Something Worth Writing About

26 11 2013

Since my last post nearly two years ago several significant events have occurred in my life that are probably great fodder for blogging but they just didn’t seem to be anything I wanted to share or felt compelled to write about–that is until last Saturday.  Before I share that experience I should provide a bit of back story.

One of the many fortunate features of my life is what some people consider to be a unique friendship.  There are three other guys that I have been close friends with since 1st grade–that’s nearly sixty years.  All four of us and our ladies get together two or three times a year but in two’s or three’s, I probably see the guys eight to ten times a year.  I should mention that we all live in different towns in Southern Indiana.  We have been through it all together; everything from Cub Scouts to alter boys to Vietnam to godfathers to one another’s children to loosing spouses.

One of these guys, my best friend, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma,  He was told that the numbers indicated a best case of two years.  That was back in 2008.  Once he had exhausted all the traditional chemotherapy, he opted to seek out experimental treatments.  For five years, his three closest friends and his sister have traveled with him nearly every month to a clinic somewhere in the United States to take part in drug trial study groups testing new protocols to slow down the cancer.  Although he still has cancer it seems to have been arrested for the last six months–keeping our fingers crossed.

That’s the back story needed in order to understand what happen Saturday.

My buddy and I went down to a beautiful area west of Louisville to participate in a fund raising event for Reel Recovery.  Reel Recovery is an organization whose mission is to introduce men with cancer to fly fishing.  I have been a fly fisherman since my teenage years; I learned from our Scoutmaster.  However, my friend never did seem to be interested in the sport.

Anyway, the event was a fishing tournament in which the participants could only use one fly and everyone had to use the same pattern of fly.  If you are not a fly fisherman this may not seem like such a big deal but, believe me, it is a major deal.  It would be like telling a golfer he can only take one club and one ball out onto a PGA course to compete.

Saturday morning the weather was cold and my buddy said he didn’t expect anybody in his right mind to show up.  I told him that fly fishermen going after trout would not be deterred by the weather; he just rolled his eyes.  Well, when we pulled into the parking lot we were hard pressed to find a spot.  There must have been over fifty cars/trucks there with men and women pulling on their waders, lacing up their wading boots and rigging their gear.  My buddy just shook his head and said, “I guess I was wrong.  I figured you and I would be the only dumb asses out in this weather.”

Fast forward three hours and I was having a great time–I wasn’t catching any fish–but I was having a great time.  What’s that old saying about a bad day fishing . . .?  During this time the other guy on our three man team and I were giving my buddy tips.  The other guy was an experienced fly fisherman also.  We had my buddy make a small adjustment in his presentation which he did.  Next cast, the water exploded and the look on my buddy’s face was a lifetime memory.  I know he wasn’t sure who had caught whom–him or the bull rainbow on the end of his line.  This fish (biggest one caught by anyone in the tournament) tail danced across the surface of the stream in a scene you would expect to be one the cover of a fly fishing magazine.  As my buddy tried to hold on for dear life, our fishing partner and I quickly retrieved our lines so as not to tangle with the monster on the end of my buddy’s line. We both know this was something special and got into position with a net and a camera.

Image

My buddy was trying to be cool about it but on the way home he admitted that his heart was racing and that he thinks he is starting to understand a little better why I like fly fishing so much.  It only took us five decades to make that connection.  What a great day.  Hopefully, there will be many more.

So many rivers and so little time.

-gw-





The Tree Of Our Life

18 12 2011

This is going to be the last Christmas season we spend in our dream house. After the first of the year we will begin construction on our retirement home. It’s both exciting and a bit sorrowful to look at what 2012 will bring as far as changes in our lives.

When we put up the Christmas tree this year, Linda commented that our entire life was on display on that tree.  It took me a minute to understand what she meant–I never have been known as the shiniest marble in the bag.  As usual, she was right.  As I looked closely at the tree and decorations I saw the first ornament we bought after we were married.  Also, I spotted the first ornament we bought after we built this house.  All over the tree were some classic homemade or, should I say, school-made ornaments from the kids and grandkids in their pre-school and kindergarten days as well as several reminder ornaments we picked up on our travels.

In addition to those reminders of past experiences and past years, I saw all sorts of quilted, carved, blown and crocheted ornaments we had made for us over the course of our marriage and, the always-present, milk-bottle-top bells.  Those are the ones that really bring the symbolism of this tree into focus for me.

