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. 

Images

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

Dan and Hannah and the Single Best Exercise

Who knew when you opened this blog on this first day of March 2021, you would learn something so valuable as the best exercise going? Hannah and I have tried so many activities, indoor and out. Running, water skiing (Hannah), tennis, golf (Dan), pickleball, working out at the gym, hiking, and good ole walking. But hold on, we have the numero uno exercise for you!

Hiking?

Hannah hiking the trails with Max, Owen, Molly, and Tip in North Andover, Massachusetts

Pickleball?

Hannah with our friend Fran anticipating the return during a pickleball game in York Harbor, Maine

Walking?

Walking the coastline near Pemaquid Point, Maine

Bicycling?

Bicycling with our son Will on the beach in Carpinteria, California

Working out at the gym?

Hannah making the scene at Coastal Fitness in Kittery, Maine

Michael Joyner, M.D., a professor of anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a leading researcher in the field of endurance exercise thinks brisk walking is far and away the single best exercise.

The five most beneficial exercises from the women and men at the Harvard Medical School are swimming, Tai Chi, strength training, walking, and Kegels.

I don’t disagree. But for me: (drum roll) The Best Exercise is the exercise that you will do!

Come and join us! It’s nearly Spring!

Dan and Hannah and A Groundhog Day Nor’easter 2021

Lying in bed in the still very dark, I hear a loud noise coming up the driveway.  Checking my Fitbit I see that it’s 430A.  I know immediately what’s up.

York is in the lower left in pink on NBC Channel 6 weather out of Portland

You see, Hannah and I had gone to bed last night knowing that 6-12” of snow with sustained winds of 25+ mph was coming to town.  I knew that tomorrow was going to be a stay-at-home day because shoveling out our 150′ driveway would take all day. 

From around the edges of the shade in our first floor bedroom, I see the lights of Nolan’s truck.  The scraping of our driveway is sweet music to my ears.  Falling back asleep after Nolan pushes aside the 14” of snow, I know we have a clear path from our garage out to Chases Pond Road. 

What a gift Nolan, a high school friend of our son Will, has given us.  Often Nolan comes to our rescue when the big storms slam York.  Similar to many others in our small town on the coast of Maine, he looks out for us.

Our place early morning after Nolan’s plowing

As dawn breaks, instead of having to shovel and shovel some more on our driveway, I head out to make a path to our propane exhaust vent, clear the front door, begin a path to our generator and propane tanks, and skim an inch of snow off the driveway.  My mind is already thinking, We can go to the gym!  Thank you, Nolan!

Shoveling the berm of snow at the end of the driveway, I see the occasional pickup truck with a plow.  Returning inside, I sip my coffee and feast on one of Hannah’s tantalizing biscuits in my new La-Z-Boy in front of SportsCenter. 

An hour later I head back out to complete the path to the generator, begin to shovel our front deck, and snow rake our roof when I notice something amiss at the end of our driveway.  The snowplow has snapped the posted of our mailing box and left it for dead.

Dead as a doornail

This has happened four or five times in the nearly 40 years we’ve lived on our country road.  In the past, the town claims that such accidents are the price of doing business and there is nothing they will do.  But I see before me a golden opportunity to network for solutions. 

Texting a variety of folks, I hear from our son Will, pickleball friends Norm and Fran, and my ping pong buddy George about repair possibilities.  It makes my day being able to connect with my peeps.

Making a comeback

So we have our first win/win/win of the season. First a snowplow surprise from a guy we’ve known since second grade, then a splintered mailbox as an opening for friendship connections, and third we got to the gym – all on the morning of February 2nd when the nor’easter came to town. 

Two days later.  In a team effort, Hannah and I slather on copious amounts of wood glue, cram the two splintered posts together, wrap the joint with high test duct tape, and support the union with a board from our shed.  Let the healing begin.


The lonely post
A team effort

Dan’s “Not My Finest Moment” with a Twist

The low tire pressure light flashed on the dashboard of my Prius.  (I know, I know. Using the word “Prius” sounds so pretentious. I just want to be more descriptive than merely saying “car.”). Clearly, Prius owning, I had to have voted for Biden and Harris, which I did.

Ergo, late afternoon while driving to our Covid Pod friend Karen’s place in the Hah-Bah (by that I mean York Harbor, Maine), Hannah and I stop at the Mobil station to get air in my tires, deflated by winter’s cold.  Much to my chagrin, a BMW owner (not that there is anything wrong with that), is taking his sweet time trying to figure out the recommended tire pressure for his tires by, get this, looking for the numbers on his front tires in the near dark of late December. 

Late afternoon at the Mobil station at York Corners just days after our snowy visit

We decide to return after an afternoon with Karen of walking in the aforementioned Hah-bah, drinking white wine, munching on apps, and later playing cribbage. 

When we leave near 7P, a crusty inch of snow covers my Prius.   Hopefully, Hannah suggests that we fill the tires in the light of day tomorrow.  Stubbornly, I am of another mind.  Laser focused, I am determined to fill my tires despite the snow and dark.  You can already see that this isn’t going to end well.

