Beautiful Ladies……

We had one of those spectacular fall weekends here in Denver. The Broncos won and the temps were in the 70’s. I took a run on Saturday. I have been dogging it since our trip to the Northwest so I needed to do some miles. Six to be exact. That includes a jaunt to Washington Park which is a two and a half mile oval festooned with a picturesque lake and trees that are burnt orange and umber this time of year. More importantly there are a ton of cute girls running. Kathy always asks upon my return “How were they?” My reply without hesitation,”Great”. Hey, an old guy can dream.

I love to think when I run. They call it the Runner’s High and it kicks in after a mile or two. This week gives me a lot to think about. The move is obvious but also there was a special day at hospice on Thursday. Things are slow right now at the residence with only eight of our 18 beds occupied. Guess people are still enjoying the fall.? Not ready to go just yet. It is good because you can spend a little more individual time with your charges.

I stopped by to see Sally. Not her real name because HIPPA won’t allow me to do that. Whatever! This is one sweet lady of 100 years young. She doesn’t look a day over eighty. She is beyond with it having all her faculties and then some. I met her two weeks earlier and looked forward to our chat. She has cancer and understands perfectly her situation. Just playing the hand that has been dealt. But her tranquility was not resignation but a realization she had a good life..

She was born in a little town in Kansas and she and her husband happened to be married the same year my parents were. They travelled to California during the Depression and told of passing poor folk on the highway. Run down jalopies with all their earthly goods tied to the roof in some fashion. They were on the side of the road because they had run out of gas, money and hope in one fell swoop. I didn’t need to read Steinbeck. This woman witnessed the Grapes of Wrath.

Her husband was a sign painter but when the World War II came he could no longer get the paint to do the job. He went to work for the Navy painting dirigibles in cavernous hangars. The blimps roamed the coastline in search of the enemy. Those days you did what you could and what you had to. The war affected everyone unlike our volunteer and drone clad forces of today. It was a good thing because we were all one and dedicated. A lesson to be learned.

The first president she voted for was FDR. She told me how wonderful it was that he put people to work on the WPA et al. There wasn’t a hint of partisan politics. He just happened to be the right man for the job at the time. Tea Parties weren’t part of the spectrum. Nor were environmentalists or radicals. Just wasn’t done.

As I asked her how she pulled this all off for so many years she seemed to intimate that she just took what life gave her and not only accept it but embrace it. She didn’t bitch or bemoan whatever her lot in life was but rather she spoke of her good fortune at having so much. In reality it was probably not a lot by today’s standards but more than enough to live by. Her kids come to visit every day. They are just as classy as she is. A beautiful lady indeed. I hope she hangs around for a few more Thursdays. I guess that’s selfish.

As I rounded the bend coming home to Williams Street I caught sight of another old lady. Our home. It was built in 1895 by a hardware salesman. It complimented a carriage house and barn next door. Victorian by design it is not as sprawling as our various neighbors but it has been a wonderful place to live for the last six or so years. When we first set eyes on her it was love at first sight….at least for me. Nooks and crannies provided perfect hiding places for our growing crop of grandkids. I hope they remember bits and pieces. Six of the seven crossed that threshold for the first time.

I really thought of all the history. The people. The joy and probably a little heartbreak from time to time. During the big war she was made into a two family house. The marks on the old hardwood floors where walls and doors had been are not disfiguring but a real reminder of times past. I still don’t know where they put the kitchen on the second floor. The windows are huge in the parlor. Passersby would comment on what we had down to the interior of the house although they had never been inside it. No secrets here and that was just fine by us.

I will meet with my two wonderful ladies this week. One for the last time today and one for the last time some time soon. There might be a tear or two but then again what a celebration of all things good. I am so much better for knowing both of them. I have learned a lot. It’s time to move on but not forget. I have to see if I can mimic their great qualities. Like Sally I have to embrace life for whatever it throws at me. Like 701 Williams I hope I can continue to strand tall.

