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. 

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’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 and His Advice to His Younger Self – KGUA radio #25

For the November 9, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write some advice that we would give to our younger self. 

Advice for My Younger Self

Son, sit yourself down.  It’s time you and I had a little talk.  You know, I notice you seem to be afraid of even your own shadow.

I look down to the ground, I know he’s right.

My young man, it’s courage that you need. 

But old man, how do I develop that courage?

Ah, lad, it’s time you learn to speak up.

You may not believe this, but you are going to age well and love a game called pickleball; it’s like tennis but with wiffle balls.

You’re messing with me, right?

No, younger self, it’s true.  You are going to love it.  But there will be issues.

Issues? you say.

One, you’ll be playing with younger players with uncontrolled testosterone that will blast wicked shots at your head or family jewels.  That’s not right.  Speak up and address the issue directly.

Two, you’ll get pretty good, such that when you play doubles pickleball, your opponents will hit away from you and play to your less skilled partner all the time.  You’ll feel like a potted plant and wonder why the hell you are out there at all.  Do not despair.  Speak up and work with your opponents to come up with a solution.

And damn, you’ll just feel so good.  And here’s the kicker, most people will respect you because you spoke up.  Do not delay, start now, my young friend.

Words – 234

Dan and Hannah’s Bunion Surgery Numero Dos

All summer long, Hannah knows that surgery on her left foot bunion was coming on September 23, 2020. In the week prior to her surgery, Hannah makes the most of her time.

Getting in a few last serves at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth
Enjoying the Atlantic Ocean at Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth with our friend Genny
Hiking the Green Belt Trail in Cape Elizabeth with our friend Alan
Teaming up in mixed doubles pickleball with our friend Fran

Finally, this past Sunday, we drive north to Scarborough for Hannah’s Covid-19 test, which is necessary for her to have the bunionectomy. Afterward, Hannah and I take one last shoreline walk at nearby Pine Point Beach since it’ll be mid-November before Hannah can walk our Maine beaches again.  By the way, her Covid test was negative.

Covid Test, a swab up both nostrils, that was described as if a bug flew up your nose
Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, Maine mid-day Sunday

Come Monday morning, Portland Foot and Ankle ask Hannah if she can move up her appointment from 1045A to 730A.   Hannah is all in. Let’s get this show on the road.

Then Wednesday morning, arriving at the Scarborough Surgical Center at 610A, we are given new paper masks; fearless, Hannah awaits her surgery by Dr. Juris who successfully performed surgery on her right bunion four months ago (May 2020).  Click here for that blog.

610A in the waiting room at the Scarborough Surgical Center

Unable to accompany her to pre-op, I skip out and drive to the nearby sandy Pine Point Beach to walk the shoreline for the next 90 minutes, all the way to the pier at Old Orchard Beach and back. 

Morning at Pine Point Beach

Throughout the morning, I get text updates from the team working on Hannah’s bunion.

7:28 AM (Procedure Update) Your loved one is in the operating room and is being prepped for surgery. We will begin the procedure soon.

8:41 AM (Procedure Update) The procedure has ended, your loved one is now in recovery.

Heading back to the surgical center, I stop at Dunkin’ for coffee and a muffin.  It’s the least I can do to support Hannah.

Once back at the outside tables of the surgical center, I soon am called to come to post-op to see the ever-smiling Hannah. 

Wheeled out, Hannah smiles beneath her mask.  Can you tell?

During her seven week rehab, Hannah will be on crutches for five days, wear a surgical boot for two weeks, and then tenderly walk for the following month before she can resume physical activity in mid-November.

Outdoor pickleball season in New England will be over by then, but she can already hear the pickleball courts of Santa Barbara calling her name.

Let the healing begin.

Afternoon of Hannah’s surgery

Dan is Challenged: More Important?  Learning or Doing?  KGUA #15

For the August 17, 2020 KGUA Morning Writer’s Hour, writing master, Mark Gross, gives us all a new challenge to respond as we free write in 200 words or less:  What is more important? Learning or Doing?

 

Learning without the follow-up doing is a pointless academic exercise.  As well, doing without learning, without experience, without wisdom is just damn foolish.

Learning EE

My teaching life was based in experiential education.  That is, my students learned by having actual experiences.  They learned by doing, not by listening, regurgitating, and acing the test.

Learning, then doing go hand in hand.  Learning while doing informs future learning.

Let me take a minor example from my life as a modestly skilled, over-70 pickleball player.

Learning PB

Pickleball is a game I learned late in life.  I did have enough skills from my tennis playing past to play adequately, even win more than I lost, at the entry level.

But just doing, just maintaining at the entry level became so unsatisfying.  So I focused on my learning by playing pickleball’s soft game, its dinking, its strategy of covering the middle of the court when my partner slides right to cover the alley.

