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 Thinking of Him – KGUA #50

For the May 24, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite based on this quote – “I’m UNMASKED. I’m OUTSIDE. I’m THINKING of you!”

Thinking of Him

He was a magnet.  Throughout his life he was the one others gravitated towards.  I was in his orbit, even inner circle-ish, and had a front row seat to a lifetime friendship.

In sixth grade, we were the shooting guards on the Knicks, a Radburn (New Jersey) Rec team.  Ball hogs to the max, and not very accurate shooters to boot, we shot twenty times a game and hoped to hit five.

In eighth grade, he was the first of our group with a girlfriend.  As we all watched West Side Story in the theater, his girlfriend cried on his chest as he comforted her.  He was the Man and we were still Wannabes.

We played together on the high school tennis team.  He had no business making the team, but through perseverance and a confidence he always seemed to have, he became a valuable doubles player as a part of our starting seven.

While I taught during the day, he was living the dream as a travel writer who focused on skiing and traveled the world to snowy venues.

And then leukemia found it’s way into his blood system, just about the time he and I were mapping a retirement of golfing together on courses near his home in New Jersey or mine in Maine.

I’m 73.  He died at 61.  I longed for more, but so appreciate the many years I had with my lifelong friend, Mitch Kaplan.

His wife Penny sent me these pictures of Mitch.

Good guy

Dan’s Top Ten – KGUA #49

For the May 17, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite about what we have learned about ourselves during the pandemic.  I give you my Top Ten!    

Top Ten

10. I’ve learned that when I think I’ve hit a home run in life, I remember that as white guy I was born on second base.

9. I’ve relearned how much I love my Fitbit tracker.  My Fitbit encourages me to continue to be the crazed exerciser that I’ve been ever since my days as a grad student working in the Human Performance Lab at Arizona State University. 

8. I have relearned the timeless wisdom of Don Miguel Ruiz in Four Agreements that two of the keys to happiness are to make no assumptions and to not take anything personally.

7.  I have learned that a margarita or two is just fine, but more is asking for trouble. 

6. Rather than immediately react emotionally when I’m challenged by life coming at me, I’ve learned to take a breath and think about the truth of the situation for me.  Giving myself advice in the third person helps (e.g., Dan, you know that…).

5. I’ve learned the importance of having a knife at every meal to cut my food up to avoid said food from lodging in my throat.  I am not far from a steady diet of mush, oatmeal, and apple sauce.

4.  I’ve learned that my longstanding passion for pickleball has been refocused.  I love playing the soft game with opponents who see the game as a cooperative venture to challenge all players rather than a competitive battle where winning is all that matters.  Also, I like to play pickleball not slamball.

3. I have relearned how fortunate I am to have good health and ample resources to really enjoy retirement.

2. I have learned that a beer with friends after ping pong and pickleball makes the experience a royal flush.

1. I am reminded that I have a traveler’s heart.  I look forward to California’s sunshine and blue skies in the months ahead.

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 His Random Coincidence – KGUA #47

For the May 3, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to freewrite about a random connection that was a total surprise.  This one blew me away.  Fasten your seatbelts.

When Hannah and I return to Arizona, our home for ten years as young marrieds, we seek out Sabino Canyon near Tucson for a hiking fix. 

Circa 2016 at Sabino Canyon

Five years ago, after nearly four hours of hiking on the Seven Falls Trail, we return to the visitor center for Hannah to buy postcards.  The volunteer ranger notices my ever-present Ithaca Bombers shirt and asks, Is that in New York?  Nodding yes, I listen as she mentions that she’s from nearby Rochester.

I point to Hannah and proudly beam, I married a Rochester girl.  Knowing that people often say that they are from the city of Rochester when they are, in fact, from a nearby small town that no one would know, I mention Hannah is actually from Fairport.  To my surprise, Julia knows it well as someone from nearby East Rochester.

Hannah comes over and talks with Julia of childhood memories of the area.  When I return to Hannah and Julia, who looks our age, I randomly ask, Did you know Dr. Kraai, Hannah’s dad?  

This is not as an off-the-wall question as it may seem since Dr. Kraai was the family general practioner for the town of Fairport who worked made house calls each morning, had office hours in their home til 10P, and delivered some 5000 babies. 

Julia is stunned and looks directly at Hannah, Dr. Kraai delivered me.  Hannah, whose dad died 30 years ago, tears up immediately and says, I have goose bumps.  Julia adds, I do too.

What do you know, randomness lives in Tucson, Arizona! 

Hannah and Julia in southern Arizona

The cast iron sign from Hannah’s dad’s medical practice that was in the family’s front yard. Kraai is pronounced “Cry.”

See below for the full story with cactus from our hike at Sabino Canyon five years ago.

Dan and the Wizard of Oz – KGUA #46

For the April 26, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, I am asked to free write about the Wizard of Oz character with whom I most identify. 

It’s Dorothy. 

But first let me say that I saw the Wizard of Oz as a kindergartner at the local theater in Hawthorne, NJ.  Seeing the Wicked Witch of the West scared the beejeezus out of me.  Don’t get me started on the terrifying flying monkeys.  Who lets a five year old see such a horror show?  I’m guessing my parents wanted to just toughen me up.  You be the judge how that’s worked out.

