Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My First Affair

 I’ve been carrying on this love affair most of my life. Well, at least starting in grade school. She was a true blue-blood American. No surprise there since my world didn’t really exist beyond the boundaries of my Saint Paul neighborhood. I think we were first introduced on my eighth birthday

Unfortunately, she was rather large and chunky. She even had a funny name. Our affair lasted until eighth grade when other forms of distractions took my mind away from such childish behavior. There wasn’t a lot of emotion attached to her so I wasn’t really sorry to see her go.

My second affair began when I was about twenty-one. By then I was old enough to know better but still brazen enough to think I could handle another love. I did much better this second time around. She was so different from my first. She was French. She was lean and light and moved like a gazelle. She had a very strong and powerful presence about her. I could pronounce her name even if I couldn’t spell it. This second time around, I was truly smitten and real emotion was involved.

That second affair has lasted a lifetime. Granted, my partners have changed over the years but the sheer joy of the act never gets old…even at my age.

My first affair was with a Huffy. The name was so appropriate because without constant practice riding her was just an exercise in huffing and buffing your way up and down the hills. It was more like maneuvering a pachyderm without the elevation. Besides, I always thought she had a sissy name. The cool kids all rode Schwinn’s. Who wants to ride a bicycle named Huffy even in third grade? Melted down today, there would probably be enough heavy metal in her to build a light cruiser.

My second beauty was named Peugeot. A French racing bike that lived up to its reputation in the Tour De France and other international bicycle racing events. Not that I ever got to that level. But it did take me on my first century and my second Tram. The first was a hundred mile bike ride in one day. The second was ‘balls to the walls’ ‘hauling derriere’ across the state of Minnesota and loving every hilly mile of it. My son and I covered over 500 miles in less than six days.


At one time, I had a respectable stable of bicycles. I had two road bikes, a mountain bike and a hybrid/city bike plus a couple more bikes in Palm Springs. But one of my racing bikes eloped, went to Denver and never came back. Now my son has his own love affair going on with bicycles. 

But I’ve still got my old Peugeot, a mountain bike and my old reliable hybrid/city bike. And, of course, a city bike in Palm Springs equipped with saddle bags for grocery shopping and garage-sailing, as well as long distance rides

But road bikes aren’t the only game in town. My hybrid or city bike has taken me on long trips riding the length and breadth of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. It’s taken me on long rides throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul, discovering parts of the city I never knew existed other than from glimpses on the freeway overpass.

My city rides are always the most fun. They usually begin on Summit Avenue very early on a Saturday morning. The first stop is coffee and breakfast at a coffee shop in the Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Then it’s off to see the world for at least that Saturday morning.

I used to find inner peace and tranquility on my long distance runs. Once on the road, I was oblivious to my surroundings and awash with thoughts that flowed easily in and out of my mind. It was all about getting lost mentally and often physically and not really caring. 

My bike rides now perform the same function. They have become a total disengagement from my so-called real world and have taken me into a state of just being at one with nature. Some would argue that melancholy is incompatible with cycling. It is a kind of meditation on wheels. It’s a free flowing form of yoga that keeps my surroundings swirling in my peripheral vision and yet allows me to be unaware of it at the same time.


It is tapping into the spiritual side of my being which, in turn, opens a floodgate of thoughts and ideas and visions. This avalanche of images is often captured by my tape recorder and ends up as treatment ideas, dialogue, scenes and story content. It is a magical, mystical wondrous experience that never ceases to amaze me with its power.

Apparently I’m not alone in my love affair with biking and other activities bicycle-related.  I always go to two web sites on bicycles with my early morning coffee. The first is called Momentum. It’s a web site that focuses on bicycles as transportation.

The second is called Cycle Chic from Danmark. Many experts agree that it really was the catalyst for the whole bicycle movement that is now growing by leaps and bounds in most cities.  The site focuses on bicycles as a fashion statement among other things.

There are a plethora of other sites that cover bicycle-related items
                                                            NYTimes article: End of the car culture

This life-long interest in biking has spilled over into my writing. My first screenplay, now in its second revision stage, is called Trans Con.  It involves two individuals caught up at crisis points in their lives while they are in the middle of nowhere, America, crossing the country on their bicycles. I’m looking for a producer to help me produce the movie.

All five of my grandchildren are riding bikes. Charlotte was the last to learn but with her prodigious appetite for besting the others, I expect she will be sprinting ahead of the pack in no time at all.

I may eventually end up in some sag wagon following behind the gang of five as they fade into the distance. But that’s alright.

