Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Like it or not, who we end up spending our lives with says so much about who we are.

It reflects our tastes, values, expectations, and outlook on life. If the relationship lasts it probably did so because you compliment your partner and don’t complicate their lives. It’s an unspoken, mutually understood, often camouflaged form of communication that works very well and has for years. It was probably based on trial and error and triumph and failure and the enduring commitment to another human being.

Over the years, I’ve always been curious about relationships. It started in high school with my first girlfriend then stumbled on to college with my second love and finally hit some kind of stride after graduation and a little more maturity.


I’ve always been attracted toward women who fit several criteria. Even back in high school, the standard was set and I’ve never deviated from it. They had to be attractive although I’ll admit that was probably more a hormonal reaction than anything else. They had to be pleasant to be around. ‘Comfortable’ is a word I’m not embarrassed to use. Finally they had to be smart. Not just your average intelligence but way above that average mark. Why I was attracted to women much smarter than myself I’ll never know. But it was real and firm and non-negotiable.  A smart woman can still curl my toes any day of the week.

Recently, Sharon had one of her ever-popular social events at our home. It was semi-formal dinner and then, as is reflective of Palm Springs, games were played afterwards. I had a great opportunity to observe the couples invited. It was a mixed group; straight and gay couples alike.

As I perused our guests it was fascinating to guess how and why certain couples connected and have stayed together over the years. It was hardly an Einstein-level analysis but did, nevertheless, cause me to reflect on the interactions in front of me.

For most couples, I could find traces of similarities between the two. Most gave away one or two clues as to what it was that kept them a pair for so long.

When I first met Sharon, we were both working at a public television station in Saint Paul. I was the night time station operator and she was still in college and the evening receptionist. My first seductive words to her after a brief introduction was: ‘Want to read my scripts.’ I knew she was an English major, very smart and could correct typos like the best of them. I also sensed she would give me an honest (even if it were painful) analysis of my writing. I was right on all counts. Still am.

Yet there was something else that made her different from all the others. She was the exact opposite of me in almost every way. According to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test I am an ISTJ…off the charts. Sharon is an ENFJ…off the charts. It’s become an on-going joke with our kids because we are so different in any category you can name. Yet it has worked out…rather well…for forty-five years.

If asked what does it takes for a relationship to work, I’m guessing the answers would be as varied and numerous as the persons asked.  Without love and friendship in our lives, life would be pretty empty. I’ve been incredibly lucky and have had a lifetime to attest to that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Who is Stalking Me Now

Back in 1999, noted intellectual Paul Krugman said that by 2005 the internet would be no more influential than the fax machine. Guess he got that a little wrong. The internet has given me a world-wide audience. Though still small in numbers it means exposure in foreign lands I never knew I would ever reach.

I now have a worldwide audience whether I intended for that to happen or not. It’s small but it’s real. My writing platform circles the globe from the United States to the United Kingdom. It covers India, skips through Asia and into Russia then back to Minnesota again. It also makes side trips to about a dozen other foreign countries and at least three-fourths of all the states.

But who are these folks that have been visiting my Facebook page and reading my blogs? Their names, gender and age are still a mystery. But their presence is very real according to the cyber bots that monitor such things.

Google Analytics and Facebook data have been most helpful in deciphering where my readers are coming from. It’s not an exact science and I certainly haven’t gotten a total grasp on my readership but it’s been most helpful in appreciating the scope and breath of my coverage.

There is a notable difference between data and analytics. ‘Data is the sensory information produced by a business that has its eyes and ears on operations and customers. While analytics is the brain that processes that information and provides insight which ideally leads a company to take meaningful action.’*

I have neither the complete data nor the ability to process the analytics relative to my own web sites. I guess, in the end, those exact names, gender and reading preferences matter little at this stage of my plowing the fertile fields of a reading audience.

What is important is the breath and width of my readership and the obligation I feel to be true to my writing self while giving my audience material to enjoy.

