Dan and A Pre-pandemic Mask – KGUA #52

For the June 14, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, now that we are taking off our masks, we are asked to freewrite on What MASK have you worn or do you still wear? 

Dan’s Mask

If it weren’t for masks, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I still wear the I like to think I know what the hell I am doing mask.  As a high schooler, my mask got me through being nervous before a tennis match, a big test, or especially when giving a speech.  Fake it till you make it.

Mask-wearing served me well when I first I interviewed to be a university professor.  Let me explain. 

Having burned out after twenty plus years teaching in public schools, I enrolled at the University of New Hampshire to earn the golden ticket (a PhD) to teach at the university level.

After three years of graduate classes, oral and written exams, and writing and defending my dissertation, I needed a job.  Hannah had been doing the heavy lifting of full-time work as an activities coordinator at a local nursing home.

At my interview at Eastern Connecticut State University, among other things, I was asked if I could teach the secondary education methods class in Language Arts and Reading. 

Mask firmly in place and eager for a tenure-track position, I said absolutely.  Though I had never taught high school English, I had successfully taught high school English teachers in a UNH Summer Writing Program.

But behind my mask was a philosophy of teaching that would serve me well no matter what I taught: one, I taught experientially (that is, having students have experiences that replicate what they would do in the classroom), two, focused on building relationships with students, three, developed a classroom community of learners, and four, participated with my students and learned with them.

Fact is, it all worked out pretty well at Eastern, and my mask got me in the door.

Words – 284

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Major with their Grandson, Max

Continuing a Rothermel Family Tradition of hiking Mount Major with our grandchildren when they turn seven, Hannah and I take Max with his nearly nine year old brother Owen and his parents, Molly and Tip, to the White Mountains of New Hampshire in mid-June 2021.  Click here for Owen’s hike at seven up Mount Major.

5A departure from home for Max and family

Meeting up with Molly’s family at the Liquor Store in Portsmouth, NH at 6A on Juneteenth 2021 of Father’s Day Weekend, we drive 35 minutes to the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH on Route 11 for what can only be described as mouth-watering breakfast with huge portions and excellent service.

Arriving early at 640 AM
Huge portions and excellent service. Max orders the meat lovers omelet and Owen chocolate pancakes which he shares with me!

Fully fueled, we arrive at the trailhead by 8A for our roughly two plus mile climb to the top.  Taking the Blue Trail, we ascend on a rock-strewn path that soon turns into a Bill Bryson Walk in the Woods of level, tree-lined dirt.  Owen and Max come up with Hiking Game #1 where two people run ahead on the trail and hide behind trees and boulders.   We all take turns and make our hike kids-centered, when usually Hannah and I would just motor straight to the top.

Owen with his Omi hiking the Blue Trail
The rocks of the Blue

Within 0.7 of a mile, we turn left for the summit.  With protruding stones and rocks crossed by roots, the trail gives an opportunity for Max and Owen to come up with Hiking game #2.  Starting with the youngest, we each in turn name animals alphabetically.  Throughout the game, Owen lays back with me, and verbally checks in from time to time to see how I am doing.  If you know Owen, you are not surprised.

The rocky climb to the top

After an hour and a quarter we summit. 

Molly’s Family always up for a good time
Owen and his Omi hamming it up
High on Mountain Top in New Hampshire (sing to the tune of the Davy Crockett theme song)

After 30 minutes, we descend on the Orange Trail, lined with blueberry bushes with most every blueberry still quite green.  Still Max finds the occasional blue blueberry.  Saving two for his neighborhood friend Maelys, whose sixth birthday is today, he informs every, and I mean everyone we pass, that he found blueberries.  Not shy in the least, he surprises and pleases hikers who smile broadly as they pass by. 

Max with his Omi scouring for blue blueberries among the many green blueberries.

Molly comes up with Hiking Game #3 and that is to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet that begins with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta… (see all 26 below).  Molly teaches us all one by one and within a thirty minute descent I learn all 26.  Test me the next time you see me!

Descending the steeper Orange Trail
Descending on the Orange Trail

After three hours, we arrive back at the trailhead having had a “peak” experience Saturday morning that Hannah and I plan to replicate in four years when our grandson Brooks (Will and Laurel’s oldest) turns seven and then two years later when his identical twin sisters, Reese and Charlotte, turn seven themselves. Traditions! Sing to the Fiddler on the Roof song of the same name.

Brooks freewheeling and hiking Mount Major in 2025!
Reese and Charlotte or Charlotte and Reese, ready to hike in 2027!

NATO phonetic alphabet by memory – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliette, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu.  This alphabet ensures that letters are clearly understood. 

Papa, Oscar, Papa, Papa, Alpha signing off. 

