Dan and His First Car! – KGUA #67

One sweet ride

For the November 15, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: Write about a car memory?

My First Car

Nowadays it seems that kids from the suburbs have cars in high school, and certainly when they go off to college.  Back in suburban New Jersey in the 1960s that was not the case for me.  I walked a mile to Fair Lawn High with my guys.  In college, I had no need for a car as I took classes and played on the tennis team at the small, residential College of Wooster in Ohio.

But once I signed a contract to teach social studies, science, and Spanish to fifth and sixth graders in Anaheim, California (I had never taken a course in Spanish!), I needed a car.

The Volkswagen Bug (often referred to as a Beetle) spoke to me.  That summer of 1970, I purchased a used 1968 Bug for $1800 through the newspaper.

It wasn’t a month later that my brother Richard and I headed out for a 3000-mile trek across country for my first teaching job.  Though my Bug was quite a bit less cool than Ford Mustangs of the day, it got me around.  At the time, gas cost 24.9 cents per gallon.  Truly, to go another twenty miles, I once pulled up to the pump with a quarter.

A year later, leaving my VW in Arizona, I drove east with a friend in his car from Tempe to Atlanta, Georgia, then hitchhiked north to pick up Hannah in Ohio.  Along the way I was jailed in Knoxville but eventually arrived to drive with Hannah back to Arizona to see where our four-year on again, off again relationship might go.

We drove west in, get this, Hannah’s Mustang.  Yes, I eventually married someone who was far cooler than I ever was.

Words – 279

If you are semi- or three quarter-intrigued by my time in the Knoxville City Jail in the South in 1971, I wrote a six-part series about the experience.  Click on each part below for the full story.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

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 What He is Holding On To… – KGUA #65

For the November 1, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: “What is Something You Hold On To?”

I am holding on to the belief that this seventh decade of my life is the best ever.  Who’d a thought being a geezer, an old goat, a codger would make these past ten years my my crème de la creme, my pick of the litter, and my cream of the crop.  I have my health, I have a flexible schedule where I don’t have to squeeze things in as I did when I was in the work force.  We have the resources to travel and be generous.  We hike and pickle.  Life is good.

You must be thinking, surely there are other decades in your prime that are contenders.  Well, let’s examine the facts,

The first ten years as a kid in suburbia were fine but the details escape me.  Let’s chalk those years up as challengers to the past decade.

Teenage years?  Dead last.  Though good high school friends, my insecurities just ran amok. 

Twenties – I got to say this might earn the silver medal.  Going to Arizona State changed my life for the better and I wooed and married the girl of my dreams – One Hannah Kraai.

Thirties – By far, our three kids are what Hannah and I are most proud of.  But parenting young-‘uns is just exhausting.  We survived.

Forties – Teaching middle schoolers!  Nuff said.  Didn’t make my top ten.

Fifties – I’m thinking I have the bronze here as I got my dream job – teaching at the university.

The above roll call has not changed my mind that these past ten years remain numero uno.  Time, health, resources,  and choices.  Oh and one more thing, I’m still doing it all with the girl of my dreams.

Words – 278

Dan: What He is Thinking About Today. – KGUA #64

For the October 11, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: What are You Thinking About Today? What’s On Your Mind?

First is how sore my left arm feels after getting my Pfizer booster shot yesterday afternoon.  The pain woke me up in the middle of the night. But as we all know, no pain, no gain.

Second, how energizing it is to consolidate and jettison. This morning Hannah and I got up a little after 5 AM fired up to clear off the shelves in our upstairs bedroom for Hannah’s books and to clean out le junque under our ping pong table. 

You see, we have lived in the same house for the past 39 years.  We still have our children’s middle and high school yearbooks, their photo albums, a bread machine, classic indestructible books for toddlers, CDs, and tables that we picked up on the roadside.   All things others could be using.  This morning we set out an end table by the side of our country road with a “Free” sign.  It was gone by noon.

Third, on a subject that might be just a bit too much information for some, I am beginning to train my bladder.  Yes, the B word.  It seems it’s possible to teach an old bladder new tricks.  Kegels for men are a thing.  My other excellent strategies are for those who really give a sh*t.  Contact me.  I’m your B man.

Fourth is the importance to have fun each day, but also to have activities that are “so fun.”  A recent ”so fun” time was a chili dinner with our friends, Scott and Tree, at their place before they began their trek home to California. 

It’s been another good day. 

Words – 264

Dan: Before and After – KGUA #63

For the October 4, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are to freewrite to this prompt:  Tell Me About a Time That Marks a Before and After in Your Life

I take you back to the mid-Sixties.  As a first born I was the classic obedient child.  I made sure the seas were always calm as I didn’t make waves or even a ripple.