By doing, I was learning.  Hand in glove, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder.

Doing and learning are blood brothers and trusted sisters.

Words – 178

Dan and Pickleballers in Santa Barbara, California

While Hannah and I hike regularly during our winter two months in Santa Barbara, we also pickle three to four times per week.  Today, I introduce four of the good guys at the pickleball courts.

Pick map

Ten miles from our home away from home to the courts

Pick Tim 2

Tim in the safari hat and blue tee shirt

Let’s start with Tim.  Hailing from Virginia and here for the winter, he and I come to the courts in Santa Barbara as the outsiders.  Many times Tim makes a point of seeking me out as a playing partner.  His power, delicate touch, good humor, and the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously make him an ideal partner.  Though we win more than we lose, it’s always a good time with Tim.

After our last pickleball morning before we return for home in Maine, Tim makes a point to come to wish me well.  He then seeks out Hannah on another court to bid her farewell, and says, Take care of the old man.

Pick Bill

Then there’s Bill.  After one enjoyable morning of teaming on the pickleball courts of Santa Barbara, Bill offers up, why don’t we “catch dinner” together with our wives.  Not exactly sure what that means, we invite them to our place in Carpinteria for drinks, dinner, and cards.  Our Sunday night becomes one of the peak moments of our winter stay as we laugh throughout the evening over getting-to-know-you conversation and then conclude the evening with a spirited game of Mormon Bridge.

Pick Werlins with H

Bill and Claudia with Hannah at the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara

The following week, Bill and I play as partners all morning long, building on our growing friendship.  Three days before Hannah and I leave for home in Maine, Bill and Claudia have us to their place for lunch, followed by a surprise trip to the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara.  We have a home away from home.  And Hannah has plans for a Frog Wall in York.

Jerry makes three.  Though we only partnered up on two mornings at the end of our stay, he made an indelible impression with his encouragement and confidence in my play.

Pick SB logo

You see, I can be a fish out of water. I play the soft game; by that I mean I hit softer third shots over the net and dink to slow down the play; I’m waiting for an opportunity for my partner or me to pounce on a high return.  At Santa Barbara Pickleball, power is the name of the game for so many of the top players.  Slam, bam, thank you ma’am.  They are bangers.  Without subtly, they crush the ball and often leave me in their wake.  I tire of points being over so quickly; either they pummel me or miss wildly.

Jerry is different.  As an elite player, he values and celebrates our soft games.  With some deftness, he and I beat some top opponents and narrowly lose to others.  But Jerry is constant in encouraging me to keep hitting my low soft balls over the net.  Self-deprecating himself, he pumps me up especially when we play games where I am clearly the weakest of the four players.  He sees the best in me.

Pick Sal

Sal in the blue shirt rocketing a winning return

And lastly Sal.  Everyone knows Sal with his effervescent personality.  With his welcoming way and daily presence on the courts, he is a bridge to all the advanced players.  Sal hits with power, plays the soft third shot, and good-naturedly moans about missing a shot, all in good fun.

At Santa Barbara Pickleball, if players win, they stay on the court for the next opponents.  On one morning, I have just won a game with another player.  We as a team move to another court to play, when that player calls out, Sal let’s play.   Clearly that is against protocol since I just won. Sal turns and says, You won with Dan.  It’s his turn to play.  It may have been an innocent mistake on the other player’s part, but what I appreciate is that Sal stepped up.   He could have let it slide, but he didn’t.  He was looking out for me.

I want to take something from each of them to be a better version of myself.  From Tim, let another know that they make a difference; from Bill, go for it and reach out to others; from Jerry, speaking up and be relentlessly encouraging; and from Sal, look out for the quieter ones so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of more aggressive players.

There have been others of note – Bonnie, Matt, Alistair, Paula, Ben, Andres, David, Paul, and Craig who were decent to me as well as excellent pickleballers.  I look forward to returning in 2021.

Pick H serving

My number one squeeze, Hannah serves in the far court.

Dan and Hannah Pickle in Athens, Georgia and Visit the Carter Center in Atlanta

Waking at the Sleep Inn and Suites motel (unfortunately sans suite for D&H) not far from the campus of the University of Georgia on our last day in the American South, we drive to another primo pickleball venue at Southeast Clarke Park in Athens.  Welcomed by Santa Claus (aka Ken Calkin, the local ambassador), we have advanced play with a variety of Southerners and transplants from the Northeast.  We do our best not to embarrass our Maine fellow picklers.

Carter 1 PB in Athens H

Hannah serves teaming up with Ken in Athens, Georgia

Carter 1A D, H, and Ken

Hannah, Ken (he does in fact play Santa Claus at Christmas time), and Dan at the six dedicated courts in Athens.  Getting Fitbit steps wherever we go!