Bonus pictures from hiking Mount Major

With their usual positive energy, Molly and Tip begin hiking on the Blue Trail
They weren’t able to move the monstrous boulder…yet!
Molly and Tip atop Mount Major with Lake Winnipesaukee in the background
Atop Mount Major

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week #30 -Standards

Lower your Standards

Don Murray, a writing mentor of mine and English professor at the University of New Hampshire and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at the Boston Globe

Speaking in the context of writing, Don Murray addresses the difficulty writers often have in getting started in writing. Writers can believe their stuff will never be good enough so they don’t even start. Lower your standards and get to it.

Maybe, this might be some applicable advice for life itself when one seems to be going nowhere?

Dan and Being Proud – KGUA #53

Rockin’ Robyn

For the Summer Solstice June 21, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What has someone else done that made you proud of them? Here’s a chance to tell them or tell them again- and let everyone know.

Our Robyn turns 40 later this summer.  Let me tell you, she’s had an eventful life.

At nearly four, she complained of aches in her knees and elbows when I would swing her around in the front yard.  She’d wake up 6 or 7 times a night.  Three months later we learned she had leukemia.  That’s blood cancer for the uninitiated, like I was back in 1985.

US Army soldier Robyn

Tough kid, she came out the other side after two years of chemo and radiation spindly but determined.

Artistic at heart, Robyn found the routines of regular public school a challenge.  Persevering, she did what she had to do to make it through the education gauntlet. Eventually, she earned her B.A. in criminal justice.

In an extended family of accomplished siblings, nieces, and nephews, she chose a most difficult path – joining the US Army as a soldier.  After 15 months in Afghanistan at the height of that nasty war, she came home ready to take her place in society.

Her heart remains with kids who have life-threatening illnesses like she had.  Each year she volunteers in Florida to support the work of Give Kids the World, an organization that provides Disney World activities for families so they can get away from their daily lives of hospitals and treatments for five beautiful days.

As her dad, I’ve had my positive moments and ones where I didn’t quite get it.  Through it all, we stayed connected; I am so damned proud of the young woman she is today.

Words – 242

Dan and the Serendipity of his Broken-down Mower

I am not mechanical to put it generously.  I usually just give up when anything mechanical/technology doesn’t work immediately.  Our new once-working, now not-working printer is a case in point.  But today it’s about our lawnmower.

Last year, we had our mower service at the local Eliot Small Engine Repair for $144.88.  With a short grass cutting season in 2020, I used the mower maybe seven, eight times.  As recommended, I ran the mower to remove all the gas from the engine and then stored it in our shed for the winter.

Gassed up for the first cutting of the spring, our mower works just fine cutting the grass in our backyard this May.  You see we only cut a portion of your yard since we have a meadow of daisies and black-eyed Susans by our driveway that I don’t mowing until August when the flowers go to seed.

Just before Memorial Day, I start up the mower again, make a couple of passes on the backyard, and then it chugs a couple of times and stops stone cold.  Today, I wait, pull the starter cord again and again, and nothing.

As you might imagine, I am at a loss what to do.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I know that since today we are playing pickleball with our friend Fran, a mechanical wizard, I can bring the mower to him for a look-see.

And this is where good fortune smiles for the first time.  Fran is great.  He gets right to it, taking off the engine cover, blowing out all the dust, cleaning the air filter, and diagnosing that I likely have a dirty carburetor.  Now I know what I’m dealing with.

Even so, our backyard with foot high grass still needs a mowing badly.  With no mower, I text our neighbor Laurie to see if I can borrow theirs.  Soon, her hubby Shawn cleans up their mower, fills it with gas, and brings their self-propelling motor over.  Good fortune numero dos. 

After mowing our backyard, I am still left with a mower that won’t work.  I call Eliot Small Engine to learn that if I can take out the carburetor (yeah right, like that’s going to happen!), they can clean it for me.  If not, I’ll have to put my mower in the queue which means it’ll be six weeks before they can get to it.

Not wanting to wait that long, into our laptop, I type in “lawn mower repair.”  I find that Spectrum Small Engine Repair is just up the road in Wells.  I call, they say they can look at it, and it’ll take maybe a week, maybe less.  Good fortune #3. 

Told that I’ll see mowers in the front yard, I arrive with mowers strewn everywhere on this residential third acre lot.  I park, eventually find Nick, who couldn’t be more agreeable and accommodating. 

I have my third delightful human interaction, none of which I would have had without my beautiful broken-down mower.

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week # 29 – Not your responsibility

You are not responsible for saving anyone.  You are not responsible for convincing  them to improve.  It’s not your work to exist for people and give your life to them.  It’s your only obligation to realize that you are the love of your destiny and accept the love you deserve.

Sent to us by our friend Rose and possibly a paraphrase of Sir Anthony Hopkins (yes, the actor)

Dan and A Love Letter to Himself – KGUA #51

For the June 7, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite A LOVE LETTER TO YOURSELF.