Apache Death Wind Trilogy | Apache Death Wind, Chaparral Fox, & City of the Dead

Apache Blue Eyes | Denis J. LaComb

A lot of my readers in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and India were generated by my westerns. There is a small but almost fanatical audience for Americana among these folks. Many of the readers stateside come from states or communities I am familiar with. It’s a safe assumption that I’m probably guessing correctly more than a few of who those readers are. I knew I had readers out in cyber space but I didn’t know the exact scope of my reach.

How or why a reader in Turkey, Uganda, the Philippines, or the Sudan would read my works is beyond me. But they do and at times have left comments on my blog space. There was a time when I had a large following in Russia which made me more than a little nervous but that has since subsided.

All of this data mining and analytics reminds me of the power and scope of the internet where a simple blog such as mine can travel through cyberspace around the world and garner responses from every corner of the globe.

I have no idea if my blogging is making a difference in expanding my writing platform. All I can do is continue to be ‘open and honest’ and see what comes of it. And if that audience enjoys my writing, agrees with it, or even disagrees with it, I can only hope that they find it a wise use of their time.

·        *CFO Magazine March 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

California Mountain High

Palm Springs is surrounded by a chain of mountains that offer respite from the chill of winter and the merciless winds of spring. The San Jacinto’s, the San Bernardino’s and a host of other granite citadels run the length of the Coachella Valley. On the far west side of the San Bernardino mountain chain lies the small hamlet of Crestline. While it lacks the glamor of the more popular ski resorts like Big Bear and Arrowhead it’s a perfect example of California mountain life.

For years Palm Springs residents have been escaping the summer heat for their cabin in the clouds. Much like my fellow Minnesotans heading up north to the cabin, this exodus takes place on weekends for the most part and during the week for those fortunate retirees.

Not that long ago we ventured up to a friend’s cabin located in the small town of Crestline, California. Growing up, I’d been to friend’s cabins up north. This experience was nothing like that. A cabin in mountainous California is not synonymous with a cabin in the Midwest.

To get there, a driver must climb from about 1000 feet sea level to over 5000 feet in less than twenty minutes. The road twists and turns and seems more like a roller coaster or bucking Broncho than a CALTRAN express highway. The serpentine roadways don’t end at the top of the mountain. Instead they continue like blacktop fingers that weave and curl and snake their way through the woods. There is nary a flat spot anyplace.

Minnesota cabins tend to follow a pattern. They’re laid out in square or rectangular plots and often border a lake or stream or river. California cabins are just the opposite. There seems to be little rhyme or reason for their placement. Cabins are located next to the road, above the road, below the road or far away from the road.

Homes are generally smaller here in the mountains than back in Minnesota. ‘My little cabin’ back in Minnesota is often ‘code’ for huge lodges or estates that line pristine lakes or a chain of lakes.

In the California Mountains, a cabin is a cabin and a lodge is a lodge.

Our friend’s cabin was about a cute and comfortable and cozy as one could ever ask for.

There seems to be little difference between the mountain communities of the San Bernardino’s and the high desert hamlets of Joshua tree and Twenty-Nine Palms.

Both are rural enclaves with the same folksy charm, the same reservations for outsiders and natural suspicions about folks from the big cities.

Sharon can be very sophisticated yet has a rural sensibility about her. She felt right at home in the high mountain air and conifer surroundings of our friend’s cabin. I loved the peace and quiet and solitude.

Like Sharon, it spoke to me - but in a different way.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Growing Apart

It happens to the best of us. A relationship born of fire and ice, anxious moments and lofty expectations burns brightly at first. Then over time and distance and changes within ourselves, something goes amiss. Friendships come and go and over time we grow apart from what was once dear to us.

The breakup is seldom dramatic, cinematic, or poignant. Instead, it’s an erosion of interest that’s been gradually razor-sleeved by commonality and now the mundane. What was once important no longer holds rein over your mind and ever so slowly you begin to realize that it doesn’t matter anymore.

If you had to do your ‘due diligence’ you would have seen a sometimes-gradual shift in interest, priorities, and attention to your present moment. And over time, what used to be important loses its gloss and glitter and attention to detail. It becomes just another facet of your life and in that maudlin state begins to decay from within.

