Monthly Archives: May 2014

Summer has come to South Bay

1970 to 1971

Summer is here. Well, not really. Summer officially starts on June 21st, and we are still in late May.

But facts be damned, it is summer to me. Summer has a gateway, a mid point, and an end. We are in the gateway right now – Memorial Day Weekend. I don’t need to say what the midpoint and end of Summer are….you all get it.

I won’t go into what Memorial Day means to the country on a macro level. Everybody is putting reminders out there of the real reason for the holiday. I agree and remember and am grateful, but I’m going to write about what the holiday and summer means to me, a civilian who was never in the military.

I grew up on the coast of Southern California, in an area known as South Bay. The name is supposed to denote that you are within a few miles of the southern part of Santa Monica Bay. I’ve lived in four different cities that are part of South Bay…..but there has been no open land between them since long before I was born, so it all seems like different sections of the same city to me. Some people still call this area a suburb. I’ve lived in an area that is really a suburb, forty miles north-east of here. That has a completely different feel. It’s a bedroom community for most of the people that live there, because work is many miles away. Mile after mile of open land surrounds three sides. It’s on the edge of the LA Megatropolis. That is a suburb. South Bay is not that.

South Bay has dense population, decent rapid transit (for the LA Area, that is), and all of the facilities that one would find in a major city. Work is usually within a few short miles. Not counting the ocean, there is no wilderness just a couple miles away. This is a nice area to live in because of the climate. Most people know that California is one of the handful of places in the world that has a Mediterranean climate. South Bay and some other small coastal sections of California have even milder weather than the rest of California.

What does that mean? South Bay is often room temperature outside, with very low humidity. And while there is some difference between Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, these differences are largely muted along the coast.

The point of this ramble…lack of distinct differences in weather here has driven a lot of people to mark the summer by it’s big weekends. But that isn’t all. Memorial Day and Labor Day are usually the portals marking the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. That’s probably even more important for me personally.

I was extremely lucky growing up. My parents made sure that we did a lot of camping. We started this in about 1965-66, with Car Camping. Earliest trips were to Kern River and Lake San Antonio.

While at Lake San Antonio, we had our first experiences with fishing. Bass fishing from shore. Lake San Antonio was a brand new lake at the time. I don’t know if it was really heavily stocked early on, or what, but you could cast out plastic worms from shore and catch decent sized bass very easily. We spent many an hour at the Harris Creek section of that lake.

We saw that people with boats seemed to be catching even more fish, so on one of those early vacations at Lake San Antonio, we rented a pontoon boat. The day was largely a fiasco, because the outboard motor gave out. Before that happened, we had a great time. We pulled up next to the abundant brush that was really submerged trees and caught fish.

Within a year of that event, Mom and Dad bit the bullet and bought a used boat. It was a mid-60s 16 foot Glaspar Tri Hull, with a new 65 HP Mercury outboard. We learned how to fish from that boat, and we also took up water skiing. Almost every time the Torrance schools had a long weekend, we were gone. In the earliest days, we were even out during part of the Christmas week, and always out during Easter week. But the real prime time was summer, and Memorial Day Weekend was the start of that.

The family camping went on for years, even after I had married and left home in 1976. We graduated from campground camping, where you launch and retrieve your boat each day, to true boat camping at the Colorado River and it’s lakes. We would load the boat with camping gear, and find a nice cove to call our own for a week or two. That was my favorite type of camping.

There were pitfalls along the way.

Early in our boating time, my parents paid for a slip at Lake San Antonio. Launching and pulling in the boat every day was a chore. Having the boat in a slip was nice…we could just carry stuff down there, jump in, fire up the engine, and back away. During the night, somebody came to our boat, stole the Merc Outboard, and then pulled the drain plug. Most crooks are stupid. These crooks forgot to untie the boat. It didn’t sink all the way. Insurance covered everything, and we were back out before we even ran out of vacation time. We didn’t go all the way up to Lake San Antonio again, though. We went to nearby Lake Piru instead, and had one of the best fishing trips ever. There were a couple of days that we came in with limits of large-mouth bass for all five of the family. Cleaning 25 fish took a while. We were eating bass for weeks. Bass fried with Bisquick, and hash browns. Mmmmmm.