Back to Dorothy.  First of all, she has the classic line for those dealing with the unknown, Toto, I have a feeling that this isn’t Kansas anymore. Problem solving 101: Acknowledgement the issue.

Dorothy Gale had the adventurous spirit that I wanted as a kid who was quite comfortable at the ballfields, gyms, and playgrounds of my youth. I saw no reason to get out of my comfort zone and leave little ole Fair Lawn, New Jersey. 

This is where my parents stepped up.  With my brother and sister, I was packed into their woody station wagon for the Tetons in Wyoming and the deserts of Tucson, Arizona.  Seeing that the West wasn’t such a dangerous place, I had the seed planted for an adventurous life. 

Marrying a homebody like Hannah, I drew upon my inner Dorothy Gale and planned our own family trips to the Mountain West and later driving 4500 miles to Alaska to set her free and let our kids know that we weren’t in Maine anymore.

Our kids have since been to Iceland, China, Colombia, and Afghanistan (in that case, thanks to Uncle Sam) and little do they know that they can thank a young girl from the Heartland, one Dorothy Gale, for that inspiration.

Words – 287

Cast. Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale. Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel/Gatekeeper/Carriage Driver/Guard/Wizard of Oz. Ray Bolger as “Hunk”/Scarecrow. Jack Haley as “Hickory”/Tin Woodman. Bert Lahr as “Zeke”/Cowardly Lion. Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch. Margaret Hamilton as Miss Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West.

Release date: August 25, 1939

Dan and the Voices in His Head – KGUA #45

For the April 19, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about what that voices in our head are telling us. 

Yo, Danny Boy.  Sup?

I gotta say it’s been a tough year.  All this coronavirus stuff.  But, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

What!  That’s the best you can do, that tired old cliché.  There’s got to be more stirring around in your noggin!

Okay, here’s a thought.  In the main, I think too many Americans don’t give a rat’s patootie about other Americans dying from the coronavirus and that’s why they bristle at the restrictions.

Whoa.  You know, over half million have died.

Oh, no question.  But after 14 months Americans have done the math and like their odds.

Back up.  Explain that one to me. 

Think about it. There are 340 million Americans.  If 600,000 die from the coronavirus, that’s less than two-tenths of one percent who go to the Great Beyond.

And if that’s the calculus, people think why mask, avoid restaurants and concerts, and miss out on big weddings?  They just don’t care because they think it just ain’t going to happen to them.

While I chew on that, got anything lighter to end on?

No, I don’t.  Can you believe that Americans were really paying that much attention to their seventh grade math teacher!

Words – 201

Dan and Establishing His Voice Thanks to KGUA rado – #44

For the April 12, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, Mark has asked us to free write about what we learned about ourselves by writing in the KGUA writers’ group. 

My writing for KGUA gives me a voice, a chance to be heard in a world that just can’t stop talking, to paraphrase the subtitle of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet (2012). 

As a shy kid, I sat back and let others rule the roost.  I think of a shy person as someone who is overly worried about what others think.  That certainly was true of me.  Many of us want to fit in, belong, and be accepted.  I took that need to the extreme and was a casualty of my unfortunate need to please.

In my understanding, shy is different than introversion.  Being introverted is to find meaning and energy in pairs and smaller groups rather than large.  Though shy, I value the intimacy of my introverted nature.

Still afflicted with shyness into adulthood, I slowly began to heal, thanks in large part to writing.  Writing has helped me find my voice, both on the page and in my life. 

Having KGUA writers in my life each week reaffirms that I have something to say; that I have value.  By “publishing” my free writes each Monday over the air, KGUA offers me both an audience and a chance to connect with others.

Thank you Mark and Peggy.  Love, Dan

Dan and His Word One Year Later – KGUA #43

For the April 5, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about the word of how you’re feeling at this moment one year after all hell broke loose with the pandemic?   

It’s travelIt’s capital T which rhymes with V which stands for Vamoose!  Yeah, I am ready to take to the road, fly the friendly skies, and hike the healing outdoors of America’s trails.

Thanks to our KGUA friends, Scott and Tree, we subscribe to Outside magazine.  Scouring this adventure journal from cover to cover, I learn about newly opened trails at Cobscook Shores, four hours north of us on the coast of Maine near the Canadian border.  We’ll be cooking there for three days in May.

When Au Canada does allow its citizens to cross the border, I’ll hike up the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park with my UNH friend, Bill, a decent guy from the Great White North.  

This can’t surprise you that I’ve already booked a Jet Blue flight to the Golden State in September to reconnect with the trails of Sequoia, Yosemite, and Redwoods National Parks.

Two weeks later, Hannah and I will travel to New York to celebrate in style the wedding of our niece Kara, my brother Richard’s kid.

With a hunger from head to toe after being derailed by the pandemic, I am hoping for a winter return to Santa Barbara and a spring week in Utah with our daughter Molly’s family. 

You see, Hannah and I have no time to waste while our good health reigns.  In our 70s, we know the truth of this outdoor equation: Travel = Hope!

Words – 237

What’s your word? Respond with a comment below.

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 ()