Breaking up is more humane than pretending that something is what it isn’t. Somehow it is the right thing to do. There may be sadness but seldom regret. If any regret lingers it isn’t the fatal kind. It simply is what it is. Enough time has passed and other, hopefully better, things are now crowding your mind for attention to detail.

Some would argue that you’ve outgrown that relationship. They say people change, things change, life goes on…without you. While all those clichés might be flights of fancy, they can also be, more to the point, indicative of your present state of mind.

It happened here and it happened back home. Organizations, institutions, people, and activities that once seemed fulfilling are now passé or at best not as satisfying as my present host of new lives in both places.

When Sharon retired from a career in education she chose not to run for reelection to the city council. Her colleagues were stunned. It could have been a lifetime position they argued. “I’m moving on with my life” She replied. Some understood her reasoning while others simply didn’t get it.

When we first started coming out to Palm Springs it was fresh and exciting. We were exploring everything around us. I got involved in the writing community. We visited new neighborhoods, local and distant attractions, spots of interest, and of course, all the tourist traps. Then gradually continuing trips to the desert muted that enthusiasm for what we had already seen.

At first there were a plethora of consignment stores to shop for furnishings and items for our home. Gradually over time we filled every room and corner and consignment shopping lost its luster.

I used to go to Starbucks early each morning. But over time, a comfortable chair on the patio and cheaper coffee convinced me that I didn’t have to travel miles for a little quiet time.

I started working out at the Spa Hotel fitness center, moved on to the World gym then Golds Gym and finally the workout room at the Suguaro hotel on their social membership. It’s half the price and a lot more quiet. Works just as well for me.

The Palm Springs Writers Guild does a splendid job for novice and established writers alike. Yet over the years it too has changed along with its ever-evolving membership. I’ve belonged to several of its writers groups and participated in their Desert Writers Expo (book fair) several times. Now I find more and more of my time devoted to writing plays and focusing on my marketing efforts. The organization seems to have changed or perhaps I have matured as a writer. It’s still a worthwhile endeavor for me but not like before.

Palm Springs Parade of Lights

Our own neighborhood organization participated in the Palm Springs Festival of Lights for several seasons but that has also gone by the wayside.

Our lives in Palm Springs have changed and evolved with every trip to the desert. We’re established residents not settlers here anymore. We have a life that is patterned, comfortable and predictable. Yet we try to keep seeking new experiences and friends and groups that matter.

What used to be unique is now every day. What used to be important is now routine and matter of fact. Truth be told, nothing around us changed as much as we have. I’d like to think we grew and matured and gradually changed our priorities and interests and focus. In short, we grew apart from the things we once loved and liked and cared about.

It’s all part and parcel for the constant evolution of our lives. Almost as if life comes in phases and patterns and comfortable settings and then those also inevitably begin to change. Our children are born, get educated, married and then they’re gone. Grandchildren come and rapidly grow into adults. Change, as the cliché goes, is one of the few constants in our lives.

The secret I learned from my mother a very long time ago is to never stop moving, doing, creating and being. Just as places and people and events shape our lives so to do the actions that keep our minds fresh and alive. So keep moving and stir up the waters every once in a while to make it interesting. Hold on to the friends that you can keep and bid a hardy farewell to those you can’t. Wish them well and enjoy the ride. It’s the only one you’ve got.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Resin to Believe

Resin art | Sharon LaComb

I loathe those trite headlines that newspapers sometimes use when they’re trying to be oh so cute. Now having said that I’ll reverse course and say there is every ‘resin to believe’ that Sharon’s art has evolved dramatically since she began to pursue painting as more than just a hobby.

It’s an evolution I’ve been watching with more than a curious eye. All too often it seems that retirees plant their thoughts on ‘doing nothing’ after a lifetime of ‘doing everything.’

Unfortunately, neither the minds nor the bodies of these high-energy individuals are accustomed to such inactivity. Many folks stagnate and fall into bad habits such as the 4:00 cocktail hour or sleeping in. On the other hand, Sharon, along with her brush-stroke colleagues, have exchanged very productive and fulfilling past careers for new endeavors that are just as fulfilling for them as artists.