Another pitfall happened in about 1970. We were getting ready to go on a two week trip to one of the Colorado River lakes – probably Lake Mead. On the evening before we were to leave, my dad was moving a bunch of stuff around, getting ready. He started to have chest pains. Mom took him to the hospital. He checked out OK, and the hospital said he could go home. My dad knew that something was wrong, and said he wanted to stay overnight. Mom went home. The next morning, she came to pick him up, and found out that he had a massive heart attack, and was in ICU, barely alive. He was only forty years old. He spent three weeks in ICU, and then another three months in the hospital. I’ve often thought about what would have happened had he not had the attach that night. He might have had a heart attack while camped on a remote shore at Lake Mead. If that had happened, he would probably be gone now. Instead, he is still alive in his late 80s.

I remember thinking that the heart attack would stop my parents from the camping. If anything, they doubled down. We got a new boat in about 1971 – a Tri Sonic. It had a 110 HP Merc engine, and thus was a lot faster than the old boat – just perfect for us kids who were getting better at water skiing. My brother and sister and I would often be allowed to take friends on the camping trips. My parents were very generous with that.

I missed out on some of the mid-1970s trips. I was working part time by then, and could be left at home to fend for myself at that point. I was also at the age where my friends were more interesting to me than my family (everybody goes through that). I got married in 1976, and after that, my wife and I started going on the camping trips. It was great fun again. One trip that sticks out in my mind was a houseboat trip we took at Lake Powell, in spring 1981. That trip was the last time that I spent quality time with my brother Lew. He was killed in December, 1981 by a shark. That happened when he was surfing up in Monterey. I cherish the memory of that houseboat trip.

Eventually my parents got a little too old for the rugged camping we had done all those years, so they bought a house in Bullhead City. They also bought a new boat – a nice Sea Ray with an I/O V-8 engine that would go over 50 mph. By that time my wife and I had several kids. We went out to Bullhead for vacation a couple times a year, but not as much as I would have liked. There were various reasons for that. I wish we could have been out there more.

During most the time that my parents had the Bullhead City house, my wife and I were living in the suburb that I mentioned earlier. There were several lakes in our general area….Lake Piru, Lake Castaic, and Lake Pyramid. We were prosperous enough to have some extra spending money, so we bought our own boat….a Bayliner Classic 19. We had a lot of fun with that boat, but ran into problems too. The biggest problem was over-crowding at the local lakes. Some days, if you weren’t there far enough ahead of the sunshine, you weren’t getting on the water. That’s tough when you have four kids, the youngest being twins under 5 years old. We ended up using the boat more at Lake Mohave, by the Bullhead City house, than we ever used it locally.

Boating is a chapter of my life that appears to be over at this point. I’m older now, and I have the urge to wander the land, so Laura and I are embarking on adventures in our Georgetown 328. I know that I’ll have a longing to be out on the water when we are camping at lakes. Such is life. One expensive toy is enough at this point.

We are in the planning stages for our next RV trip now, and it is going to be at a lake. I’ll fish from shore and watch the boats and lounge around in the water and enjoy it as much as I did in earlier days. And I’ll remember camping trips from days gone by fondly.

It’s summer.



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The Face of Alzheimer’s Disease

Zental Floss


I know this is not a great photo (why did everybody where red or pink that day and sit in a red booth with brick behind them?), but I’m wondering if you can pick out the person with Alzheimer’s Disease in this photo.  Admittedly, the disease is relatively early here, but I think there’s a tell.

Let me know who you think it is.

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It’s later than you think

It happened again. Somebody in my life dropped dead yesterday. Unexpectedly. At 59 years of age.

Gayle was a hair stylist, and he had my wife, my mother in law, and me as clients. Stereotypes are often based in truth, and yes, this man was gay. He was actually one of the handful of gay men that I’ve had lengthy conversations with. That I knew well. I really liked this man, and the shock of his sudden passing has me really upset.

I found out about this on Facebook. All of a sudden I started seeing condolence messages popping up on my wall. I didn’t get it at first. I thought that one of Gayle’s friends had passed, and it was his friends sending condolence messages for his loss. I was interested to find out who this was, so I went to his wall. The reality of what happened smacked me. Hard. I told my wife, and she thought I was misunderstanding something. No. It was true. Our friend was gone.

Gayle was not married, and there is nobody out there to remove his Facebook page, so of course it has turned into pages and pages of condolence messages and tributes and shock and hurt. And pictures. So many pictures, with his smiling face, surrounded by his friends. This is good. Another friend (Anne) passed a few years ago, and I also saw it on Facebook. In this case, Anne was survived by a spouse, and he shut down the Facebook page almost immediately. That left a hole. It was harder than this.

