Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Through No Fault of My Own

I give total credit to my Uncle Milton for getting me into Cretin High School in 1957. I knew even back then that it would be a turning point in my life. I count that event as one of a half dozen significant crossroads in my life. At the time only three or four students were chosen from area schools to attend Cretin. Four had already been selected from my tiny Catholic grade school downtown. I wasn’t one of them. The alternative was a not very good public high school down the hill from where I lived.

As fate intervened some eight-grader somewhere dropped out of that selection process and my Uncle (tight with the administration) got me in. I have forever been grateful for that lucky intervention in his part. It was the first major step for me academically and creatively. I would not be the person I am today if that hadn’t happened.

Turns out there were a number of other significant turning points, milestones and incidents that shaped my life back then and now. Events that happened which had nothing to do with me except everything.

I recently came across some of Sharon’s old grade school papers, class records and other educational materials. From approximately second grade on, she was leading class projects, had numerous leadership roles throughout grade school and high school and was organizing fund-raising efforts (pagan babies, anyone) before it became the fifty’s equivalent to Cabbage Patch Babies…well, sort of.  Her list of accomplishments goes on well beyond college and into her academic, business and political career. When I first met her she was working as a nighttime receptionist, going to school fulltime, heavily involved in extra-curricular educational activities on campus and held several leadership positions. Measuring her stellar academic career to mine is no comparison at all.

Comparing her outgoing charismatic personality is mine is also no comparison. She is an ENFJ; off the charts. I am an ISTJ; off the charts. So how is it that two very different people met, connected and have been happily married for over forty-five years? I thought it was because I proposed to her. Turns out, it was because she chose me. Reflecting back, it had everything to do with her choice in a future husband more than my proposal.

KTCA TeleCenter

It was approximately 8:34 am on Friday, November 23rd, 1993 that my boss called me into his office and told me it was over. He was firing me for obstencively not reaching my yearly financial goal although we both knew that wasn’t the real reason. Politics had raised its ugly head and he was just maneuvering to avoid his own pending dispatch. That ploy didn’t work since he was canned six months later.

That event was significant not because it was the only time I’d ever been fired from a job. Turns out, it was the impetus I needed to focus solely on my business and real estate investments. Sharon said it best when I called her with the news. “OK,” She said, “now you can spend more time with the kids and focus on your business.”

And that was just what I did. Being freed from the toxic atmosphere of the the station allowed me to focus on my new career. I’d like to pretend that I made that decision on my own since it propelled my business to new heights and expanded my range of investments. But that wouldn’t be the truth. I got fired and that event pushed me in a new and much better direction.

It was the same kind of incident that nudged me into becoming a full-time writer. My production company had been producing a series of cable programs for the city. It had become more and more apparent that my contact person at the city didn’t want me to continue. He made every effort to discourage my participation and it eventually worked. I got so fed up with his arrogant, ignorant behavior that I finally called it quits. I was suddenly left with no more contracts, few new business leads and fatigue. It was time to do something else. That turned out to be a full-time career as a writer. Again, I’d love to pretend that I made that decision on my own. But I didn’t, it took a jerk in time to get me redirected.

My novels have covered a number of different genres; westerns, suspense mysteries, coming-of-age, drama-romance, and non-fiction. It was just another lucky turn of events that got me into the YA, young adult market.

My latest novel, ‘Follow the Cobbler’ had been under the editing knife of my editor for several months when she commented that her two (very bright and well-read) daughters had been looking over her shoulder and commenting on the storyline. They thought it might make a very good YA novel with the proper editing.

As the legend goes, they helped my editor with editing the original manuscript of ‘Cobbler’ with a focus on eliminating the too graphic, violent, and sexual parts. Then they created the new book cover and a new title.

Again, I’d like to pretend that I saw the potential in ‘Cobbler’ as a YA novel but nothing could be further from the truth. It took several pairs of younger eyes to see the options available for an entirely different kind of reading audience.

Throughout my life I’m sorry to say there has never been some grand plan or keen-eyed focus on setting goals or even some surgical strategy that wove through the distractions and obstacles of life. Many of those events/turning points happened to me through no fault of my own or, dare I say, no control on my part. They were all the result of lucky coincidence, the alignment of the stars, proper preparation and perhaps something deep inside that absorbed the hit and kept me going.

There are probably a lot more examples in my life where outside events and people made a significant impact, seen or initially unrecognized on my future. Now with the advantage of miles traveled, lifelong experiences and proper reflection I can see the genuine luck I’ve had in so many different ways.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Bentley at McDonalds

Palm Springs is a different kind of animal; always has been. Most resort communities sport the ubiquitous gated enclaves of look-alike signature homes surrounding a golf course where every home has a swimming pool in the backyard. Those enclaves of understated wealth are sprinkled with a flavoring of casinos, fine dining, expensive shops and one-of-a-kind amenities meant to separate the cake from the chaff. Palm Springs is all that but much more. Sometimes the ‘more’ isn’t quite what the Chamber of Commerce would like to promote. Yet that is what separates this desert community from so many others.

Palm Springs is unique not only because of its storied history; real and imagined. It’s been around long enough to have grown old and stale then reborn many times over. Through the decades it has attracted both the rich and the poor, the smart and not so smart, the hip and those decidedly uncool and all manners of life form in-between.