Seeing them in the midst of their own love affair will bring joy to my heart…as it has for all these many years.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mexico before Captain Morgan and the Babes

The painful lesson I learned early on was never to go home on leave when you’re in the service. I did that once between boot camp and my first assignment in California. It was very brief but uncomfortable never-the-less. All my friends were still in college and I had five days to kill before heading out west with three Army buddies in an ancient Buick convertible and a case of beer. It was five days of boredom at home and a vacuum in my life before I got back on the road and into the swing of things. Even seeing my girlfriend was painful because of its brevity.

The second and last trip home was between my country club existence at the Presidio of San Francisco and the hell-hole during the summer known as Fort Polk, Louisiana. During that painful week home, I endured hours of boredom, aimless trips around town in my car and a very painful trip to the train station where my girlfriend was going to South Bend, Indiana for a Notre Dame weekend. Never again, I promised myself. I wouldn’t be going back home again until I was discharged and home for good.

So when my two weeks leave came up, I was determined to head south to the land of beautiful senoritas, soft sandy beaches and all the cheap liquor I could drink. It was a travel itinerary that only a love-starved, adventurous idealist could envision … little of it akin to the reality of the trip itself. I was off to Mexico and Acapulco for the adventure of a lifetime … or at least two weeks’ worth.

The travel guide assured me that the buses heading down to Mexico City were all air-condition-ed. That was true until most of the rural passengers rolled down their windows to get fresh air. We all endured hot air blasting through the bus for the entire trip. Near the mountainous passes along the way, our bus driver decided to race another bus ahead of us. It became a cliché most of the way to Mexico City. I kept envisioning the headlines about one or both of our buses careening off the gravel roadway and crashing down into the rock-strewn canyons below. When I asked my fellow passengers in my rough, crude Spanish about the driving, they just shrugged their shoulders and replied: “Si, Si.” Common behavior for the drivers, I guess.

This was Mexico in 1965 before drug cartels ruined the idealist picture we had of that wonderful country and Captain Morgan began competing with Patron tequila to seduce all the fair campus maidens on spring break.

Back in ’65, Mexico City was a bustling metropolis of poor and even poorer folks. There were too many cars and trucks for the roadways and the smell of diesel fumes was everywhere. I never felt unsafe but the hotel clerk was quick to point out where I should and shouldn’t be heading out at night.

The University of Mexico had a beautiful library. The building itself was world-renowned and I spent several hours just wandering its many rooms and open spaces. I tried my Spanish but the smiles and chuckles I got in response told me I was making more a fool of myself than I realized.

One of my tours took me to the pyramids outside of town.

The bus ride to Acapulco was even more harrowing than the ride into the capitol city. Sheer cliffs edged the roadway as cars and trucks and other buses passed each other with impunity. Again I thought I was surely going to be another bus causality and tomorrows headline.

Acapulco was a beautiful, undiscovered beach town back then. It was world-famous for its cliff-divers, miles of soft sandy beaches and college students who came to party. The beaches were great. The cliff-divers were spectacular. But the college students never materialized. It was just another bunch of international traveling raga-muffins, lost souls from the states, rich kids on spring break and one soldier boy trying to hide his identify and fit in with the in-crowd.

We had been warned repeatedly never to drink the water. During my stay in Mexico City, I adhered to that warning and only drank bottled water, pop or beer. When I got to Acapulco and the beer flowed freely, my guard slipped a little.

I was lounging in some sea-side resort, nursing my beers and enjoying the sun and surf and abundant skin. A group of young women came by and asked to join my solo observation deck. They crowded around me and we began to wax philosophically about the states and school (I think I said I was college in the Midwest) old boyfriends and buff guys on the beach. I sucked in my gut and continued to enjoy their colorful company. As the only male in the group, I was getting a lot of attention and my head began to swell with wondrous fantasies of a questionable nature.

The waiter came by and we all ordered soft drinks. When he asked if we wanted ice in our drinks because the pop was warm…the cooler had broken down that morning…we call chimed in ‘yes’ and let it go at that.

The conversation continued unabated until storm clouds appeared in my stomach and loud rumblings ran spasms through my body. I was the first to feel the full impact of Montezuma’s Revenge. Luckily I made it to the rest room in time. But by the time I recovered and returned to the beach, everyone else was gone. I was there for another day and hoped I wouldn’t see any of them again…too embarassing. Thankfully, I never did.

On a sadder note, I took a boat ride and sat down next to a pleasant blue-blood from the East Coast. He was on holiday with his parents and anxious to get back to his Ivy League school and perfect girlfriend. Everything he said about his life struck a sour note considering the condition of my life at that time. It would have been easier if he had been a jerk instead of a very pleasant privileged, talented young man on the rise. Not only was the world his oyster, his parents owned the whole sea bed at the time.