See, those were made by my parents in the first few years of their marriage back in the late 1940s and early 1950s when they were just too poor to buy store-boughten ornaments.  Back in the day, milk was delivered to the door in clear glass bottles with caps of thin red foil to keep in the freshness; these were what the bells were made from.  With this being the first Christmas in my life that neither of my parents are alive, I teared up as I hung them with care on the tree.  To me, they are more than just family Christmas ornaments.  Here again, these ornaments are symbolic.

My dad use to say that for most families it takes five generations of doing the right things to create family wealth–defined as your money working for you more than you working for your money– and just one generation to destroy that asset.  (I’m getting ready to step up on my soap box, so, ….)  I see these red-and-silver foil bells as a reminder of Linda’s and my obligation to past generations and future generations to build upon, protect and pass on the small amount of family wealth that has been accumulated.  I probably need to clarify here that as much as I value non-financial family wealth , I am referring to financial assets in this context.  Although, I must say that without the non-financial wealth, the dollars and cents wealth would probably not be possible to accumulate in any ethical, time-tested method.

This weekend we had what we call Family Christmas.  For over thirty years, the weekend before Christmas has been designated as Family Christmas.  I won’t go into the reasons for this other than to say they were based on a long-term vision.  The fact that ours is a multi-generationally blended family requires that dates other than December 24 or 25 be the time we get together with our four kids and their families.  Early on Saturday morning, prior to the rest of the family arriving and while Linda was getting a few well-deserved extra minutes of sleep, our youngest daughter and I had a conversation that is germane to this post.  I told her what my dad said about the building of family wealth and we discussed it within the context of the recent protests and political discussion of redistributing wealth.  Although the two of us are probably the poster children for the socio-phiolosphical chasm noted by a quote credited to Churchill that, “If you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart.  If you are not a conservative when you are old, you have no brain.”, we seemed to be on the same page about the subject of wealth earned through honest, hard work and playing by the rules.

I told her that the wealth we now have can be traced back at least four generations and that we, as a family, are on target.  With the recent inheritance we received from my parents’ estates we basically doubled our net worth.  As comforting and secure as that feels in these difficult times it is also a bit scary.  I know that if Linda and I don’t make sound financial decisions then the hard work of those previous four generation and our own decades of hard work, frugality and long-term planning will be for naught.

The foil bells are reminders to Linda and me of that obligation to stay focused on the long term rather than embracing the motto, “You only live once.”  As simple, true and tempting as that saying is, accepting it as our life philosophy would also an abdication of our responsibility to past generations never met and the never-to-meet future generations of our family.  As we see it, it is not our money to spend frivolously on ourselves.  Of course, in the case of family emergency, every last penny would be spent without a second thought except the gratitude to be in the position to deal with that emergency.

At this point, we could pretty much do whatever we would want to do–keep in mind we are simple people in our wants–without making much of a dent in the family wealth. (I apologize if that comes across as bragging or being arrogant; that is not my intent.  It is simply the dollars-and-cents reality of our balance sheet.) But, just when I think that living in the moment for the rest of our lives would be a good idea, I remember the foil bells, and, I’m okay with the middle path.

The other type of wealth that needs to be accumulated and passed on to future generations includes the value placed on a strong worth ethic, a pride in workmanship, education, an appreciation of family/community/state/national tradition, and the obligation to descendants that will never be met, along with a strong ethical/moral compass.  Without this kind of family wealth, the other kind makes little difference.

The ornaments on our tree seem to say to me, at least, that we, as a family, have done a good job thus far of accumulating both types of wealth.

-gw-





What a Finale

19 10 2011

Yesterday afternoon, Linda and I walked down a long narrow pier and climbed into a small dingy as we began our final Maine adventure.  We chartered a sailboat and captain for a sunset cruise and lobster bake.

We had initial scheduled it for earlier in our stay but,  according to Captain Jesse Archer, the seas were too choppy for an enjoyable cruise.  In his words, “It’s up to you.  I can sail in this weather but you won’t like it.”

As we made the sort trip from the pier to the mooring buoy where the boat awaited, I could see that it was a wise decision to wait on taking our cruise.  The water of Frenchman’s Bay was calm with a gentle southeastern wind–near perfect conditions.