Gayle had asked my wife to remind me to bring my iPAD to my last appointment, so he could see pictures of our new RV. I did that, and before he got started working on my hair, we looked at the pictures. He was so excited for us. After that, we had conversation about all kinds of things, for the whole time I was there. We talked of volunteer work he was doing at the YWCA, the upcoming Long Beach Grand Prix, movies, a musical I was playing in, and many other things.

So what does this have to do with the RV lifestyle, and Retirement? Why am I putting this on The Two Who Wander?

Gayle is the latest in a growing number of people I know who have passed much earlier than expected. It serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and none of us know how much more time we have.

Laura and I are looking forward to adventures in our RV. If we are lucky, we will be healthy enough to enjoy this lifestyle for 10 to 15 years. A lot of people aren’t that lucky. A lot of people don’t make it to retirement. This gave Laura and I a feeling of urgency. We knew that the clock was running, and if we were going to do this lifestyle, we had to jump in. Now.

Both of us had reservations about doing this. Getting into the RV lifestyle is a big outlay of resources – both time and money resources. We’ve had negative feedback. I’ve been on forum threads where people ridiculed others for borrowing money to buy an RV, saying that smart people will save their money until they can afford to pay cash. We’ve had people poke at our good fortune of having a sound retirement that provides enough resources to get into the RV lifestyle. It’s just not fair, they tell us, because everybody isn’t that lucky. Maybe not, but there was a lot of hard work involved to earn this….with many 60-70 hour weeks worked over the years. We even have a family member calling us “selfish” because we don’t use our resources and time purely for elder and offspring support.

I’ve worked through all of this in my mind. I’ve rejected the negative feedback. All of it.

We have responsibilities to our family, and we will fulfill those as needed, no matter what. We won’t take away the very real value to our children of making their own way in life – we won’t use our remaining resources to make it overly easy. If my parents would have done that, I would not have tried as hard, and I would not have achieved as much. I would not have what I have now. If and when any of our children get into real trouble, we will be there. I mean real trouble. We have done that before.

I’m not worried about borrowing money to buy an RV. With money as cheap as it is now, and the tax advantage available on the interest, it doesn’t make sense to avoid a loan. And of course there is always the possibility that you’re gone before you have saved enough to avoid a loan. Is that a good thing?

Laura and I made choices during our working lives that resulted in us having good pensions and savings. This involved a lot of hard work, some smarts, and some luck. Going back to school to get additional education while working full time is something that both of us did. We both worked a lot of overtime, either for pay or just for career advancement. Do I feel guilty about what we have achieved? Not one bit, but I do feel blessed and humbled and fortunate and thankful. A lot of people helped. Parents, family, friends, co-workers.

I feel just terrible that Gayle died before he got to take a rest and enjoy retirement. I feel the same way for Beth, who died at just 55, and our friend Monica, and our friend Anne, and my cousin Roger, and my brother Lew, who died at only 25.

These are wake up calls for those who live on.

Wake up and live life while you can. Don’t take what you have for granted. Do what makes you happy. Use your time and resources for what you want. Cherish the time you have left.

It’s later than you think.


Categories: Retirement | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fridays are still good

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!


Man, how I used to love Fridays when I was working. Light work days, with many of the more demanding people off. A day to catch up and actually get something done. Less meetings. Less fighting. More relaxed atmosphere. The excitement of a couple of days off in front of me. The relief. The anticipation of late nights watching movies, not worried about getting up the next day. Lazy Saturdays and Sundays. Fishing on the beach. Beers on the balcony, with the stereo going. Parties with family and friends.

I’ve been retired for around 7 months now. More than half a year, but sometimes it seems like I just walked out of work a couple of weeks ago.

My first post on this blog was about stepping into retirement. I felt like I was in the starting gate, and I didn’t have a good idea of what would follow or how I would like it. I was concerned with big household jobs I had coming up, and how to live my life without the structure of work. I yearned to live more in the now. Take time to smell the flowers, enjoy the quiet times, and just relax.

Am I still drifting around, wondering what to do?

Most of the jobs I was so worried about early in my retirement are out of the way now. There is always more to do, but life goes on and I’ll get to it. No, I’m not really living in the now much more than I did before. I still make lists in my head of things that are stacking up on my to-do list, and find myself feeling pressure. I’m OK with that. It’s my personality, and I really wouldn’t be happy if I changed. I watch my dog living in the now. I don’t think I could take the rapid ups and downs that I watch her go through. To me, thinking about the broad future – planned and unplanned – is more of a comfort than a worry most of the time. I can visualize a future that I want, and then do things to make it so. This won’t always work out, but at least I have a fighting chance. My dog can’t do that. She is always at the mercy of everything around her, being lifted and dropped by the rolling waves of a life she can’t control.