Warmed up by the high quality play on the last Tuesday of October, I can see the future – come with me!  I am spending three weeks next fall in Athens with Hannah before the long, dark pall of winter descends on Maine.

Carter map of athens to carter center

Driving 75 miles west to Atlanta via I-20, Hannah and I have the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in our sights.  Located in downtown of Atlanta, the Carter Center is easy to find with ample parking.  Admission is $10 for seniors and the complex of buildings has an understated feel compared to the expansive Reagan Library.  That presidential library is large enough to include Air Force One at its Simi Valley, California location.

Check out this picture from the recent fall California wildfires lapping at the doorstep of the library.  Click here for my blog on the Reagan Library.

Carter Reagan library fires

October 2019 wildfires threatening the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

From out of nowhere, Jimmy Carter campaigned through 1975 with his family doing the heavy lifting of meeting voters and organizing events in Iowa and New Hampshire.  His roots as a dark horse candidate give hope for those supporting Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson (Dan and Hannah) during the current campaign for the 2020 election.  (Sadly in January 2020 Marianne suspended her campaign.)

Carter 2B Jimmy Who

Jimmy Carter is Hannah’s favorite president.  Sure Washington, Lincoln, and Obama have their many fans, but Jimmy was president when Hannah and I were young marrieds in Arizona looking to find our way in the late 1970s.  A good and decent man of faith, he is most often remembered for the 445 day Iran Hostage crisis that didn’t end til the day after he left office in 1981.

I remember the last three days that I was president, I never went to bed at all. I never went to bed until we had negotiated the final release of the hostages. – Jimmy Carter

 

Carter 2C inaguraul

Inauguration 1977

Fighting the rampant racial segregation in the South, Jimmy Carter stood out for the freedom and dignity for all God’s children.  On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft evaders.

Carter 2E prez seal

His desire to create the Carter Center as a venue for negotiations and peace keeping was the foundation for his winning the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.  Traveling widely to conduct peace negotiations, monitor elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations, JC is a man for our times.

Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.  – Jimmy Carter

Carter 2D oval office

The recreated Oval Office at the Carter Center

When people are intimidated about having their own opinions,                                           oppression is at hand.  ― Jimmy Carter

His commitment to Habitat for Humanity inspires our friends, George and Pat.  Habitat brings volunteers together to build homes, communities, and hope.  It has helped more than four million folks construct or rehabilitate more than 800,000 homes since its founding in 1976.

Carter nobel prize

Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize for Peace winner

Maybe there’s a “Jimmy Carter” in the current pool of presidential candidates.

Dan and Hannah Pickle, Then Hike Paris Mountain near Greenville, South Carolina

paris map of greenville

When Hannah and I travel, I always check the USAPA pickleball website for places to pickle.  Once I find one that fits our schedule with day and time, I email the ambassador.  Today John Moore welcomes us to the stunning six new dedicated courts at Timmons Park in Greenville, SC.

 

paris 1 six courts

Timmons Park Pickleball

paris 1B D and H pickling

With a 9A temp of 73F, we sharpen our game on this last Monday in October.  Shout out to Sue, who is the highlight of the morning for Hannah.  As pickleball partners, they laugh, encourage each other; they win some, they lose some.  Good folks like Sue don’t come along every day, but she sure did this morning in the Palmetto State.

paris 1A han and sue

Hannah in foreground and Sue to her right ready for some pickleball action

While waiting to play, I ask picklers about hiking in the area and learn of Paris Mountain just outside of town.  Perfecto!

paris 1AA paris sign

Thirty minutes after leaving the pickleball venue, we pay $3.25 each as seniors to hike the trails at Paris Mountain.  At the welcome center, the ranger lists the various trails, and we opt for the Sulphur Springs Trail, the park’s macho trail.  Rated 9 out of 10, the Sulphur Springs Trail has Dan and Hannah written all over it.

 

paris 2 map

The Sulphur Springs Trail is in white.  We start at the lowest P (for parking) on the map and go clockwise on the loop trail.  The checkered section is where mountain bikes dare not go.