As Always
Ted The Great

Those over 100

The average house in the US is 34 years old. 40% of homes today are over 40. I guess remodeling and renovation are going to be big business in years to come.
It takes anywhere from 6 to 18 months to build a house from scratch. A house or scraper to be torn down can have that accomplished in 2 days at the cost of $10-15,000. Personally I am against scraping. There have been very few houses over the years that I can’t find redeeming qualities inherent.

Yes it is true you will spend more on healthcare in the last 24 months of your life than you did for your entire life prior to.

Hospice cost $225 per day for in facility care and $465 dollars for intensive care. The cost for intensive care in a hospital can range between $15,000 to $25,000 per day depending on your location. Go figure. Literally!

So Many Questions….

Moving day is just around the corner. Next Tuesday to be exact. I am sitting here or more appropriately hiding here behind stacks of boxes. Honey do ain’t a melon in this house. It’s kind of crazy when you see all you are cracked up to be in corrugated rectangles and squares of all sorts. It’s really bizarre when you put together an Allied Van Lines cardboard puzzle that has scars from a few moves back. Are we crazy? Please don’t answer that.

I packed the office myself. In the back of a drawer I came upon a list of questions that I wrote down somewhere in our wanderings. It happened during one of those seminal moments where I was trying to find the meaning of life or something like that. I can’t guarantee a sip of scotch didn’t affect my thinking but it was fun to look back and see what I had on my mind.

One of the first ones on the list was, “Should I worry about others or just myself?” I still revisit this one a lot without any prodding. I somehow have this weird feeling I can make the world a better place. I see things that are wrong and want to fix them. I want to help people out.It’s not really egotistical or at least I hope not. I think I have empathy for my fellow man. I am lucky to be in a pretty good place and know that not every one can get there. But I just want somehow to make each person feel special because they are.

I am constantly intrigued by people. I love to know what makes them tick. Not nosy but inquisitive. If you have a problem I want to help in any way. Not to interfere or pry but just to be there. I have been through some crap in my life and maybe I can just give you a little tip here and there. But that gets dangerous because I am not the authority on anything. I used to think I was pretty smart but I have had my comeuppances. Bruised but nor broken. Must be my age talking.

I had bunch of questions about religion. What is God really like? Should I jettison the Catholic church? That was before Francis I am sure. Why aren’t there women priests ? I asked if I was a religious person? I think somehow spiritual fits the bill better. Where is heaven? Probably not sure if it is a thing or a concept. Why is God or at least one’s belief in God the source of so much violence?

I guess that last thought has to do with the superiority of one religion over another. We are all out to save the world just in a different way. Why does my way have to be right? Does the current state of affairs have its roots in religion? You know fair and balanced as long as you lean my way. I really would have a hard time telling a devoted Bhuddist or Hindu that he is way out of line. Jews, Atheists, and Muslims all have their own axe to grind. I just wish they wouldn’t try to hold it to my throat.

Next was something that obviously has been emblazoned in my subconscious. Are all politicians bums? Are any of them honest? Is there any way to get a consensus? Should you just accept bad people? If you see something that is wrong should you call it out or look the other way? How do you get people excited? How can you get them to learn?

I didn’t have the answer then nor do I have it now for some of these beauties. It is good to believe in something. Maybe you have to admire this faction or that? At least they are getting off their butts and trying to do something. Unfortunately it is a take no prisoners approach. Zero tolerance but not for drugs or guns. It is for anyone who doesn’t think the way I do. Comforting but not practical.

The last ones involve me directly. Do I dare to be great? Whoa! That must have been years ago. Am I really creative or full of shit? Should I become a speaker? Should I be a teacher? A film maker? Can I jam more things into my day? Do I have the power to change? Boy a lot of unanswered ones. Oh oh! Now I am really letting you in. Got to be careful. Kathy says I should be more mysterious. I would never be a good spy. I talk too much.