I took the safe route of applying to only one college that I knew I could get into.  I chose political science as my major – boring beyond belief.  And all of this was in Ohio.  No offense, but the Buckeye State doesn’t scream adventure to an 18 year old like Florida, Virginia, California, or even Arizona.

I muddled through classes with Bs and Cs.  Getting an A would have exposed the College of Wooster in Ohio as a fraud.  I studied in fear and got by.

After a sophomore year of peace and love with my girlfriend, Hannah, we hit the rocks during our junior year.  At the same small college I saw her everywhere and knew the guys she was dating.  My broken heart was not holding up well.

And then the final straw of Before, a teammate on the college tennis team took a job at Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati.  I saw my future and was scared sh**less.  I looked at him, and said, That’s me if I don’t act now.

Immediately I changed my major to education to begin my After.  I transferred to Arizona State University and graduated the following year ready to teach in the public schools.

That move made all the difference as I threw off my self-imposed limitations and buried them beyond the Butte on the campus of ASU.

By the way, two years later Hannah came to Arizona to see if we could rekindle the magic.

Fortunately, we did. 

Words – 297

Dan and the Wedding Yin Yang – KGUA #62

For the September 27, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are told that yin yang, an ancient symbol of harmony reminds us life is a balancing act. Most fulfilling when we learn to embrace dualities such as a joy and a challenge. 

My wedding yin yang

There’s this family wedding.  Wait!  You’re considering going to a wedding in the time of the Delta Variant!  Are you high! 

Quite possibly.  Let’s examine the facts, the yin and yang of the situation, the joy and challenge that Hannah and I face.

Otesaga Inn in Cooperstown, New York

It’s my brother’s daughter who is getting married.  Richard is just a good guy, generous in the extreme.  He’ll drop everything to help a friend; get a cat out of a tree, always ready for a good time.  Classic good guy. He’s one for the yin side.

On the yin side, all the wedding guests are required to be vaccinated or have a negative Covid test. The wedding itself is outside as is the cocktail hour.

To those rowing with the yang side, the dinner is indoors. 

But the yin remains strong!  Despite all the news of the breakthrough cases of the Delta Variant, vaccinated folks like Hannah and myself have the one in 5000 chance of getting Covid.  And one in 10,000 if folks, like we are, are cautious (i.e. wear masks) in dealing with the general public.  I like that math.  Always liked the science.

Yang does have that ICUs in hospitals are bursting with distressed and dying Covid patients.

Yin responds that these are mostly unvaccinated folks.  And if vaccinated folks get Covid they are very likely be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.  I like our odds

I bet you can see where this is going.  We are going to the wedding.  Bottom line is that reasonable precautions have been taken and we are vaccinated.

Through this daunting pandemic challenge, we will have this moment of joy.  My yin yang.

Words – 264

Dan and Letting Go – KGUA #61

Created with GIMP

For the September 20, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are told that So many people are free with their advice and say, “just let it go!” sounds like a buzz phrase. BUT, if you did “let something go, what would it be?”

Today was the day Hannah and I were supposed to be flying back from San Francisco to Boston after concluding our two weeks in California with three days with our friends, Scott and Tree, in Gualala, California (150 miles north of San Francisco).  We also had plans to meet up with KGUA’s own Peggy and Mark, the folks who have generously given us airtime to share our weekly freewriting. 

Alas, all does not go as planned.

One week before Hannah and I were to leave for hiking in Yosemite and Redwood National Parks, we cancelled our trip primarily because of the widespread wildfires throughout California. The Delta Variant of Covid contributed to our decision, too.

Did I/we make the right decision?  I believe so.  And the added benefit is that I let go of any second guessing of our decision.  I moved forward and planned a local road trip in Maine for three days. We’d drive the entire length of Route One, some 530 miles, from Kittery in the south to Fort Kent in the north.  I let go of judging and doubting our decision.

And then on our second day, we are pumped for the four-mile Coastal Trail along the cliffside at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine. Soon, the trail began to deteriorate with steep, muddy, rooted descents followed by challenging climbs. In short order, the hike slipped into the “no fun” category. With that, we bailed.

Did we make the right decision not to complete the challenging loop trail that we had planned?  You bet.  In addition, I didn’t second guess our decision and put the doubts away in the closet and took the rehashing to the pantry

Letting go is not a fully formed behavior of mine. It will take practice and more practice for me not to fall back into the mythology of what might have been.

Words – 266

From the Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations of Wisdom, Perseverance, and The Art of Living by Ryan Holliday and Stephen Hanselman

When you set your mind to a task, do you always follow through? Don’t let yourself become a prisoner of that kind of determination. Conditions change. New facts come in. Circumstances arise. The point is not to have an iron will, but an adaptable will. Flexibility is its own kind of strength.