At the Mobil station, air pressure service is no longer free and requires a credit card.  Hannah quietly and gently brings up that we can do this in the light of day when it is not snowing tomorrow.  I demur.  You can see that I am not a reasonable human being.

High tech tire calibration

Kneeling on the snowy pavement, upper 20s, bare-handed to attach the hose to my front left tire valve, I ask Hannah to flash her iPhone so I can find the tire valve itself.  She can’t be pleased, but I avoid eye contact since I only have four minutes to fill all my tires. 

Kneeling again in the pavement snow and my fingers chilling, I quickly go to each tire before my four minutes is up.  Hannah is not smiling, and metaphorically shaking her head.   Driving home, I see the low tire pressure light stays on.  Damn, foiled again.

No longer snow covered as it was that night

So what have I learned?  Well, one, I need to go back to the Mobil station tomorrow. Two, filling tires on a snowy night in the dark is probably not my finest moment.  But here’s the twist. 

My humanity is reaffirmed.  It’s a moment when I balance the real good decisions I make with this clunker.  My occasional screw-up reaffirms that I am not perfect, which I never was anyway.

Wouldn’t you say that makes me all the more lovable?  Perfect is never endearing. And now you know that you don’t have to go ten for ten with me either.

Dan and the Wisdom of Dr. Thaler of Kittery Family Practice

In conversation with my ping pong buddy, George Derby, I learned that at the end of his appointment, his primary care doc, Dr. Fred Thaler would ask him one final question – From one to ten, how are you doing?

Dr. Fred Thaler

Whoa.  Love a doctor taking the holistic approach to the care of his patient.  Shoot and score, Fred!

I know Dr. Thaler. One time, when my usual Dr. Graziano was not available, I had Dr. Thaler check me out. What I do remember of that appointment that he took the time to better understand my recent (June 2017) Transient Global Amnesia episode. By the way, Kittery Family Practice has a bunch of such docs.

Imagine if we all took the time to ask that question to our family and friends and really listen to the response. That’s next level!

I just wanted to add Fred’s Question to your repertoire of how you might interact with your world during these tumultuous days, weeks, and months ahead.

Fun fact – Dr. Thaler was a high school classmate of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, yes of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. 

Click here to learn more about my Transient Global Amnesia episode.

Dan Steps Up to Work at the Phone Bank for Biden/Harris

Not Molly and Tip

Our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip are walking the walk this 2020 election season. Tip is working at the polls for early voting and on Election Day and Molly is part of team of phone callers to get out the vote for Joe and Kamala.  As Molly talked about her experience of last week, she invited/challenged me to go out of my comfort zone, as she had done, and join the phone bank callers on the Tuesday (October 27, 2020) before Election Day.

Challenge accepted!

At 530P this past Tuesday, I log into Zoom (a first!), and had Ben Blumenthal, Democrat operative/super-volunteer train me remotely.  With the choice of two battleground states (Pennsylvania or Florida), I choose Pennsylvania as my Dad was from Sunbury in the center of the state and Mom lived near Pittsburgh in the west.

Needing a laptop and a cell phone, I am advised to (1) be myself [piece of cake for I got be me], (2) listen [check], (3) be honest [bring out my inner Abe-ness], (4) do not debate, and (5) do my part to restore the soul of America with kindness, caring, and empathy, which is sorely lacking from the current White House.

Along with 18 others on the Zoom screen, I dive in for the next hour and a half to see what voters are thinking in the Keystone State. 

Starting off slowly with a wrong number, I then talk to an upbeat voter for Biden.  My third call is a polite enough woman who says, Absolutely not.  I live in coal energy.

I would say a third of the time people hung up.  One woman says that she’d been called twice before today and another man says please do not call my phone no more and hung up. 

The phone lists need some updating as one caller has moved to New York, another to Arizona.  Though I am calling from my own phone, the ThruTalk software has the number that appears to the one I am calling as coming from a Pennsylvania area code. 

Here’s the script.  When I hear the caller, I start with, Is this, say, John?  If it is, I click on that box on my laptop screen that indicates correct number.  I then continue with This is Dan calling for the Pennsylvania Democrats and wondering if you are voting for Joe Biden.

The screen scrolls down to boxes for me to click on to show who they are voting for.  If they say, Biden I click on Strong for Biden box.  If not, it’s Undecided or Leaning Republican.  If they are still on the line, I then ask if they have voted by mail or are voting on Election Day, then clicking on the appropriate screen for their response.  And that’s where it usually ends.  I never get to, would you like to volunteer? I am rookie; I need some seasoning. Preferably, lemon pepper.

I don’t get any abusive or angry people when I identify myself as a Biden supporter.  Some say they have already voted but don’t tell me for whom.  As a rocket scientist, I figure that means for the current president.

One woman says the name I am calling doesn’t live here.  She wonders if I am a finance person because so many have called for him.  Assuring her I am not, I ask if she is voting for Biden.  She tells me, He’ll raise taxes, I don’t trust him, I’m voting for the other one.  I thank her for her time.

The ones that say that they are voting for Biden, I respond, Good luck to us all next Tuesday.  Usually, that is met with a knowing laugh. 

