Dan and Who He Is Thankful For – KGUA #66

For this morning’s (November 8, 2021) KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: “Who are you thankful for?”

It’s my guys.  Rich and Steve and Nobes and Pfohl.   

Tubing on the Salt River

You see, as a first-born I was obedient to the max.  No surprise that I always colored inside the lines.  In high school in New Jersey, my grades were fine, nothing spectacular.  SATs?  Math up, Verbal down.

College in Ohio about the same pattern until I was just so unhappy that I said the hell with it.  I left for the Wild, Wild West in 1969.  And by that I mean, Arizona State University.

Not knowing a soul in the dorm (Irish Hall), I put myself out there and met up with four other out-of-staters.  We’d go to the Salt River north of Scottsdale for tubing with brewskis.  We stopped eating in Manzanita (dorm) cafeteria and came up with our own meal plan: Tuesday night at Hobo Joe’s for forty-nine cents all-you-can-eat pancakes and regularly at the Dash Inn on Apache Boulevard for forty cent beef burritos and fifteen cent iced tea.

Tempe, home to Arizona State University

Impulsively one weekend we drove 400 miles to Tijuana, Mexico to check out the scene.  Another time over Thanksgiving, Rich and I hitchhiked 120 miles to Tucson where on one ride we were kicked out of the car because we couldn’t pay and then were pelted with eggs as they drove off. 

My guys brought me out of my shy, introverted shell.  My confidence grew and my agency, a fancy way of saying that I realized I had choices.

With my growing self-confidence I went sight unseen to Anaheim, California for my first teaching job and had a willingness to challenge Uncle Sam on his plans for me in Viet Nam.

The guys showed me that there was a big, beautiful world out there that I never knew I could choose.  And for that I am thankful for Rich and Steve and Nobes and Pfohl.

Words – 297

A November 2021 update of my guys.

Dan, Rich, Amelia, and Nobes circa 2018, a mini-49th year reunion of our first year at Arizona State

Pfohl – First name Art, a Viet Nam War veteran who died some fifteen years ago, likely from complications from exposure to Agent Orange.

Steve – Big Steve, a successful entrepreneur from Virginia, died ten years ago of a heart attack.  I remain close with his widow, Amelia, and his sons, Brandon and Justin.

Nobes – First name Gale, an artiste and environmentalist who to this day walks the walk caring for the planet on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Rich – Inspired by Nobes to take up photography, built a successful small business with his wife Mary as wedding photographers; at each wedding his goal remains to highlight the bride so she looks radiant on her day.

Dan and His Choice for the Next National Holiday for KGUA radio #54

For the June 28, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What Would You Make a National Holiday? Why?

Though I applaud my colleague and friend, David Stoloff’s choice of a National Voting Day, my choice is a National Holiday to celebrate Native Americans.  We as a country have done as much damage to Native Americans as we have to African-Americans.

Trail of Tears

I submit that we honor our first Americans by acknowledging the Trail of Tears.  The Trail of Tears was the government sponsored pogrom in the 1830s and 1840s to banish the Cherokee and other tribes from their ancestral homes in the Southeast to parched lands west of the Mississippi River.

Now this is where I come in.

After aimlessly going through the motions as a political science major at the College of Wooster in Ohio, I transferred to Arizona State University in 1969 to major in education with the idea of teaching on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona.  Within two weeks, I realized that the Native Americans in my Intro class were not really thrilled with having one more well-intentioned white boy come to teach their children. 

So, I changed course that eventually led me to teach a diverse group of kids (Chicano, Anglo, and African-American) in first Anaheim, California and next in Phoenix, Arizona.  Ironically, there in Arizona during the 1970s, I also taught Yaqui Indian kids from the Guadalupe neighborhood in Tempe. 

Who knew there was already such a day in the works? Not me.

I was woefully unprepared to give my students a nuanced approach to American history.  My lack of knowledge of the stories, the trauma, and the genocide of Native Americans was predictable given my own education. 

I believe a National Holiday honoring Native Americans would begin a conversation and greater understanding of our First Americans.

 Words – 258

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Dan is Home in the Desert – KGUA #48

For the May 10, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to put Home at the top of the page and freewrite away in less than 300 words.    

First home in the Desert

As young newly-weds in the Valley of the Sun in the early 1970s, Hannah and I began looking for a house within walking distance of the U, by that I mean Arizona State University. 

A little three bedroom, one-story place at just under $21K looked out the window and called our names.  Hardly able to contain our enthusiasm, we offered a thousand less.  They countered that for the original price they’ll include all the furniture for the entire house.  And so we had our first home at the corner of Roosevelt and West 16th Street.

Swamp cooler

Our neighbors got a good laugh when we bought a push mower to cut the thick, wide-bladed St. Augustine grass.  With Arizona’s constant sunshine and irrigation water from the town that covered our lawn like a small pond, the grass flourished and needed constant cutting.  Out of the blue, the Tempe Garden Club put a sign in our yard that we were the Lawn-of-the-Month.

