Sunday, June 28, 2009

Road Trip

My wife and I recently took a road trip to Los Angeles to visit our kids and grandkids. The drive through Western Colorado and Utah was beautiful, but once we hit Nevada it became, to use Thomas Friedman’s popular book title, “Hot, Flat and Crowded.” The hot and flat parts are obvious but Nevada crowded? Just try driving through Las Vegas. Interstate 15 is undergoing constant construction and just outside of the city, traffic grinds to a halt. I guess it’s a warm up for driving in Los Angeles. The problem is that there is no way of avoiding Las Vegas. I’m not a big fan of the Las Vegas lifestyle anyway so we tend to just drive through. Correction, try to drive through. On the return trip I tried taking bypass freeways around Las Vega but this didn’t help much either. On a positive note, once we reached Los Angeles we had a great time with our grandkids including watching a soccer tournament, attending a birthday party, playing WII sports, swimming in the motel pool and going to a Fathers’ Day celebration. In Los Angeles as we drove around listening to a local radio station, we heard a reoccurring commercial which became the theme for our trip. This commercial advertised the “smell good plumber.” My wife and I wondered if the plumbers used special perfume, took showers before each plumbing gig, had special deodorant or what. Every time we heard mention of the “smell good plumber” we couldn’t help but smile.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Walk with the Five Senses

I enjoy walking and its permutations hiking and snowshoeing. When I had to give up jogging thirteen years ago because of my arthritic hip, walking became my prime substitution. On weekdays when I can get out at lunch, I take an hour walk, and on Sundays I go up in the mountains to hike or snowshoe, depending on the season. When I walk by myself, it is an activity for my body, heart, mind and soul. The exercise is great for staying healthy (body), the joy I get from being outside gives me a positive emotional feeling (heart), I often come up with ideas by letting things I’ve been preoccupied with percolate (mind), and I’ve recently learned a technique that helps my overall spiritual well-being (soul). This is to walk with the five senses. To be fully present while I’m walking, I pay attention to each of my five senses and concentrate on the moment. I open my mouth, lick my lips and taste my surroundings. Then I take a deep breath and smell the aromas around me. The flowers, trees, hay, skunks--good or bad odors are part of the moment.

Then I concentrate on what I feel. If the air is cool, I sense the tingling on my arms and face. If the sun is beating down, I feel the warmth on my skin. Next I listen to the sounds around me. The birds, the wind blowing through the trees, the whistle of a train, the traffic--whatever is going on. And finally, I take in the sights around me. It is so easy to get preoccupied and miss the beauty that abounds. Aspen leaves dancing in the breeze, flowers, the jagged mountain peaks, other people in their crazy outfits, birds soaring and dipping. I look up and down and to the sides. There is always so much to see whether in a city or out in the woods. When I used to jog, everything passed by too rapidly and I was struggling to move. When walking there is time to appreciate my surroundings. I sometimes walk beside a golf course. The vivid green, the whack of someone hitting a ball, the gurgling stream on the other side of the path, the canopy of trees overhead, the joggers, walkers, bicyclists, roller-bladders passing by are all part of the chain of moments. With my five senses rejuvenated, I’m ready to go back to the pressing issues of the day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


This last week I took a trip to Florida to give a presentation at the Cummings Library in Palm City, Florida, and did a signing at the Vero Beach Book Center. I had never been to the Treasure Coast of Florida and enjoyed some time to be a tourist as I drove between West Palm Beach and Vero Beach. In Vero Beach I drove by Dodgertown. I was an avid Brooklyn Dodger fan when I was a kid and it brought back memories of my favorite players of the 1950s. Too bad the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, and now they’ve moved their spring training headquarters to Arizona. I had a chance to meet some great people and also enjoyed conversations on the plane there and back. Outside of dodging a thunder storm on the return to Denver, the flights were uneventful and on time. The question I’ve been asked lately is if my Geezer-lit Mystery series were made into movies, who would I see playing my octogenarian protagonist Paul Jacobson? One possibility would be Clint Eastwood since Paul comes across as crusty but really means well.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rights of All Citizens

Last weekend my wife and I attended a wedding in Memphis. In addition to seeing wonderful old friends, we played tourists and visited Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum at the sight of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. The exhibits there highlighted for me how far our country has come in the last fifty years. Having grown up in Hawaii, I had experienced a multi-racial culture but had little first hand knowledge of the struggle of African-Americans. Our country has made strides but still has racism as well as other problems to deal with. One other issue I spent time on this week was elder abuse. As part of my role on the Aging Advisor Council for my county, I attended a presentation on elder abuse. Much as protecting the rights of all races and genders, age is another dimension that we all need to be aware of. In the current economy older citizens are being taken advantage of financially as well as abused physically and sexually. In August I will participate in a two day training program on elder abuse that will be tested with volunteers before being taken to local law enforcement agencies. I will keep you informed as I learn more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rabbits and Being Present

In the rush-rush of daily living, I find it very easy to get completely absorbed in the minutia of planning for the next meeting or fretting about something unsaid in the last phone call. I often find that I’m ping-ponging back and forth between the past (things that have happened) and the future (getting ready or anticipating what will happen) while completely missing the present.
While in Orange County, California, several years ago, I tried to focus more on the moment. As I walked both mornings, I concentrated on being there rather than planning things for the day or regurgitating what had already transpired. And what did I discover? Rabbits. In the neighborhood behind the hotel, I spotted two rabbits hopping across the street. They came to rest to nibble the grass of a well-groomed lawn. One black rabbit and a gray one. As the superstition goes, don’t let a black rabbit cross your path because you might pay attention. A block later I spotted another four rabbits, sitting in a yard. I came to a nursery and found over thirty rabbits of various sizes, shapes and colors luxuriating on a well-nibbled lawn. The next street had half-a-dozen dog kennels, right there in the middle of a residential area. I noticed crows sitting on power lines, felt a gentle breeze ripple across my bare arms, smelled the aroma of bacon being cooked, heard the chirping of birds amidst the periodic barking of dogs from the kennels. It was exhilarating to be present on my walk. So much to see, hear, feel, smell. How unusual. Rather than being consumed in the thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, it was a joy to be there in the moment. Instead of being locked into recordings playing in my head about “What I should be doing,” or “What if?” or “I forgot to do. . .” I was paying attention to what was going on around me. My feet were moving, I was breathing deeply and I was alive. No big exciting event, no epiphany, just the calm realization that it was good to be there, being me at that moment in time.The typical problem is that I get wrapped up in the busy-i-ness of daily activities and am not aware of what goes on around me. I experienced this over thirty years ago when we lived in Southern California. I was driving along the freeway one winter morning and felt strange. Something was different. Then I realized I could see the mountains! Mount Wilson with a cap of snow appeared in the distance. It was one of those rare clear days, and I could see over the whole Los Angeles basin. At first I was disoriented. I had become conditioned to the tunnel vision of not being able to see beyond the usual layer of smog. I was awed by the visibility of this unusually clear day. This pattern is repeated over and over again. Our field of vision is narrowed to the point that we don’t see what is going on around us, don’t feel the presence of others, don’t venture out of our cocoons. Open your eyes, ears and other senses to the possibilities of the moment. And you’ll see the rabbits.