Worth it?  Yeah.  Since I think this is the most important election of my lifetime (72 years!), I need to do more than just give money to candidates and call local York officials about keeping the polls open in the evening and on weekend.

Effective?  Not sure.  I don’t engage much, but I do get possibly useful information about these voters and help update the Democrat’s phone bank. Fact is, like my learning to hit an effective third shot in pickleball, I believe I’ll get better with more reps.

Second best thing?  I have an experience that was blog-worthy.

Molly on the first day of school 2020 with our grandson Owen

Best thing?  Molly.  Seeing her involved in the political process for her family and for us all, I am pleased that she got me to step up.  Like summer weekday morning golf at the Amesbury Country Club and breakfast outdoors at the Morning Buzz after, I get to virtually hang out with her in these strange times of the Pandemic of 2020.

Dan and Hannah and What is Going On Here!

Similar to our suet cage

A week ago an animal has ripped our suet bird feeder cage off its metal shepherd’s hook and feasted on the suet thirty feet away. Unable to find the suet cage, I eventually found it while mulching the yellow beech leaves of our front yard with our mower. I thought raccoon. Hannah thought bear.

The suet cage after meeting up with our mower 30′ from where it hung on the one remaining standing shepherd’s staff

Then this Monday morning (October 26, 2020), we wake to mayhem. Let the 60 second video do the talking! (Click on the picture below if the white triangle in the center of the picture does not show up.)

We have seen one moose on our property in the 38 years that we have lived on Chases Pond Road in York, Maine. We have never seen a bear.

Help us unravel this mystery by commenting in the space below.

A knowledgeable friend thought Possibly if the pole is not just knocked over but actually bent it was a bear. My feeder at camp which is 12 feet off the ground suspended on a telephone pole was on the ground busted. I fixed it and put it back up. This weekend I found evidence that told me the culprit, a black bear.

Dan Introduces Hannah’s Frog Wall of York, Maine

Ever been to the Frog Wall of Santa Barbara, California?

Neither had we until our hiking/pickleball friends, Claudia and Bill, took us there this past winter.  Over the last few years, frogs have organically began appearing on Paterna Road on the hillside in Santa Barbara.

Hannah with Bill and Claudia on the Frog Wall West in Santa Barbara

Immediately taken with the idea of a Frog Wall, Hannah made it her mission to create a Frog Wall in front of our house in York, Maine.

Caitlin’s Frog in the foreground and Norm’s in the distance

Ergo, we cleared the forest floor behind the frog wall, collected rocks for the wall’s construction, and began to spread the word that frogs are welcome to Maine.

Thanks to our local friends Karen and Mandy, our sister-in-law Stacy and niece Liesje, our pickleball buddy Norm, and pickleball friends Genny and Alan (their granddaughter Caitlin painted a frog on stones), frogs are beginning to populate our Frog Wall.

Though the stone wall for your frogs won’t be completed until 2021 due to Hannah’s fractured left elbow and second bunion surgery this Wednesday with its 6 to 8 week rehab, we invite you to bring a frog for the Frog Wall of York, Maine and watch those frogs multiply.

If you are from Away, please consider sending us a frog that will make you a proud member of Frog Nation, and come visit the FW the next time you are in town. 

Karen’s Frog

As you no doubt know, a frog is a short bodied, tailless amphibian. 

What’s the difference between a frog and a toad, Dan?  Well, most frogs have long legs and smooth skin while toads generally have shorter legs and rougher, thicker skins.

The forest glade between our house and the Frog Wall (the far end center left)
Max (in red) and Owen checking out the Frog Wall (circa 2020)
The Santa Barbara Frog Wall, our inspiration
Norm’s Frog on Chases Pond Road

Dan at Four in the Morning – KGUA radio #18

For the September 7, 2020 (our daughter Robyn’s 39th birthday) KGUA (Gualala, California) radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are told that Ulysses by James Joyce is often considered the greatest novel ever written.

Ulysses takes place over one day, over 600 pages.  Each chapter is an hour in the life of the character/s as they live their life and navigate their town by the sea from hour to hour.

In 200 to 250 words, we are asked to free write about an hour of the day. 

I just don’t sleep through the night.  I just don’t.  Usually, I’m up once a little after midnight and then again before dawn.  As I awake early this morning, beside me, I hear Hannah’s soft breathing.  I live with a sleeping rockstar. 

But before you get the idea that I don’t sleep well, please consider that I’m often in bed by 830 PM doing a crossword, with the light out by nine most nights.

So you do the math.  Waking for a second time at four AM means I’ve had a decent seven hours – with more to come.  At this point, I return from the bathroom through our kitchen with my iPhone and earbuds.  To lull myself back to sleep, I listen to a podcast, usually sports, since that requires very little of my attention.   

Predictably, my attention wanders.  Removing my earbuds, I lay on my back, eyes closed, and begin to meditate.  Inhaling for a count of five, holding my breath for another five, and then exhaling for five more.  I rinse and repeat until I nod off. 

And all the while Hannah breathes quietly next to me.  It’s all very peaceful, lying next to a rock star.

Words – 211

Four in the morning, Crapped out, Yawning, Longing my life away. – Paul Simon from Still Crazy After All These Years