I have put these questions down for both me and you. My to do list doesn’t exactly coincide with Kathy’s or for that matter any of yours. We all have hundreds of thoughts and feelings and enigmas that keep us up at night. But that is also what it means to be alive. It is why even the best super computers can’t outdo us. At least not yet. We have thoughts and aspirations. We have heartbreak and indecision. All these things above are part of Ted’s Head. I hope I just jostled your Head a little bit too.

As always
Ted The Great

There are at last count were about 4200 religions in the world. Those can be categorized into 12 majors. Of course every one believes they have the right answer. Maybe they do?

There is an interesting interview by Bill Moyers this week with Sherry Turkle who is the leading professor of psychology at MIT. She discusses the affect of social networking on every aspect of our lives. Very interesting.

The Chairman and major stockholder of Quicken Loans has invested $1 billion of his own money in downtown Detroit. He is joined by a fellow who is razing homes in blighted areas. He has already torn down 300 falling down buildings. These are guys who are reaching out and walking the walk.

There is a 15 year old in Baltimore that has come up with a test for pancreatic cancer on his own. He was chastised in class for reading scientific journals and very few people gave him the time of day. A professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins did and now he is speaking to scientific forums throughout the world. Dare to be great? This kid does.

Dodge Ball

As a kid we had afternoon activities at the Plandome Road School in Manhasset on Long Island. The Police Boys Club was the place to be and we played basketball or my beloved dodge ball in the gym.You know the drill. Everyone line up on either side of the center line and four or six beach ball like missiles are put into play.

In the game you can either get hit, thereby being eliminated or you could catch the ball and the thrower was ejected. It got out all sorts of pubescent aggression and outrage and of course it was considered good clean fun. Sneak attacks and totally annihilating someone was considered primo and for the most part nothing more than egos were battered.

Now this endeavor had no team per se, so the last boy standing won. Sorry we weren’t into girls yet. Bragging rights and highly offensive heckling were also in vogue and on the walk home you were all buddies again. I think the seeds were being planted for our future pols and the little charade we know as Congress. I hope you caught Harry Reid speaking of his dear friend and colleague Mitch McConnell the other day. They really are the dysfunctional part of our American Family.

But the similarity of childhood and today’s children doesn’t end there. You all know how we could put things off. Term papers. Studying for tests. Who the hell would want to plan in advance? Cram at the end and then say the dog ate your homework. Any excuse will work even though you know you had this assignment six months ago. You wanted to go out and play and not do homework. The called it recess then and they call it recess now.

Last but not least there were the BMOC’s and now the BWOC’s. Best Whatever on Campus. They were cool. The opposite sex loved them. They would swoon and coo when they walked by but only an idiot didn’t realize there was not a lot going on upstairs. They each had their clicks and you had to pledge to get in. Once in you did things in unison following the leader. If you even feigned an original thought you were ostracized. Stay in line. That is not the way we do things around here. Interesting how little changes over time.

When we speak of government it really is the institution itself. The buildings, the bureaucracy and the falderal. Governance is a lot different. It is leadership and making decisions for better or worse. It is not hemming or hawing. It is setting a course and getting there. It is forming consensus. It is about putting the greater good above your own.

This thing called leadership is terribly interesting. It is the process of social interaction whereby one person or persons enlist the aid and support of of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Now that can be any variety of tasks. The Don of a Mafia organization can be considered a leader. His getting people to think the same way might be different than mine. Fuggedaboutit. A doctor can lead a surgical team. A foreman handling a work crew. A leader of a party or faction.

What distinguishes these from failure or success is measured in many ways. Did you get your point across? Did you win skirmishes or the battle? Was it a Phyrric victory where no one was left standing at he end. The true leader in my mind can bring together various factions understanding the nature of the human spirit but knowing full well what it will take in the long run. Schmooze and cajole but keep your eye on the goal line.

Now kids will get pissed off, take their ball and go home shouting empty retorts and expletives. Their legions of followers will sing Hosanna to them for being so courageous but in the long run what got done? There was no game. No game and everyone loses. I didn’t come here to argue. I made my point now let’s move on. That’s tough. You swallow principal and pride but there is always something you can hang on to say “Hey it is not that bad after all”.