Back in the day, I did some sailing on very small sailing craft but prior to yesterday, Linda had never even set foot on a sailboat.  I was hoping for two outcomes of the adventure.  One, that Linda thoroughly enjoyed herself while relaxing as she viewed natural beauty from a new perspective.  The second outcome I hope for was for her to understand my fascination with sailing and therefore be willing to take sailing lessons with me so that some day we could do some sailing in the Caribbean.

I knew that my first goal had been achieved when after an hour of sailing on the Ipswitch she probably hadn’t said half a dozen words–she was in the zone.  We opened a bottle of wine and drank it form old coffee mugs that Captain Jesse had on board.  The time onboard just flew by.  The only way I knew that we where getting close to our 3-hour scheduled time for the cruise was that I recognized some of the seashore mansions that we passed going our of the harbor at the beginning our our trip.

During the time on board, we learned something about the history of the area and the history of lobster fishing.  Earlier in the day we tracked down an old wooden lobster trap to bring home as a souvenir.  Jesse asked lots of questions about the design of our trap and confirmed that we got an authentic one that had some unique characteristics.

As the sun was setting, Jesse announced that the lobsters were ready and that we could either eat out on deck or at a small booth in the cabin.  We opted for the cabin since the temperature was dropping quickly outside.  We finished off our bottle of wine as we cracked and ate our lobsters.  I am sure that we still could not pass for locals if someone watched us crack and eat our lobster but we were better at it than our first endeavor.  I don’t know what the difference was but Linda and I both agreed that the lobster on the boat was better than the lobster in the restaurant.

As we were walking up the pier to head back to the car I asked Linda what she thought about sailing.  She said that she couldn’t believe how relaxing it was and how the sensation of movement across the water without sound made the whole experience so unique.  I figured that was the time to play my trump card.  I asked her if she could imagine the same experience with a warm tropical breeze and a tropical drink as we lay around on deck in shorts or bathing suits rather than parkas and Polarteks.  She smiled and said, “Yeah, I could see it.”

I think goal two was probably met.

We are heading home this morning relaxed and full of seafood.  We both agreed that we were going to eat nothing but seafood while here.  On the way back to the B&B from the pier we both said we wanted a big cheeseburger for supper tonight on the road.

I cannot image how our trip could have gone any better.

-gw-





Going Where the Locals Go

18 10 2011

Much can be missed by not taking the road less traveled but how often do we ask why that road is less traveled.

Last night, Linda and I got up the courage to order two whole lobsters at a restaurant here in Bar Harbor.  It was the last night of the season for the restaurant and all the proceeds were being donated to the Bar Harbor Food Bank.  We weren’t aware of the charity dinner; we just heard it was a good place to eat lobster.  Fortunately, we made a reservation to eat an early dinner at 4:30.  Within just a few minutes after we were seated the place was packed.  And, it was packed with mostly Islanders as the locals are called.

When the waitress brought us our lobsters she was very helpful and patient in explaining how to crack and eat our crustacians.  She had so many customers to serve that one time and one time only was she going to tell us the tricks.  Linda and I glanced at each other with that caught-in-the headlights look and began to dig in.

Apparently, our lack of expertise and our need for remediation were obvious.  The couple next to us starting giving us pointers on how to extract all the meat from the lobster, just not the tail and the claws.  Over the course of the meal, a conversation ensued and, indeed, they were Islanders.  He was a native born inhabitant and she visited the island one summer back in the late 1960s when she was in college and never left.  If I would have found this place at age twenty, I’m not so sure I would have left either.

As the conversation progressed and we exchanged backgrounds along with the obligatory comparison of how many grandchildren each couple has, they made suggestions as to where we might want to go that the very few tourists even know about.  Bingo! We hit the motherlode.  They told us about a place that they go all the time for seafood because it is so good and so reasonable.  After they told us about the place I had to make sure I heard them correctly–a soft serve ice cream snack bar?  Yup! As they say on the island.

We got back to the B&B after dinner and shared our experience with the Matt and Kristi, the innkeepers.  Matt’s eyes lit up and confirmed that Jordan’s Snack Bar was a great place to eat seafood.  That led to a whole other conversation.

As I wrote in a previous post, our first night in Bar Harbor we ate at the Thirsty Whale.  The Whale as the Islanders refer to the place is a pub with all the positives and negatives that term implies–we loved it.  Matt said that he knew based on our earlier conversation about how much we enjoyed the Whale that we were not the type of people to want/need/expect fancy, and quite often, over-priced food.  He did say that he knew we liked good food, though.

