline has a direct flight from Boston to LA? I look online to find that Jet Blue does.
Now, I wonder how I might get American to refund our non-refundable ticket? As you might know, non-refundable tickets besides being non-refundable also mean we have no choice of seats, we are the last to board, and they probably want our first born. We do what we have to do to fly cross country inexpensively.
So I call American expressing my displeasure with the change of our direct flight since that will expose us to an additional terminal of people during the pandemic.
And this is where the Who Knew? #1 comes into play. Lo and behold, American Airlines will fully refund our non-refundable ticket since we have been changed from a non-stop flight to a one-stop one. I had no idea!
Jet Blue, even at this late date with a month before we are to leave for California, has comparably inexpensive non-stop flights to LA from Boston.
A sweet small victory. But not so fast, my friends. On Tuesday, December 8, 2020 everything changes. See Monday’s blog for that story on Who Knew #2.
Our niece Tara Trifiletti and her hubby Anthony had this quote (blessing) on cards at every table at their 2016 wedding. Hannah and I have passed this on to folks from sea to shining sea. We always say this blessing at meals with our daughter Molly’s family and replace the word “Friends” with “Family.”