We had a thing called Simpson Bowles. It was and still is a great blueprint for getting control of our purse strings. Obama put the group together and they put a report on his desk three years ago almost to the day. Not very inspiring. But sad to say the other sides in Congress didn’t pound the table and say we have got to look at this either. Now everyone is saying it was pretty good after all. Kind of like having your term paper outline already written for you and you are too stupid or egotistical to see the forest through the trees. Think of all the precious time and money we have lost while dithering.

We need leaders, my friends. We need another party called the center. By most accounts there are 50% of us or more who can’t stand either side. We need someone to come forward. People feel leaders are born, taught or just emerge. I don’t care how we get them, just send them as fast as possible.I am not kidding. We need more than bipolar politics. We need to form coalitions on different issues. It can work.

But it also takes us to be leaders. It takes us to put our agendas aside. We have got to enlist each other’s support for a common good. Dodge ball is a kids game. Let’s grow up.

As Always
Ted The Great.

I gained eight pounds on vacation and have lost seven of them since Saturday.I asked Kathy how that happens? Well she said you eat too much, drink too much and don’t exercise. Brilliant my dear. Brilliant.

We are moving…again. We are giving up our 1895 house and moving into a condo. This will either be the beginning of something or the end. Stay tuned.

Peyton Manning is back. Real back.Glad he is on our side.

This blog is being written in my future office in our new abode. Not there yet but opining while waiting for a vendor. I am five stories up which is not exactly like my front porch at 701 Williams. I wonder if my voice will carry down to the street. I think you already know that answer

These factoids are totally nonsensical and whimsical which fits in perfectly with the topic of this week’s epistle.Gotta catch a plane to DC. Just what they need. One more whack job.

Odds and Ends….

Sorry I am late but got waylaid by a beautiful woman and some great wine. I am coming to you from a wonderful bed and breakfast in Healdsburg, CA which is about as far opposite as you can get from Eureka, CA, where we spent last night. This tour has shown all ends and all people. And that is what is all about. Since we last talked we have been in Vancouver,BC, Victoria,BC Seattle WA, and the Pacific coast regions of Oregon and Washington if all that makes any sense.

If you are young it is a trip you should make after the kids stop drooling so they can appreciate it. If you are old it is one you should do before you start drooling and can’t remember. It helps make this jigsaw puzzle of a nation more understandable. You can’t help but marvel at these United States. If we were any other nation we would probably be seven or eight.

It is also the best and worst of us. You see 50,000 acre forests of redwood and you can’t help but be both in awe and recognize how small a part we are. You have to have big ones not to feel that way. Driving through national parks you see parking lots locked and a meadow without visitors because we have a national temper tantrum. Go up the Columbia River Gorge and you see nature at its best. Fall foliage and a broad expanse of water that had its source several days ago and many miles back.

We went to New Zealand last winter and fell in love with the South Island. You can see that and more in the Pacific Northwest. You motor through coastal rain forests, sheer cliffs with waves crashing below and dunes that feel like the Hamptons or the shores of Carolina. This coast is a working one with saw mills and acres of cut wood awaiting the bandsaws that are part of the building process.

You see all manner of domiciles. The structures are perched on hillsides or trailers hidden by groves of trees. I remember once taking a city friend on a ride along the Colorado River Road, just outside of Vail. As we passed a rundown trailer he commented on the poor devil that had to dwell within. I really wonder if he knew it was that inhabitant’s idea of heaven. You get to feel that more and more as you travel on. Live and let live.

There is a certain breed that is half super person and half maniac that bikes this terrain. Incredible numbers take to the road and pedal push up hairpin turns and steep rises. They are laden with packs and packaging that betray this is more than a day trip. Who are they? Where do they come from? Who cares. This is their country club or rental cottage on wheels. Enjoy.

