Dan Doesn’t Get a Tattoo, But…

Let me state for the record, I have never come close to getting some ink in my arm. Never thought twice about a sleeve of tattoos.  Maybe it’s just me, but ink under my skin never seemed like a good idea and besides, it gives me the willies even thinking about it. 

But you might wonder, what would be a second best visible way for me to show my individuality?  You guessed it, a vanity plate.

My current plate is a state of Maine-issued traditional four numbers followed by two letters.  Traditional and institutionally boring!

Now if the last two letters were RF, I’d be all in as I’m a lifetime member of Fed Nation (fans of the tennis champion, Roger Federer).

But my VR?  Vroom, vroom maybe.  Just doesn’t do it for me.

Our friend Karen has a cool vanity plate.

Another local vanity plate

Got to love the self-awareness

So how do I go about picking the right vanity plate for me. 

Mark Gross of KGUA radio in Gualala, California comes immediately to mind.  He has thrown me a lifeline throughout the Covid pandemic and now beyond.  Each week he comes up with a writing prompt that gives me a chance to create and tell my story.  During that time I have written over one hundred of these 200-300 word short stories that I now realize have become my autobiography.  Writing for KGUA has energized me and given me new purpose over the last three years.

So quickly I choose KGUA for my vanity plate.  I have space for three more characters.

Being California-based, KGUA gets me thinking Left Coast.  Let me outline my California credentials for the skeptical.

As 60s child, I loved the Beach Boys.  That certainly checks off one box.  The Mamas and Papas with their anthem “California Dreamin’” spoke to my wanderlust and getting as far west from New Jersey as I could.  My first teaching job as a social studies, science, and Spanish teacher for fifth and sixth graders was at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim, California.

Having come to the Santa Barbara area for winters since 2014, I am solid sunbird of the Golden State. Each winter I am a regular pickleball player at the Santa Barbara Municipal Tennis and Pickleball courts. And! I have a Carpinteria (CA) library card.

Sterling credentials, you must be thinking!  

The 805 area code for Santa Barbara County is a natural vanity plate selection for me. It connects our lives in Maine to our wintertime home away from home in Carpinteria.

Pretty cool, n’est-ce pas?

Though it took three weeks for my vanity plate to be approved by the state of Maine and three more to be delivered for a $25 annual fee, I now drive in style and you can better believe that I’m California Dreamin’

Dan on Hannah’s Frog Wall – Update July 2021

On March 1, 2020, we had no idea what was coming down the Covid Pike.  That afternoon three days before Hannah and I were set to fly home to Maine, friends from Santa Barbara, Bill and Claudia, had us for lunch.  After, they showed us the Frog Wall of Santa Barbara.

Bill and Claudia with Hannah
Frog Wall in Santa Barbara, California

Immediately that got Hannah thinking of our own Frog Wall in York.  We cleared the land adjacent to our property along Chases Pond Road, finding rocks aplenty for the Frog Wall.

Our Italian stone mason friend Paul got us going with an initial plan.

Our friend Paul working on the Frog Wall

From there Hannah got to work.

Enjoy the 57 second video from July 16, 2021 of York’s granddaughter Frog Wall to Santa Barbara’s Big Mama Frog Wall.

Dan and Hannah Come Away Amazed with Grace at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

SBIFF pickleball

Hannah at the Santa Barbara pickleball courts 2020

Hannah comes up with some great let’s-give-it-a-shot ideas.  Five years ago, she read in the York (Maine) Parks and Rec Program of Activities about something called pickleball; we never heard of it.  After one session, we were hooked, lined, and sinkered.  Wherever we travel, we play pickleball, as we did today in Santa Barbara.

SBIFF Grace image

Grace Fisher

Earlier this week, Hannah read in the local Montecito Journal about a film, Amazing Grace that she wanted to see.   It’s a documentary of the story of an active, musical Santa Barbara teenager, Grace Fisher, who on her 17th birthday was struck by a polio-like disease (Acute Flaccid Myelitis) in her spine.  In 24 hours, she needed a tube to breathe and was unable to use her arms and legs.  24 hours!


Emmy Award winning director, Lynn Montgomery, also a Santa Barbara resident, took on the challenge of bringing Gracie’s triumph over tragedy to film, which debuts this week at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Fiesta Five Theater.

SBIFF logo

SBIFF is big time!  Two years ago at SBIFF, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone came to town to claim their prizes as Outstanding Performers for their acting in La La Land.  This year Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver of the Marriage Story showed up to be so honored.

Though Hannah and I do not have tickets for Amazing Grace in downtown Santa Barbara this Friday afternoon, we know that there are Rush tickets for $10; Rush tickets are available if there are any unsold tickets at showtime.

SBIFF rush ticket line

We are in the designated Rush ticket line (sign behind first fan palm)

Arriving 25 minutes early at the theater for the 120P viewing, we see lines for the Platinum ticket holders (those are the big shots) as well as the Pass ticket holders (those are ones who planned ahead).  Once they all get in, those on the Rush line can purchase tickets.  We are the 11th and 12th spots in the Rush line.

While we wait outside in the typically delightful January weather of Santa Barbara (62F and sunny), a woman who seems to know everyone stands next to us.  When I ask about our chances of getting in, she thinks we have a shot.

SBIFF Han and Debbie

Hannah with Debbie Fisher still waiting on line

As we talk we learn that we are, in fact, talking to Grace’s mom, Debbie Fisher.  Though jazzed that we are in the presence of a celebrity, we learn now at 125P that even if we get in, we will miss the first five minutes of the film, Debbie’s favorite part.

At this point, an SBIFF usher comes out and says to the Rush line folks that it’s pretty unlikely they’ll be any tickets left.  We think, she didn’t say there are no tickets left, so we decide to wait.

SBIFF from the back row

Screen from our back row seats

That usher tells those in the Pass line that there are only seats in the first two rows, which gives us hope that some Pass folks will leave and open up seats for us.

Debbie informs us that the SBIFF organizers have told her that they might have a third showing of Amazing Grace if this second showing is sold out.  She offers to contact us if that happens.  Typing my number into her smart phone, she then texts me with her number.  Just like that, the mother of the star of the film, a co-star herself, gives me her number.  How cool is that!  So California!

Ten minutes later, another usher comes out shaking her head and says, They can’t count. There are still some seats.  So now at 135P, we pay our $10 to be ushered to seats, but… not in the front row.  We are directed to the cushy seats at the back of theater.  And, to boot, they have held the film for us, the late arrivals.

SBIFF Grace with mouth stick

Grace Fisher composing

Settling in, we love Grace’s story.  Despite the Acute Flaccid Myelitis, Grace Fisher is an upbeat young woman who paints with a mouth stick as well as uses it to compose music as a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Grace reveals that her mom  is the one who got her past feeling sorry for herself and to start finding her way in the world.

SBIFF Grace at theater

Grace after the film’s debut


I’ve always been inherently happy.  I can’t be mad – no one caused this.  It was just this unexplainable thing that happened…I used my body in so many ways and was physically active (before).  Now the biggest things that’s been enhanced is the ability to sit still and work on art or music.  My ability to use time in a different manner. – Grace Fisher

We hit a home run this afternoon with this amazing film; we wallop a second dinger meeting Debbie Fisher who trusted us with her phone number; and our third four bagger is the reminder that we all have choices how we interact with the world, no matter our circumstances.

You gotta believe that Hannah hit a moon shot today with one helluva choice!