Dear 2021 Dan,

Let’s start really superficially.  Damn, you look good for 73.  Still got your hair, albeit gray on gray.  That’s something since your Dad and brother Richard lost theirs long ago.  Your contacts make you like two/three years younger.  You did rock the nerd look with those horn-rimmed glasses in high school.

You came through the pandemic without getting Covid-19 when 33 million in the United States did.  Lucky or prudent?  Who knows?  I’m guessing a little of both.

Sweet choice in spouses, Danny Boy.  Who could have guessed you’d still be having the time of your life with Hannah Banana when you fell hard for her as a nineteen-year-old at the College of Wooster in Ohio.  At the time, your mother said, “Don’t be a fool and lose her.”

Three cheers for having the guts to transfer in your senior year from the cocoon of college in Ohio to head to the Wild West of Arizona State.  And then have the adventurous spirit to move further west to Anaheim, California for your first teaching job.  As a super shy teenager, I didn’t know you had it in you. Your adventurous spirit lives on.

Let’s be clear, you’ve been quite lucky.  Your parents, being reasonably athletic, modestly smart, semi-amiable in your own inoffensive way.  And, you are bright enough to know you didn’t do this on your own.

Stay humble, my friend.

Dan, the Elder

Dan and Hannah and Their Friend Milt

It was just three years ago that a neighbor called and said Milt needs a fourth for pickleball at his private court.  Soon, Milt, who didn’t know me from Adam, welcomed me to his place with open arms. 

The next day they needed another player so Hannah came along.  Taken with Hannah’s spunk and power, Milt had us back again and again.  To his credit, Milt in his 80s wanted to learn the game not just whack the ball as hard as he could.  Still quite the athlete (Milt was once a scratch golfer), he worked on his soft game and his serve. 

You see, Milt and his wife Carolyn live in northern Virginia.  Each summer around Memorial Day they come to their place in Maine, which happens to be just five miles from our home in York.

To welcome them back this first Friday in June, 2021, I dial Milt’s number.  No answer.  No surprise as Milt has been working remotely ever since the pandemic grabbed the country and world by the throat.  I try Carolyn’s number and she also does not pick up.  Still not out of the ordinary.  Carolyn has a full life here in Maine, too.

I then text their son Rick, to see if they are even in Maine.  In minutes, Rick replies, Hi Dan, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Milt passed away last week.  Family in mourning.  Thanks and give my best to Hannah.

Stunned does not do justice to this news.  Disbelieving!  Incredulous!  I could empty the thesaurus describing how much I was blown away.  When Hannah and I last saw Milt this past September on the pickleball court, he looked great, full of pep, and talkative as ever. 

Many was the time that Carolyn came to watch us all play.  From her courtside vantage point, she kept score, complemented good shots, and sassily commented on what Milt should have done better.  In time, Carolyn learned that Hannah cut hair in people’s homes.  Soon Hannah became their barber and hair stylist.

Milt always said, Come and play anytime you want, and we did.  And despite his many business interests, Milt was often able to get away for an hour to play with us.  Upbeat, complementary to others, and sometimes tough on himself, he was always a joy to be around. 

The last time we saw him, we parked just twenty feet from his driveway so we wouldn’t block any cars coming and going.  He gently admonished me, What are you doing parking on the side road.  You’re friends of mine, park up front by the house.  And so we did.

Rest in peace, my friend. 

Click here for the obituary of this amazing, generous man. 


Top – Milt Peterson

Middle – Our friend Fran with Hannah at Milt’s pickleball court

Bottom – Our friends Alan (red) and Genny (yellow) at the court with Hannah serving, Milt in the distance

Eureka! Dan’s California Memory for the Los Angeles Times is Published (Part 2 of 2)

Holey Moley! As I do each day, I read the highlights from the Los Angeles Times daily online newsletter, Essential California. All of a sudden as I scroll to the bottom, I see my 100 words with my name spelled correctly!

Los Angeles Times
Essential California Newsletter

June 9, 2021

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC Los Angeles: Cloudy, 75. San Diego: Cloudy, 71. San Francisco: Cloudy, 62. San Jose: Clear skies, 67. Fresno: Sunny, 78. Sacramento: Clear skies, 74.


Today’s California memory comes from Dan Rothermel:

As a Jersey boy and 1970 graduate in education at Arizona State University, I interviewed for teaching jobs in California. At my interview for the Anaheim City Schools, innocently I asked the administrator if there was smog in Anaheim. Looking me straight in the eye, he said, “No.” Wanting to move to Southern California, I took the job. Once there, I had nothing but low-lying smog day after day for the first six weeks until the first Santa Ana winds blew through. When I saw the same administrator later, he smiled and said, “I never thought you’d really believe me.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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