We shook heads at the end of our boat ride and promised to write one another. But we both knew our paths would never cross again. He was a nice guy but came from a different planet.

I wished him well and then headed for my bus and my own reality.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Women are Smarter than Men

I’ve always had this thing for brainy women. But it turns out I had no idea what I was getting myself into a lifetime ago. Years of confusion just because I was attracted to this strange species which only recently I discovered actually had a name attached to it.

Now I’m not talking about a woman’s intellectual capacity. That’s a given between the two genders. What I’m talking about is an intuitive second-nature that seems so natural for many of the women I knew and still know today. It’s an understanding of how the world works that sometimes escapes many of the men I know…myself included.

I think it’s in their genes. Perhaps some kind of ancient biological metamorphosis that rendered women better able to process life’s intricacies and then somehow translate them into something that actually makes sense. It’s a skill that not a lot of men possess. Men are too logical and rational. We’re too black and white. The grays get it more often than not.

Like the women presently in my life, I’ve been most fortunate to have had interesting women woven through my past lives. Now I find after all these years there is actually a name for these special kind of women…. Alpha females, who knew?

On the Urban Dictionary web site, the definition of an alpha female is the dominant female in a group. She is intelligent, an intellectual problem solver and a hard worker as well as often busy. Yep, that pretty much describes those women I’ve known and still know today.

I stumbled across another site called Askmen.com. The site had a list of “Six signs that you’re dating an alpha female.” OMG…reading it was like discovering your own Myers-Briggs Personality Profile for the first time. Suddenly a light bulb goes off and many of those incidents, events and actions and reactions on her part actually make sense now…at least from her point of view.

Talk about eye-opening. Where was that information fifty plus years ago when I thought dating was like dancing though a field of clover and it was actually a minefield instead. Right from the beginning the roles were reversed. It wasn’t a fair contest and I didn’t even know it.

You’d think that after stumbling through high school (dating a girl who eventually married a doctor) I would have learned my lesson and dated safer women. Not a chance, the woman I dated in college finished school in three years and ended up marrying a fellow who became department chair at one of the service academies.

Undaunted, I continued my quest and kept seeking out stimulating women whose company I enjoyed…even if they were a challenge sometimes. So what happened to that unsuspecting lamb? I ended up marrying the leader of the pack. Her upbringing and background qualify her for such status as I tried to document in The Girl with Seven Suede Jackets.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my wife is right about most things 90% of the time. Of course, she would claim 100% all of the time but that’s just her personality.

Does it bother me? Yes and no.

No, it doesn’t bother me. The advice I get is heart-felt and usually right on the money. The advice is free and plentiful. Well, not exactly free, I’m married to it and it is OUR money.

Yes, of course, it bothers me.

 Its tiring having your spouse always be right. It can be irritating at times especially when the obvious is presented as so rational and logical that only a fool wouldn’t be able to grasp it the first time around.

But that doesn’t make women perfect. Far from it. They can be irrational, illogical, emotional and quick to judge. They can act coy and elusive and consider that being safe. They can give mixed messages and consider it undecided. They can play one against the other and consider it evening the odds.

I’ve known enough women to never underestimate their intuitive nature and their ability to see the obvious even if it’s well camouflaged to most men. That’s what I was trying to say in The Dutiful Wife. That women are inherently more intuitive than most men and shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

Smart, brainy women are a cut above the rest and that’s why they populate most of my novels and screenplays. They’re simply more interesting characters with a depth and richness that is fun to mine.

 My wife, daughter and daughter-in-law are among some of the smartest women I know. But even before that I had a thing for women who could hold their own in conversation and life. My weakness continues to this day. I’m still surrounded by smart, intuitive women and I love it.
My wife likes to pontificate that if men were smarter they’d realize that just the smallest of gestures made without any specific purpose or goal in mind is a million times more effective than the expected holiday gift or birthday offering. If men knew or just understood that simple fact, they could get just about anything they wanted.

Yeah, I would agree…except if it’s that simple how come it’s so hard to do?

 I have a good friend who is just coming out with a new book on love. It’s entitled “I’m in Love. Am I Crazy.” She’s got an interesting take on the whole subject of love. It’s not a clinical approach but rather an intuitive approach. Her preface spells it pretty well.

Several years ago, I ran across an article entitled, “Even Neanderthals Get the Blues” by Russell Banks. It was a humorous article about how men are a different species of hominid than women. He goes on to state that men are much more like the now extinct Neanderthals with their redundant upper body strength, roughly delineated facial features and abundant body hair. Women are more like Cro-Magnons with their smooth skin and elegantly proportioned bodies.