Many of the other desert communities down Valley hide behind their miles of stucco walls, ficus hedges and other obstacles to peeking inside. Not so with Palm Springs. What there is to see is out in the open and revealed for all. Natives and visitors alike come to realize very quickly that this is the normal of Palm Springs and not the exception.

Dawn in the desert is a very special time of day of many of its natives. Not only for the beautiful sunrise that paints finger-thin rays of mustard yellow against the still sleeping mountains. Or the fleeting glimpses of coyotes on the golf course returning from their nocturnal hunt. The hours just after dawn seem to draw out an interesting assortment of characters intent on enjoying the cool of morning before the heat of the day.

Rowan Hotel


In the past few years Palm Springs got so dated that it became hip all over again. What was once old like mid-century modern architecture is now all the rage. Tired old motels have been revamped, remodeled, spruced up and now charge ten dollars for a bottle of beer. (But wait, I’m dating myself.) Fifties throw-away furniture fetches a fortune in design stories and replicas fare just as well. Old is new again and thus hip for those born twenty-thirty years ago. A traveler back in time like me can only smile and think about the untold wealth we took to Goodwill way back when.

While most resort communities follow the unwritten rule of retirement; sleep in, coffee on the patio and face the day on the right side of dirt, natives on the north end of the Coachella Valley are different. Early morning in Palm Springs comes to mind as a perfect example of this.

In Palm Springs it takes a lot to turn heads if you’ve been here for more than three deep breaths. For example, there’s something decidedly unremarkable about a hundred and fifty thousand dollar Bentley parked in front of McDonalds or the elderly owner inside sipping his cheap cup of coffee-with refills. Or the classic 1964 tan mustang convertible parked in front of True Value hardware. A hipster arriving at our newest hotel in town ‘The Rowen’ wouldn’t turn an eye with his vintage corvette.

The gardeners and pool boys file in and out of convenience stores for their cheap coffee, unhealthy snacks and caffeinated beverages. At the other end of the healthy lifestyle spectrum, joggers and bikers perform their morning ritual before the rest of us finish that first cup of Joe. If you see a couple with a baby stroller, chances are there is a dog or cat inside instead of a baby.

Garage sale professionals clamor for their place in line before morning coffee. They pass the homeless who have wandered in from the desert to secure their place on busy intersections with their cardboard signs. Runners outpace the sunrise and elderly spinsters exit Ralph’s super market in high heels and make-up at seven in the morning.

Centenarians are on the golf course for their sunrise special and then haunt the coffee shops before most of us are even awake.

The older set is in the Saguaro swimming pool for exercise class before their grandchildren’s generation has returned to bunk down. These women are an accomplished lot who want to spend their time as they please. And frankly, they don’t care what others might think about grandma and grandpa sipping their first cup of Joe at the Casino or country club instead of squirreling their children’s inheritance away.

It’s all part and parcel of life here in the desert.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Living with an Artist

Retirement is a funny thing. Everyone approaches it differently. Some folks embrace the concept with enthusiasm for the measured time ahead. Other take a more cautious approach, judging time and money spent in return for what?   I found my calling pretty quickly and have settled into a routine that satisfies my soul as well as my curious mind. Sharon took a little longer but has finally found her focus.

I’m living with an artist now. Her lifestyle has changed and evolved over the past couple of years. The changes were subtle at first then grew more focused as an interest in the arts became her new found passion. In the beginning, it was metal art and welding. Gradually those endeavors evolved into alcohol ink and acrylics. Now it’s become a full blown exploration and examination of various painting mediums, methods and techniques. In that process of experimentation, my wife has begun mixing and matching a plethora of textures, patterns and applications to see the results. She is also learning the disciplines associated with her many different approaches to her art.

The residue of her artistic endeavors can be seen everywhere; on the kitchen table, in corners, the basement and even Brian’s old bedroom. There is evidence of her art projects all over the place. Picture frames and paints are stacked everywhere.

Sharon can no longer chide me for stacking papers on the floor of my writing room (Melanie’s old bedroom). The artist’s ammunition has come to rest and now even Sharon understands it must go somewhere.

Out west, our kitchen nook has become her artist’s work space and there will soon be a new gallery up in the hallway. There already is a wall of art back in Minnesota.

Sharon takes art classes at the Northrup King Building in Norde East Minneapolis and at the Palm Springs Art Center. Her work is being displayed in a design store at International Market Square and she hopes to soon be represented in the desert.

It has given both of us both a new focus on life…not that the old one wasn’t pretty good too. We are attending art gallery openings, finding new venues where Sharon might display her work and meeting fellow artists here and there. It’s prompted me to explore new venues for my plays both here and throughout the Coachella Valley.

Sharon’s venture into painting is less impressive than her embracing the true spirit of her craft. She is experimenting, succeeding at times and failing at others and trying again. There is a sense of urgency and a crusade that she is on. She is finding her voice, her comfort level and self-expression in her art. Sharon’s art is the story of her thoughts and feelings and moods and ambitions.

Sharon’s paintings energize her and give her a reason to care. It is carrying her beyond past academic success to newfound pleasures of the soul. Now she is passing on that knowledge to her grandchildren.

Family paintings inspired by Sharon

It means fulfillment for Sharon as an artist, an explorer, and a person. It now defines who she is and what she has become. It is a life filled with purpose and meaning.

Been there, done that, doing it.  I know what it’s like. I couldn’t be more proud of everything she’s accomplished thus far and will in the future.