Maybe they are searching for something. A woman in Seattle told us that everybody headed west trying to find something or forget their past. They kept going until they ran out of real estate and settled on the coast. I think that could be true going east as well but in toto you run into some amazing people. At breakfast this morning we sat with two circus performers, a first time woman novelist and her husband who made robots. TTG met his match and did more listening than pontificating.

You contemplate the numerous modes of transportation we have been on and seen. On the rails we had to step aside and let mile long trains of freight pass by. The port of Vancouver handles 3700 containers a day. That’s about two every minute, 24/7. The port cities have a plethora of water craft but my favorites are the ferries. One took us to Bainbridge Island which for you New Yorkers is like Shelter Island on steroids. It is a marvel of seclusion and we sat at a waterside deck eating chowder and savoring a craft beer. I asked the waitress what she thought of the government shutdown as we basked in an autumn afternoon. Huh? I thought so and good for you.

We have seen some weird scenes too. I was taking a run at 7:00 AM in Victoria, BC. I shot across the street against a light. There were two cars on the road and the second in line was a pickup being maneuvered by a rather corpulent woman. As she passed by she started screaming at me and I of course gave her the international sign of friendship in return. I thought to myself what it must be like to wake up to her in the morning. Spits out a couple of nails and lights up a Lucky from a deck on the nightstand. No thanks.

There was a man walking his tiny dog. He was sucking on a cigarette like he has for the last 50 years. If he was two pack a dayer it meant he had done that 600,000 times in his career. Best of all was when the dog pooped. He proceeded to make a barehanded toss of the litter into a nearby bush. He then ran his fingers over the grass several times. All help please wash your hands before returning to the work area. You can’t make this stuff up.

We will wend our way to SanFrancisco today. Great friends await and then to home. Thanks to all the nice people who befriended us. Thanks to waiters and waitresses and hoteliers. Thanks to the ocean and forests for letting us in. Thanks to my wife for putting up with me for two weeks straight. Thanks to all of you for listening. I am indeed a lucky dude.

As Always
Ted The Great
The redwoods are of several varieties the largest being the coastal sequoia. The can grow to 370 feet in height and a girth of 22 feet in diameter.

A fallen redwood decays for several decades providing nutrients to the forest floor. A kind of super recycling plant. How did nature ever figure all of this out?

The Bainbridge Island ferry was the best deal in the world. $3.95 got you a round trip ticket on a trip to paradise. A foggy transit out and brilliant sunshine on the ride back. 45 minutes each way.

Our trip covered over 2,000 miles. Everyone of them memorable.

On The Road….Again

We come to you this week from of all places Vancouver, British Columbia. We started our most recent trek in Calgary, Alberta. This is one of those “Bucket” trips that we are on a mission to complete. It is part plane, train, ferry and car all rolled into one. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Our final destination will be SanFrancisco and some dear friends who are heavily into sailboat racing. I hope they will still be reveling in Oracle’s stunning comeback. Champagne anyone?

The people of Calgary and so far Vancouver seem somewhat withdrawn. They avoid eye contact and don’t really smile. You can imagine these poor people bobbing and weaving to escape the wide grin of TTG as he roars towards the local Starbucks. Even worse when he comes out loaded with the darkest roast they sell. But upon engaging these wonderful Canucks they open up and are truly delightful.

The Banff and Lake Louise area is full of contradictions. We have lived in the Colorado Rockies for years but the Canadian Rockies are so different. We travelled on a thing called the Ice Fields Parkway which connects to the Columbia Glacier and beyond to Jasper. The sheer rock faces and incredible landslide and avalanche chutes bring to bear all the forces of nature. Their massiveness and beauty proves once again what a poor imitator man is. I think of the grandiose cathedrals of Europe and they don’t hold a candle(no play on words) to these monuments. Yes you do feel God and say a prayer. The wind and stillness of the land provide the organ music. I would love all of you to see and hear it.

