The New York Times columnist Russell Baker once recalled going for a walk because he was stuck for an idea for a column due the next day. Someone threw a potato out of a window along the way, and it hit Baker in the head. Suddenly, he had his idea. As I recall from his memoir, he was never stuck again.Read More
I’m trying to figure out the deeper meaning of getting conked on the head by a San Clemente railroad crossing barrier arm. That the incident is related to a train is definitely part of it. That it’s the only place to cross the tracks to get to the beach from our hotel, unless you take the underpass, would make it more or less predetermined that it was going to happen eventually. That it involved me is what made it inevitable. Nixon’s revenge? That one had my vote when it happened.Read More
My previous familiarity with San Clemente was its being known as “The Western White House” during the Nixon Administration. So imagine my surprise and delight to discover a thriving beach town of charm, historic Spanish architecture and elegance, as well as magnificent Pacific sunsets that wash away for me its former association with cynicism and paranoia. Plus, it’s only about a twenty-minute drive from our house in Lake Forest. Also, Amtrak stops right at the entrance to the town’s wonderful pier! (Yes, an arrival by rail is in our future plans.)Read More
In 2016, Carol and I celebrated Christmas with our respective spouses. In 2017, we celebrated Christmas as widows. In 2018, we celebrated our first Christmas together. That's a lot of change for three Christmases. Fundamental change. Seismic change. Dramatic change. WTF change.Read More
In Bruce Springsteen's one-man Broadway show, he talks ruefully about being 20 years old with a blank piece of paper still before him that represented the rest of his life. Later, after Carol and I had shut off Netflix for the night, she said to me, “I want our life together to be a blank piece of paper.”Read More
For the Neanderthal of the human species (aka the male) it's way beyond time he's learned that no means no. I consider myself more fully evolved than my fellow homo stupidus in that I even know when yes means no.
Carol is as laid back a southern Californian as you can imagine, but with her New York pedigree, it's made for some interesting comminglings when it comes to expressing her wishes, especially when those wishes encompass the negative. That I've been a quick study in discerning the “no” at the center of her various initial affirmations or accommodations is probably why she's spread around her conclusion that I am a “keeper.”Read More
Last Christmas I was furthering my experiments in living alone. I booked a business class seat on Amtrak for Vancouver, B.C. and my favorite hotel in the heart of the city's homeless section. I had packed only what would fit in my eVest, so unlike the homeless with their grocery carts and black trash bags, I was essentially more dissolute than them. And when one stopped me on the street to inquire “whether the old age pension checks had come in,” I felt as if I had transitioned completely to life on the street.
But it wasn't to be.Read More
When Carol was twelve, she made a road trip with her older sister and her four kids. Somewhere in Missouri they looked back at the trailer that housed her sister's dog Heidi, and didn't see her. With a happier ending than a similar event in National Lampoon's Vacation, the Crisfield clan hung a U-ee and found Heidi bounding along the highway, her leash that she'd used to somehow manage to open the door to the trailer bouncing behind. The original trip planned to Alaska had to be abandoned in British Columbia, when that same trailer busted an axle on the Alaskan highway. I'm happy to report Heidi was safe, though covered in leftover coleslaw that had spilled out of the fridge when the axle broke. A Native American guide fixed the axle and let Carol's niece ride his horse during the repair, adding, “when you're done, just get off; he'll find his way home.”Read More
I've been pretty efficient in figuring out my life (I'm only turning 70 in a few months), leaving myself some modicum of longevity to enjoy the fruits of those reflective labors.
For most of my life, though, I considered myself a restless soul, incapable of settling down into a productive and meaningful way of life. What I've come to conclude, however, is that I am a wandering soul incapable of settling down into a productive and meaningful way of life. The distinction is as fruitless as it is semantic.Read More
Neither Carol nor I believe in the Heaven or Hell handed down to us by organized religion. In fact, we agreeably disagree on the idea of the existence of an Afterlife at all. Without boring you with details, let's say the core of my belief in an Afterlife is that we have perfectly reversed our ideas of “birth” and “death;” namely I believe our birth here is actually a death from our previous life, and our death on this earth is actually our birth into the next one.Read More
I grew up in New Orleans, but have never been to Emeril's, Commander's Palace or Brennan's. I lived in the Philadelphia area for the better part of twenty years and never saw the Liberty Bell. I've lived in the Seattle area for six years, but have never visited it's underground. And although I've only lived in the Los Angeles area for a few months, I'm pretty sure I won't bother seeing the famous Santa Monica pier or stroll down Sunset and Vine or Rodeo Drive. So as Carol and I plan our next trip together, I still have no idea what I don't want to see.Read More
It was our second Thanksgiving alone. We were with family, of course, but our own. As widows, though, Carol and I were alone for the second Thanksgiving in a row, but the first since we became a couple. Maybe that's why the emotions bubbled just below the surface.Read More
Carol and I continue to ask ourselves about finding each other, “How did this happen?” The mutuality of the question may be differently shaded: mine reflecting a childlike wonder; hers more of a grownup’s wonder over a perplexing child.
For instance, our first Thanksgiving together will be celebrated apart. She will be the matriarch of the Madigan family's feast here in California, and I will serve as a sous chef for my daughter's in Chicago. Both families would have perfectly understood had we chosen one over the other for the sake of being together for the holiday, but Carol and I agree this is the right way to celebrate it this first year. At least when it's over, I will not be returning to an empty house in Seattle, and Carol will not be returning to a room carved out of her daughter and son-in-law's home. That alone is more than enough to be thankful for, regardless of the miles separating us when we do sit down and give thanks.Read More
Those who have stumbled upon this blog looking for practical travel tips and unique experiences to discover have, no doubt, been sorely disappointed. On the other hand those who've returned from trips and proudly answered the questions, “What did you see?” (“nothing”) or, “why did you go there? (“I don't know”) have been richly rewarded.Read More
If three weeks in Europe on twelve trains to seven French cities with me didn't reveal to Carol why she should hit LAX running and just keep running, I should probably conclude we're a good match. There would be precedent. After all, I'd spent five years with Carolyn fully expecting to hear her crying out in a dream, “the horror, the horror!” That never happened, so I guess I should feel pretty good about Carol and I as a couple. I do, but it's not because I at all believe I bring any special gifts or skills to any relationship, let alone this one. The grounds for success, I truly believe, were, as they say, pre-existing conditions for Carol and I to become a team.Read More