At the trailhead is a large wooden map of the Sulphur Springs Trail which I take a picture of.  (And yes, prepositions can be at the end of sentences!)  The advice to hike clockwise has us tackling the heavy lifting part of the trail at the start.

paris 2C trail sans people

Our trail begins with a walk in the woods through upstate South Carolina forests.  Within the first fifteen minutes three separate millennials pass us by.  Greeting them in passing, we always love seeing others on the trail to know that we are not lost.

paris 2E h on trail

Entering the checkered section of the trail, which is one that prohibits mountain bikers, we step up and around rocks and small boulders.  This section gives the trail its 9 of 10 rating as our hearts pump and lungs respond rhythmically as we venture further into the Carolina woodlands.

paris 3 h on trail

And hour into the hike, we come upon a wide fire road and turn right towards the trailhead.  Having bagged the toughest part of the trail, we are James Taylor-ing it (i.e. we have Carolina on our mind) and know it is all downhill from here.

paris daily double

With the trailhead in sight, we check our Fitbits to see that we’ve done the 3.8 miles of this macho trail at Paris Mountain State Park in less than two hours.  It’s a high-flying 20,000 step day!

I have hit the daily double of vacation travel – morning pickleball and afternoon hiking with Hannah Banana on a sunny day.

Dan and Hannah Play Tournament Pickleball Part 3 of 3

Click here for part 1 and Click here for part 2 to set the stage for this concluding blog.

Starting the first of our final three games of the tournament, we are up against the powerhouse Ellen and Mark duo.  We know Ellen from our weekly game in Westbrook.  She’s effervescent while he’s immediately likable with an easy-going manner.  As strong players, they are versed in the winning strategy for mixed doubles pickleball.  Ah, but we are up to the challenge with our third shot drops, reasonably reliable forehands, bountiful good luck, and Hannah’s lobs.  In our best match of the evening, we prevail in a tight one.

PBT Leesa and H with grid

Leesa and Hannah 

With our fifth win, Hannah and I are looking at being in the money.  I mean, literally, being in the money.  Each player paid $10 to play tonight with the winning team splitting $80, second place divvying up $60, and third dividing $40.  We are now looking at the possibility of a third place finish as we have only lost to Carolee and Tim and have yet to play the still undefeated, odds-on favorite team of Patty and Steve.

Up next are the athletic pair of Shannon and Gordie.  Shannon is a racquet ball player of the first order and Gordie is reliable and affable.  Being our seventh game after three hours of play at 9P, Hannah and I are riding high.  Shannon and Gordie wake us up as they knock us down a peg or two by taking charge immediately; all of sudden they are serving for the match at 14-8.

While Hannah and I figure what the hell, we’ve had a helluva run this evening, we do work our way back to 14-10, and finally down just 14-13, my serve.  Usually steady Eddy with my serve, I hit my serve long to lose the chance to tie!  My bad.  Perhaps, we are not meant to win.  Now Shannon and Gordie each have a serve to win the game.  Holding them scoreless, we quickly run off three points to win 16-14 in a comeback most would agree that is comparable to the Patriots 28-3 return from the dead to defeat the Falcons in the Super Bowl.

PBT group shot

Back row from left to right – Dan, Brandon, Norm, Steve, Mick, Carolee, and Tim  Middle row – Ellen, Mark, and Allen  Front row – Leesa, Erin, Carly, Janet, Shannon, Patty, and Hannah  (Not pictured – Gordie)

Third place is ours, no matter what happens v. Steve and Patty, our final opponent.  We are 6-1, and they are 7-0.  As savvy tournament-tested players, they have a winning strategy as well as our powerful players.   We make them only slightly uncomfortable and we fall quietly 15-7.

Having only two losses, Hannah and I are looking at a sweet third place pay day.  And then…

…we see Norm and Leesa still on the court v. Carolee and Tim, the team that crushed us.  Learning that Norm and Leesa are up 14-12, I am not surprised that any team with Norm has a chance.  After giving up a 13th point, they close out the match 15-13.

PBT h with winnings

Sixty big ones!

Immediately, I do the math [i.e. we are now second at 6-2 as Carolee and Tim have fallen to 5-3].  No lie, it was cool to win.   We are all humble on the outside and about to shit on the inside.

So what did I learn:

  1. Social pickleball works for me.  How can you beat the combination with delectable hors d’oeurvres with non-stop pickleball?
  2. Round robin play is my idea of a good time.  No waiting.  My pickleball-induced ADHD is satisfied with lots of play – eight games in nearly four hours.
  3. Even social tournament pickleball is about targeting the weaker player.  That’s life.  There were times I played the role of the coat rack.  There’s no crying in baseball or pickleball.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
  4. Bangers bang.  I could (and often do) look at the bangers banging as an opportunity to improve my soft game.  I’m still not a fan of banger-topia!
  5. We were so damn lucky tonight to come in second.  (1), we could have easily lost our first game [we won 15-13 after being behind], (2) and we could have easily lost our second game v. the top player, Norm and Leesa, and (3) we could have easily lost the game we were down 14-8 to Gordie and Shannon.  And then, (4), even if we squeak out W’s in all those games, we still needed Leesa and Norm to beat the team that beat us.  We were the long shot that left the ball with the silver slipper.