Raised in the Northeast, Hannah and I thought, what says Arizona more than a backyard pool?   Paying $5K for the in-ground 40′ pool, the cool decking, and all the tile, we had our antidote to the dry, oven-like heat of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Without air-conditioning for the 115 degree summer days, we did have a swamp cooler on our roof.  Swamp coolers operate by water dripping down reed mats and then a fan blows cool air into the house.  Though functional for low humidity days in May and June, swamp coolers provide little relief in the humidity of July, August, and September. 

Even so, we were living the dream in our first home in the desert.

Though the address is the same, this house at 542 West Sixteenth Street bears little resemblance to the one we bought. You see, we lived there from 1973-1979 and sold the house for $56K. In 1990 a fire in the fireplace we had built for us destroyed the house. This is quite the rebuild. The wisely put in a lawn that needed no watering.

Surprisingly, the pool was not damaged at all when the fire destroyed the house. This is the very pool we had built in 1974. In the summers, the pool temp was 90F. Not the refreshing dip to cool off you might imagine.
Hemmed in all sides, Tempe has little place to grow.

We indeed were a simple ten minute bike ride to the U!

Dan and Name Calling – KGUA radio #42

For the March 29, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about name calling.  But for me, I have a twist.

It’s always a twist with you, Dan, Mark and loyal KGUA writers must be thinking.  Well folks, that’s the beauty of what Mark has created for us KGUA writers.  He gives us a starting point and we find our own path.  If only my schooling had been that way.

My name calling came to light in the last few years.  We both were new students at the U, by that I mean, Arizona State University.  Three thousand miles from home, it turned out we went to high school five miles apart in north Jersey, though we never crossed paths then.

Bonding with the other out-of-staters of Irish Hall, we hung out at the main fountain at the crossroad of campus, during basketball games on the Apache Avenue courts, over burritos and iced tea at the Dash Inn, and on weekend evenings having a good ole time with our buddies on Camelback Mountain.

Eventually, we both moved back East to follow our passions, he as a photographer/magic maker on wedding days and me as a teacher/relationship builder in the public schools.

He and his wife would make an annual pilgrimage to Maine and for awhile we vacationed together for a few winter days on Sanibel Island on the west coast of Florida.

So my name calling comes easily when Rich and I finish our phone conversations.  Good talking with you, my friend

Words – 224

Climbing Mt Major in New Hampshire with my friend, Rich

Circa 2018 with Dan, Rich, Amelia (Big Steve’s widow) and Gale at an Arizona State mini-reunion after cornhole ()

Dan Runs Out of Excuses – KGUA radio free write #36

For the February 15, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are given this quote from George Washington – It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.  What is a bad excuse you have overheard, been given, or, well, maybe even offered up yourself?

I’m going to make a hard left from our first president’s quote to think about a no excuse life.

You see, after three years in political science, I switched majors to elementary education.  After graduation, I lasted just fourteen weeks teaching fifth and sixth graders at Patrick Henry School in Anaheim, California.  I wondered about my place in teaching.

A year later, wanting to upgrade from my job as a bus boy, I gave teaching another shot at Holdeman Elementary in Tempe, Arizona.  Still, unsure and uneasy, three years in, I took a leave of absence to attend Arizona State to clear my head.

Nevitt Elementary, Phoenix, Arizona sixth graders (1978) [My students are now 55 years old!]

Returning to teach sixth graders, I had class meetings and organized teachers dealing with burn-out.  Alas, after three years, burned-out myself, I escaped back to ASU to earn a Master’s in exercise physiology.

Still hoping to find my home in the education game, I moved with Hannah from Arizona to Maine to teach middle schoolers in a more collaborative setting with teams of teachers.  Reasonably well-received, I still yearned for something more. 

Taking a sabbatical at the U (that is the University of New Hampshire), I had a taste of that something more, working with undergrads and non-traditional students in teacher education. 

Though I did return to middle schoolers for two years, I knew I had no more excuses at the age of 48 to do what was in my heart since my twenties.  Eager to teach at the university level, I enrolled in a PhD program in order to have the necessary sheepskin to make that dream come true.

Can’t you just feel George and Martha smiling down on me?

Words – 252

Dan’s Big Box at His Doorstep – KGUA radio free write #35 – The Arizona Days

For the February 8, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, I am asked to imagine that giant box has been delivered to our front step with my name on it.  What’s inside and what happens when I open it?

The UPS truck is pulling away when I open our front door to see a giant box on the doorstep.  Cutting the the packing tape, I find a tire tube from a pick-up truck, song lyrics, and a beer can.

You see, after a tumultuous junior year at the College of Wooster in Ohio, I transferred to Arizona State for my senior year.  As a Jersey boy, I didn’t know a soul.  I did meet a few guys over ping pong in the lounge at our Irish Hall dorm as well as when going for meals to Manzanita Hall, the girls’ dorm.