He  went on to say that if we like the shoreline on the island that we should go off the island and drive the hour or so to a spot across the bay called Schoodic Point.  He said most tourists never got over there but it is the best place in the are to see the surf crashing on the granite boulders and cliffs.  In addition, he told us that we would be going right past Jordan’s as well as going through some classic small fishing village.

Based on our new information, we changed our how plan for the day and are we ever glad we did.  Thus far, our trip to Schoodic Point has been the highlight of our trip.  Although I will admit watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is a close second.

I think I leaned something about traveling yesterday.  It is important to do the touristy things but it to get the real flavor of a place, you need to find out where the locals go.  If I was traveling to Paris, of course, I would want to go up in the Eiffel Tower but I would also like to eat where the locals eat and shop where the locals shop.  Staying in a B&B for multiple nights seems to me the ideal way to accomplish this.  At least that is the story I’m sticking to at this point.

Tomorrow we do a only planned activity which we hope will be the crowning experience of our trip to Maine.  As a surprise for Linda, I chartered a 100-year old shrimping boat and captain for a three-hour sunset cruise around the bays and islands along with an authentic Maine Lobster bake.  I’ll take lots of pictures and post about it tomorrow evening from our hotel.

-gw-





Acadia and Expectations

17 10 2011

After spending the last two days exploring Acadia National Park as much as our old, arthritic knees would allow us, I have come to a conclusion–our expectations were unrealistic.  We went everywhere well-informed tourists should go in the park but still our expectations were not met…

…they were exceeded!

We thought it would be beautiful but, to be honest, it is breathtaking.  We both agreed that we have never seen so much spectacular scenery in one place.  Rather than rambling on about it, I thought I would include lots of pictures and advise anyone who has never been to Arcadia to put it on your bucket list.

Thank you, Mr. Rockefeller.

-gw-





A Bigger Pond

15 10 2011

We got a good night’s sleep and woke up early, as usual.  The rain was gone but the wind was blowing very strongly.  As I have noted in previous posts,  we will fix our coffee and sit out by fish pond, watching the sunrise.  There is something very peaceful about the sound of the water and somehow the whole experience of being close to water seems to help us think clearer and makes it easier to solve any issues we may be facing.

This morning we decided that we needed to do the same thing in order to figure out what we are going to do during our five days in Bar Harbor.  Since we intentionally made no specific plans except for a fluid list of  “wannado’s” there was a lot to figure out before we set out on our adventure around Mt. Desert Island . We needed our fish pond but that was 1300 miles away.  So, we had to adapt and drink our coffee on the back porch of the Saltair Inn.

It’s such a nice bed and breakfast.  Matt and Kristi, the innkeepers, are super; no wonder the Saltair Inn is rated as the number one B&B in Bar Harbor.  As we sat there drinking very good coffee, Linda said that usually we can take care of any issue that faces us as we sit by the pond but today we just needed a bigger pond.  Fortunately, one was available in the backyard.

Problems solved.

-gw-





Just Fine!

15 10 2011

No pictures with this post but you would not believe the beautiful scenery we have viewed over the last 24 hours.  I-84 through Pennsylvania’s Pocano Mountains at this time of year is beyond description–maybe even more beautiful than Brown County.  Yeah, I know as a born-and-raised Hoosier that may sound like blasphemy but it’s true.

We stayed the night in Scranton but did not run into Dwight or Michael.

We drove for eleven hours today with rain the whole way.  This was our light day for driving.  We pulled into Bar Harbor at 6pm and immediately got lost.  A quick call to our B&B and we were in our room 15 minutes later.  To be honest we were totally exhausted but in a good way.

Shortly after confirming with the innkeeper that a pub we read about on the web was a good choice for a casual meal we found a parking place just a half a block from the front door of The Thirsty Whale; this is where the locals go.  We quickly found a table next to the front window so Linda could watch people walking down the street in the rain.  As we were enjoying a heaping plate of clams, shrimp, scallops and haddock along with bowls of authentic clam chowder and washing it down with wine and local micro-brews a guy and his wife walked through the front door and we made eye contact.  He was a jovial fellow and asked, “How you doing?”

I took a sip of my blueberry ale and said with all the sincerity I could muster,  “Just Fine.”

We both just grinned.

Tomorrow we will start to explore Acadia.  I will try to post some pictures.

-gw-