He points out how behaviors are also different. Men express frustration and disappointment by making loud noises and pounding their hairy chests, while women admit they have “issues” and seek advice from their friends.
     About 35,000 years ago the Cro-Magnons outsmarted the Neanderthals, and in my humble opinion, nothing much has changed. He chases after you until you catch him.

     I saved this tongue-in-cheek Neanderthal article and added it to my huge file of tidbits, facts and stories on the subject of romantic love. I find the process of “falling in love” fascinating and mysterious.

     Love has been the theme of humankind’s most passionate operas, plays, novels, poetry, songs, sculptures and paintings. Romantic love has filled our lives with beauty and joy. But when our love is scorned, our feelings can become excruciatingly painful and bring out our worst behaviors even self- destruction and murder.

      I will share with you some bizarre true stories that show just how powerful our perception, attitude and brain chemicals are, in controlling our behavior.

     Although, we now have the scientific technology to study our brain and our blood when we are “in love”, we can’t even begin to answer questions like: How can we tell the difference between love and lust at the beginning of the relationship? Will our love at first sight last? How important is good sex to the scheme of things? Can we fall back “in love” when we’ve fallen out of love?

     In my search to find answers I have read a variety of sources, and I have interviewed hundreds of women young and old, both formally and casually. Every time I thought I’d found an answer, I’d find an exception.

     In the beginning chapter I will attempt to explain how the first stage of romantic love eventually morphs into something different. If you have chosen a partner that recognizes you as unique and valuable and treats you with respect, you will gain strength and courage you didn’t know you had. But if your partner is selfish and grasping, it will limit your potential and undermine your self-confidence. I have experienced both kinds of men. It is easy for a woman “in love” to mistake control for caring.

     The intention of this book is to help you be more aware of all the light and dark places love can take you, and that this awareness will help you make better choices.

Now that my granddaughters are growing up and while I know I sound like a doting grandfather waxing poetically about his kin, I can see that they are all very bright and strong-willed. It would not be a stretch to say they are becoming true alpha females, all three of them. I’ve already gone off on that topic in Constant Charlotte.

I used to worry about my granddaughters when they were old enough to begin dating. Now I worry about their dates instead. Those poor guys won’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Maybe I should meet them at the door and explain what my granddaughters are really like.

No, I don’t think so. It took me a lifetime to figure out those kind of women and I’m still working at it.

They’re going to have to figure it out for themselves.

 A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle
                                                                    -Gloria Steinem

When she stopped conforming to the conventional picture

of femininity she finally began to enjoy being a woman.  
                                                                          -Betty Friedan

I don’t need a man to rectify my existence. The most profound

relationship we’ll ever have is the one with ourselves.
                                                                              -Shirley McLaine

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Two Monkeys Running Up My Arm

It was going to be a quick weekend jaunt to Denver to visit our son and his family…with grand grandma Charlotte in tow. It turned out to be a wonderful generational exchange of old world views and the modern family…with a lot of activities squeezed in between.

But first came my tattoo. I used to say that only marines and truck drivers got tattoos. Now I’ve joined that genre of outlaws. Fortunately, my tattoo isn’t permanent and was administered by Spencer, my high octane grandson. He calls the two monkeys running up arm, the Boo Brothers. I’m sure that’s from some cartoon television series that I’ve never heard of. But Spence and I both got them so we’re bonded for at least a week or longer…soap depending.

It was important that great grandma Charlotte have a good time. I think we succeeded on all fronts. As is always the case when we visit Denver, the list of activities and crafts seems endless and to a degree they are, only curtailed by the need to return home.
First came Maya’s fourth triathlon

Brian built the kids a back yard obstacle course this summer. What, a simple swing set wouldn’t suffice?

I’ve always said my grandchildren might all become theater majors. Maya seems headed in that direction. We attended her recital at the end of her summer acting class.

Reading is always a daily ritual whenever we’re in Denver…even great Grandma got into the action.

Game-playing can run the gamut from ‘Sequence for kids’ to ‘I spy’ to making sticker books.

Baking apple pies, making chocolate-covered pretzels, decorating door hangers and the list just keeps going on.

Ceramics capped off the last day in Denver.

It was a wild and wooly four days in the mile-high city and great Grandma Charlotte got to participate in a lot of activities that weren’t a part of her daily routine. I think she had a good time and the grandchildren loved to see her again. The generational differences didn’t really matter in the end. The kids were themselves and great Grandma has seen it all before anyway

Whether great Grandma Charlotte ever travels back to Colorado in the future is up to her. But this visit solidified in the kid’s minds a wonderful image of that gray haired lady who smiled a lot, read them many books but wouldn’t get a tattoo no matter how much they begged her. 

And I’ll let those monkeys continue to run up my arm until sun and showers gradually fade them away. The grandkids wouldn’t have it any other way.