Route One from York to Quoddy Head is in fact much closer to the coast

Dan and His Example of Resilience – KGUA #60

For the September 13, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on Resilience: What’s Your Definition or Example of?”

Resilience personified

What if your voice was silenced? 

Imagine that you couldn’t be heard in a group.

Imagine that you couldn’t read to your grandchildren for more than five minutes.

Imagine being tired of not being heard so that you just choose to listen.

Imagine needing your spouse to finish your stories when speaking with others.

Imagine having to repeat everything.

Imagine playing pickleball or any sport and not being able to communicate with your partner or teammates.

Imagine people routinely saying to you when you speak, “What? Say that again.

Imagine when talking on the phone your voice sounds crackly to others.

Imagine you can’t speak up enough to talk to a friend across a room?

Imagine your humorous quip at just the right moment can’t be heard.

It’s not hard to imagine that you might just want to stay home and hide.

But Hannah hasn’t.

Twenty years ago Hannah found herself unable to project her voice and had trouble speaking words that started with an H or an S.  Diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, of which there is no cure, she has chosen to stay engaged with her world.

This voice disorder causes involuntary spasms in the muscles of her voice box or larynx, which in turn causes her voice to break and have a tight, strained or strangled sound. 

She works through reading with her grandsons.  She finishes more and more of her stories, albeit the shortened version.  She makes the phone calls when she must, though she prefers texting and emailing.

Still she can’t be heard in a group and appreciates her friends and family who give her the time to tell what’s on her mind.

As her husband, I have been witness to twenty years of her resilience personified. 

Words – 293

Dan Has A Pearl of Wisdom for His Grandchildren – KGUA #59

For the August 30, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What pearl of wisdom do you have for us?

Front row from left to right – Owen (9), Max (7), Brooks (3) Back row – Charlotte (1) and her identical twin sister Reese (1) or Reese and Charlotte

My pearl is for our grandchildren, Owen, Max, Brooks, Reese, and Charlotte,

It comes from Davy Crockett, the King of the Wild Frontier.

I’ll begin with a truth about your parents that you might not know. 

I’ve seen your parents in action.  They’re good, I mean really good.  They are involved parents and love being your mom and dad.  Truth be told, they are exhausted by nightfall.  But it’s a good exhausted!

They are doing what they can so others will want to be around you. They want you to be thoughtful, confident without being arrogant; that you also listen and think of others.  They want to instill in you a passion for life and being responsible stewards of our planet. 

Notice I said nothing about your grades or your SAT scores.  Rather, they encourage you to ask questions and regularly they validate your feelings.  I told you they are good.

Fess Parker, the Davy Crockett of my youth

They are pretty cool, but they don’t get it right all the time.  Who does?  Certainly not your grandparents.  You’ll disagree with them on a regular basis.  But cut them some slack; bless their hearts, they are knocking themselves out for you.

Here’s a biggie.  They don’t expect or want you to be perfect.  They aren’t.  They get that messing up is part of being a kid; fact is, it’s also a part of being an adult.  They want you to learn to own your mistakes not make excuses.  A sincere “I’m sorry” goes along way.  Take your lumps and the consequences without whining.  Despite how much fun a good whine can be.

So, no need to be perfect; swing for the fences and know that truth of Davy Crockett’s words – Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.    

Words – 257

Dan and What His World Looks Like – KGUA #58

For the August 23, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What Does My World Look Like? (today? tomorrow? right now? in the future?)

For me, it all depends on the day.

Catch me on an August Sunday, my world looks beautiful.  Every two weeks at dawn on the course in Amesbury, Mass, I golf nine holes with our daughter Molly.  We don’t keep score and do hit extra balls when our first shots are not satisfactory.  We always follow up with eggs, homefries, multi-grain toast, and coffee at the Morning Buzz.

Catch me on a Monday, well my world is beautiful, too.  It’s a ping pong day with my buddy George.  Playing weekly for ten years, he wins some, I win some.  Supporting each other’s good shots with Wows and Whoas, we have a beer after our sweat-filled ninety minutes whacking the little white ball.

Fran and Hannah

Catch me on an early summer Wednesday, check off beautiful again.  Hannah and I ride bikes on our quiet country coastal roads at dawn to avoid the tourist traffic.  Riding side-by-side, we talk and then go single file when the occasional car passes by.  And all of a sudden, we are pulling into our driveway fourteen miles later.

Catch me on a Thursday, my world remains bee-you-tee-full.  Pickleballing with our friends, Fran and Steve, we have partners rather than opponents who don’t take themselves too seriously.  It’s just fun, then we all retire to our front deck for mid-day brewskis and buttery, store-bought popcorn.

My life is not always beautiful, but beautiful is what I remember about this past week.