I’m going to be somebody who will always need his work, and I need some structure to stay on track. I’ve found that structure, and it’s working fairly well so far. It’s keeping me from sitting on the couch watching TV all day, which I think would be the death of me.

What am I doing?

I have a routine to start my day, and that keeps me from sitting around trying to decide what I want to do for hours on end. I have interests to fit into that starting routine, and once I’m running, it’s easy to transition to another interest from there after a while. I still sit around some and watch TV, but more often than not, it’s off until late afternoon or early evening.

There are two main interests that are part of my day to day life, and the structure of my day is built around them. I’m continuing on with the main interest that I kept up with while I was working, and I’ve gone back to an old interest that life as a working stiff and dad prevented me from enjoying to the fullest.

The ongoing interest is music. I’ve been playing ‘cello for most of my life, mainly in symphony orchestras, and in the orchestra pits for stage musicals. My pursuit of this interest hasn’t really changed very much since I retired. I practice more now, but that’s about it. I’ve always thought that I would pursue more playing opportunities when I retired, but I haven’t done that so far. Adding another orchestra is a possibility, and there is a local one that would like me to play, but two things are holding me back….freedom to travel at the drop of a hat, and aging hands that limit the number of hours I can practice in a given week. I plan to continue to play as long as my hands and mind hold up, but don’t plan to ramp that up too much.

The old interest that I’ve gone back to is writing. Fiction writing. In my earlier days, I did quite a bit of that. Short stories, partially completed novels, scraps of good and bad stuff. The time that I was most prolific was during the mid 1980s, after I had finished my BS in Business. I was working full time while attending college, and when I was done, I had to have something to help me slow the flywheel that was driving me. I would go out to the little room inside the garage that I did homework in, and hammer away on my Commodore 64.

I slowed down and stopped the writing after a year or so. There were some good reasons for this. The most important one was my family… first two sons were growing up rapidly, and I needed to spend more and more time with them. My wife, who was losing patience with my alone time, needed more from me as well. And finally, I ended up with two more kids on the way (twins)… my focus had to change quickly. This was in no way a bad thing. Many of the happiest memories of my life were from this time. Watching the boys grow and explore life. Indian Guides, Little League, AYSO Soccer, Roller Hockey, family camp outs, boating, trips to Bullhead City, and more. I miss all of that, and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

The structure I’ve set up for myself is pretty simple. I get up in the morning, feed the dog and cats, and then come down to the room I’m sitting in now. I start writing. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get going, but generally I’m into it after 15-20 minutes of checking various sites on the internet and looking at e-mail. I usually write from about 9:00 am to about noon, unless I’m really rolling, in which case I can go until 1:00 or 2:00. Laura is generally writing at the same time as well, so it’s pretty quiet in the house at this time. I’m really enjoying this right now… fact it’s usually the highlight of my day.

After the writing session is done, I’ll have some lunch, take the dog for a walk, and then practice ‘cello for a little while. After that, the day is pretty open….Laura and I figure out what we want to do. Several days a week we go to the gym. Other days we run errands. Sometimes we just kick back and talk, and every once in a while we watch TV.

It doesn’t make too much difference to me if we are at home or in the RV….this structure basically works. I enjoy writing time in the RV, and I think Laura does too.

The fiction project I’m working on right now is a novel. It’s about serial killers and those that hunt them, and yes, there are RV’s involved (of course). Is it any good? I don’t know. It might be crap. Either way, I’m enjoying the experience of writing it, so I’ll keep going, and we’ll see what happens.

I take a break from the fiction every so often to write articles like this for The Two Who Wander. I enjoy that too, but I don’t lose myself in the writing like I do with fiction. When I’m writing the fiction, I’m in the story. Some days it’s really hard to drag myself out of that world.

So I’m no longer in the starting gate. I’m off and running. I’ve found what I want to do, for now, and I’m enjoying it. Before I got going, I used to think about work. I still think about friends from work, but the old project and it’s environs are never on my mind. That tells me that I’ve made the transition. I’m retired.

Fridays? Yes, surprisingly, they are still just about my favorite day. There is still the anticipation and excitement. Maybe I’ll stay up later tonight, and watch some movies. Oh yeah, and there’s a party to go to this weekend!




Categories: Retirement | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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