On weekends that September in 1969, all the Arizona kids would leave for their local homes and high school friends, leaving just a few of us in the dorm.  Bonding as out-of-staters (Rich and Art both from Jersey, too, Steve from Virginia, and Nobes from Michigan), we were always looking for things to do.  Over burritos at the Dash Inn near campus in Tempe, we hatched a plan to go tubing down the Salt River 20 miles out of town.

With the temps going north of 100 degrees, we loaded up the large tire tubes and a case of Coors Light in Steve’s Ford Falcon and Art’s Austin-Healey roadster. 

As I remember it, we tubed to the right of the “e” in Scottsdale

Developing a comradery fueled by multiple brewskis, we floated down the cooling Salt River on a desert afternoon, eventually belting out La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.  Allons, enfants de la patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé.

Our friendship has lasted a lifetime.  Today, I inflate the tube, grab a beer, and hum a Parisian melody to myself of days gone by.  A bon sante, mes amis.

Words – 274

Click here for a stirring YouTube rendition of La Marseillaise with closed caption in French and a translation in English.  (five minutes)

Click here for a film clip of Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart where La Marseillaise carries the day in Rick’s Café. (three minutes)

In French IV with Madame Anastassoff at Fair Lawn Senior High School (NJ), we learned and sang the Marseillaise in class. Little did I know that just four years later that song would exuberantly come to life in the desert of Arizona.

Dan’s Being Profiled and Judged – KGUA radio free write #34

For the February 1, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about a time when we felt judged/profiled. By someone else, by a group, and yes, even by ourselves.

Unaware that I was born into white privilege, I was never profiled by the police or judged harshly for my race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or spiritual beliefs. 

No, sadly, I profiled and judged myself.  As a teenager in New Jersey, I let self-doubt rule the day.  Though a good, not elite student, I was good at math.  Still I felt that high school physics was so beyond me.  It was for the really smart kids. 

Unsure of myself as a high school senior, I applied early admission to only one college, the College of Wooster in Ohio.  I doubted whether I would get into any other college than the local Paterson State.

After transferring from Wooster and graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in elementary education, I chose to teach at the elementary level since I didn’t think I could handle middle school kids.  Eight, nine year olds, I could do that.  Teenagers, no way.

I have no one to blame, not even myself.  I was a kid. What did I know?  

So what made me stop my self-limiting behavior.  I’d say sliding down the unhappiness scale and realizing it was time to start making decisions for myself.

Always wanting to do some California Dreamin’, just out of college, I took a teaching position in Anaheim not knowing a soul there.

That decision led to another and then another.  That’s how I got the ball rolling.

Words – 236

Dan and His Arizona State Turning Point 

ASU symbol

Before transferring to Arizona State for my senior year in 1969, I was at loose ends.  The War in Viet Nam loomed over my conscientious objector soul.  Not coloring outside the lines was just leading me down a fear-based path.  After the time-of-my-life sophomore year dating Hannah Kraai at the College of Wooster in Ohio, she and I lost our way; needing a big time change, I picked up and headed west to the Valley of the Sun.

Fortunately in Arizona, I found a group of guys to see me through.

ASU Rich and D

Rich and Dan, original Jersey Boys, for the mini-ASU reunion in August 2018

Three of us were from Jersey, Art, a marine from Bergenfield with a perpetual smirk, that endearingly made me feel like I was in on the joke; Rich, a 17 year old just good dude from Hawthorne coming West to be a pilot; and me looking to be So Far Away (thank you, Carole King).

ASU G and D

Rocking the sandals, Dan and Gale (Nobes is his last name) crush their cornhole opponents

There was Nobes, an art major from Michigan with a killer sense of humor and the smile that nothing was going to get him down.  Fifth was Big Steve from Virginia, who in the vernacular of the time, was the what’s-happening member of our quintet.

Why did we bond and remain friends for almost forty-nine years?  To start, when our Irish Hall dorm cleared out  for the weekend of all the Arizona kids, we had ourselves and not much more.  Using our cafeteria meal money at the Dash Inn, we dined on two beef burritos and ice tea for less than a dollar.  We spent 110F September Saturdays floating in tire tubes down the Salt River with a few brews.

ASU guys with Amelia

Dan, Rich, Amelia (Big Steve’s widow who coincidentally happened to be passing through during the mini-reunion) and Nobes

Only Art (Triumph sports car) and Steve (Ford Falcon) had cars, but each willingly lent theirs whenever asked.  Back in the day, a Coors or two together on Camelback Mountain in the late Phoenix evening made us bolder, the stories bigger, and the friendship stronger.

But really, you are still going strong 49 years?  For me, I felt accepted without having to prove myself.  Twenty-five hundred miles from home I was really on my own, beginning to find out what I believed and ready for the journey to find my way.

ASU guys 2

Summer of 2018 mini-reunion in York, Maine (Rich, Nobes, and Dan)

In this summer of 2018, 49 years later, Nobes, Rich, and I meet in Maine to toast our fallen compadres – Art to cancer from Agent Orange from his time in Viet Nam and Big Steve to a family history of heart attacks.

The me you see now has its roots in the connection to these guys.