Casket Arts Building

Sharon began her artistic journey as a metal head and a blowtorch Nana post-retirement. After a career in academia and business, Sharon learned to pinch metal around stone like Giacometti and apply torching like Motherwell. She’s comfortable with heavy metal in her hands and blue-yellow flames framing her face. The Casket Arts Building in North Minneapolis was her first creative hangout. Now Sharon is finding her creative muse once again here in the desert.

A couple of years ago it was welding and metal art. Then it was making art out of old National Geographic magazines. From that it evolved to alcohol ink paintings. The particular arts and crafts exercise didn’t really matter as long as they suited her fancy…if even for the moment. Last summer Sharon began by dabbling in alcohol ink and acrylics as a novice painter.

Alcohol Paintings | Sharon LaComb

Alcohol painting is an acid-free, highly-pigmented, and fast drying medium used on non-porous surfaces. By mixing alcohol inks an artist can create a vibrant marbled effect. For many enthusiasts, it’s a new way of artistic self-expression. It means discovering the almost magical ethereal mutations that take place when alcohol colors mix and integrate into themselves. It’s layering colors, mixing tones and textures, morphing shapes and sizes into a kaleidoscope of  bastardized offspring’s of color. For its many disciples the process is full of constant discovery and, often times, pure amazement at the results. It’s like trying to cup liquid lightning in your hands.

Now Sharon has evolved past that stage and is exploring a plethora of other painting options. She’s been taking classes at the Palm Springs Art Center.

The building and the area surrounding it reminds me of Norde East Minneapolis but without the hipster shade of black and the aroma of Acapulco gold drifting through the area. It’s a little like the NKB building without the coolness of its eclectic patrons.

Resin Paintings | Sharon LaComb

Sharon is moving into new territory by exploring the application of alcohol inks directly into the resin application. She is applying crumpled up tissue paper for texture and depth and even burning the alcohol for a more dramatic effect.

I’ve even convinced her to explore the use of coloring resin before it hardens. I was cleaning up after her one day and found marvelous cast-off pieces of resin that had absorbed the run-off inks from her painting. The results were stunning.

There are a number of venues for Sharon and her fellow artists to explore all over town. The Uptown Art and Design District lines a boulevard of modern art, fashion and design items from around the world. The offerings range from unique to eclectic to eccentric. There are a host of vintage and modern furniture stores, fashion boutiques and art galleries. It’s like a bowl of ice cream for starving artists.

While Palm Springs has its art galleries there is nothing compared to the glitz and glamor of El Paseo Drive down Valley in Palm Desert. It is our own Rodeo Drive right here in the desert. Located in the heart of Palm Desert, El Paseo Drive is a siren’s call for the money-immune to shop their hearts away. El Paseo is known the world over for its signature showrooms, designer labels, and chic boutiques.

Sharon loves perusing the art galleries for their rare and exquisite pieces. For a mind now attuned to different styles and approaches to painting, she finds it a voyeur’s paradise. I find it shocking. The prices for most art pieces there are as high as the skirts worn at Coachella and just as shocking. If I muttered ‘seriously!’ once I must have breathed it a dozen times in as many galleries. Sharon just ignores my comments or steps away and pretends not to hear me.

In her new drive for artistic expression, Sharon has joined a number of Van Gogh’s disciples to find their collective creative muse. My point here is not to praise Sharon’s paintings per say but to admire her creative endeavors. She is exploring options and opportunities in paints and textures and mattes and chemical reactions to what she puts on canvas. Sharon is not afraid to do what she isn’t supposed to or what others may not have tried before. There are no limits to what she may discover or what she may create.

The lesson here for anyone in the creative arts is simple enough. Find something, anything to ignite that passion we all have within ourselves. Paint, dance, write, act and celebrate your life in any manner that turns you on. Find what it is that gets you excited each morning and anxious to jump get out of bed.

There is no better way to live your life than to do whatever it is you want to do.

Find it, embrace it, live it, be it.