The glitz and glitter of the Fairmount Hotel at Lake Louise seemed loud and garish. As you walk the arcades there are stalls like the bazaars of Instanbul. There is a middle eastern woman selling artifacts and fossils to put on your curio shelf at $3,000 a clip. Bulgari watches or diamond necklaces to bring home as a souvenir. A little mink muffler or and alligator bag to warm you up on a chilly mountain day? You actually wonder if some of these dudes and dudettes even go outside. That’s okay I will have my puny $5 ice cream cone and go to my room to get on the internet at $15 per day. I get it but then again I don’t.

The Trans Canada highway is just that, going from the Maritimes to Vancouver. Beautiful road and so simple. No bawdy billboards and the speed limit seems unnecessary. They actually have built intricate landscaped overpasses for wild life to traverse the habitat. There is this incredible feeling of peace but beyond that man and nature figuring out how to make it all work. Government shutdowns and blovating politicians seem so far away. They should come here to get their act together.

Before getting on the train we chatted with a mountie. Dudley Do Right he was and Little Nell could not be far off. He was a delightful fellow who had retired but suited up from time to time to send people westward and pose for the incessant Asian picture taking. He was a zoologist by trade before entering her majesty’s service and to this he returned. He was studying the ways of bears. Black, brown and grizzly to be exact. He simply stated that we should not view ourselves as the dominant species but just an essential part of the order of nature. Instead of sucking up the earth’s resources how about using what we need and leaving some for all. What the hell is this guy thinking?

It took us two days and an overnight stop in Kamloops,BC to cover the 850 miles to the Pacific. It didn’t seem long enough. You get to think, which of course I love, but you also get to know people at a leisurely pace. There was a fellow from Australia who had undergone open heart surgery 10 weeks earlier. His daughter, a surgeon in Perth was right by his side. Two senior Aussie sisters (not nuns) were a stitch and by day two they were my fall girls. You see I became the unofficial emcee of the bus and beyond. I know you are shocked. I would comment on their drinking or dancing on tables to the delight of all. The dining car din grew louder as people dropped their guard.Departing we all vowed to stay in touch but you knew that wouldn’t happened. At least the thought was there.

The true irony was my book of choice for the trip. “This Town”, which I have mentioned before is the chronicle of excess and self aggrandizement in our fair capitol of DC. The fawning and self gratification seems even more absurd after seeing these panoramas and life so simple. These little people on the plains and valleys are actually the big people. They have learned the true meaning of life. They don’t all agree but they respect one another. They don’t judge by the size of your Rolodex and Rolex but what you have in your heart.

The train could probably hold 600-700 people in good style. I really think we ought to book it and send the boys and girls who are our elected representatives off on a trip to nowhere. They can’t get off until they agree. That’d fix ’em.

As always
Ted The Great

Sockeye Salmon spawn and are most prolific in the Adams River. The girls find their way back by sense of smell and different amounts of chemicals in different parts of the river. They disperse 4,000 eggs in the rocky bed and wait for the boys. 2000 eggs survive and become adults of a sort that travel downriver after 6 months to a year of training. They then change in the brackish water from freshwater to saltwater fish and travel the oceans from Alaska to Japan and Hawaii for anywhere from 1 to 5 years. Then they sojourn back to the starting place and it all starts over again. Only 2 of the original 4,000 make the round trip. The returning school numbers 2 million in a bad year and 10 million in a good one. After spawning the male and females die and provide food for ospreys, bears and the like. Amazing but true.

When on the bus in Kamloops I asked the driver where he was going next. He said he was driving US military personnel to Anchorage. They had flown into a Canadian AFB in town. After getting them up north they would board a flight to Nome Alaska. He would then take the bus on a weeklong ferry ride back to Vancouver staying in a superior cabin with booze and food. He said the cost of him living in the lap of luxury at the expense of the US Government was $20,0000. You mean we couldn’t have done this a little more direct and cost efficient way? And this my friends is why sequestration makes appearances by the Blue Angels and Marine bands etc. at public events impossible for lack of funding. Aaaaargh!

Sorry to go so long but Eh?