Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sleeping on a Film Set

Just spent a few days with my daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and granddaughter in Dallas on either side of a business aviation conference in Las Vegas. Pleasant, hectic, invigorating, a bit of sadness, fun, did I say fun?, more fun, fascination …

I slept in what was once Sawyer’s bedroom, which became Georgia’s playroom when he moved upstairs to bunk beds, which more recently became a production set for filming. Sawyer is an actor, and Georgia makes her stage debut this week in Honk! (Sawyer is the lead: Ugly, as in Ugly Duckling.) The room was set up as a bedroom for shooting a portion of an Indie film a couple weeks earlier, so Alicia and Bryan decided it would make a good place for me to keep my suitcases and sleep.

The best mornings were weekends when S and G would bounce into ‘the set,’ armed with books, toys, and video games. We’d just hang out for awhile until it was time for breakfast.

Over the course of portions of about a dozen days together, we went to Dave & Buster’s for arcade games (Sawyer is a champion ticket-generator), the Meatballs 2 movie, a neighborhood Halloween event with plenty of games and candy, watched an episode of Walking Dead zombies on TV (had never seen it before … 5-year-old Georgia says nonchalantly, ‘It’s just makeup, Papa’), read some stories (G even read one to me to show her new vocabulary skills), watched Georgia’s softball practice, took G to her gymnastics class, and showed some videos I shot of Argeles-sur-mer and Geneva.

I got to see dress rehearsal for Honk! – for which they’d best hand out tissues with the playbill because Sawyer’s opening song about being “different” is going to make just about everyone cry.

I don’t know how Alicia and Bryan maintain their overly full schedule of work, school prep and related school events, acting classes, auditions (including frequent 7-hour roundtrips to Austin), theater production rehearsals, costume/wardrobe planning, and the typical physical and emotional needs of a 9-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl. I get tired just watching the whirlwind, much less being caught up in it for a time.

They actually have a spreadsheet to keep track of where everyone is supposed to be. This is Tuesday? That would be school for S and G, work for A and B, followed by acting class for S, play rehearsal for G, and maybe Scrooge rehearsal for A (she’s playing Mrs Cratchit this year). Whew!

Friday, October 25, 2013

You Stole What From Where?

I stole something from the Sheriff's office.

You read that right. The Sheriff's office.

It was not intentional.

I went to the Sheriff's office a few days ago. Not going to tell you which Sheriff's office, so they don't come and arrest me. I was requesting a document from them - ironically, an affidavit that I have no criminal record.

The nice lady said it would take her a few minutes to produce the document, so naturally I searched for something to read. First thing I picked up was the local city magazine, and breezed through the features extolling the 'burb's virtues and wonderfulness lifestyle. Plus a few ads for the nice smiles local dentists could give you, swimming pools, and how to gain new friends through breast augmentation.

Finished the city promotional, so went in search of something else to read. The only other choice was a copy of Cooking Light magazine. Why not? I've been trying to learn to cook more meals because our rule is one cooks, the other cleans. And since Donna-Lane does most of the cooking, I do most of the ...

It was quite a good magazine, lots of recipes, lots of ingredients I now know what they are and what they taste like. In fact, I've decided to order an online subscription - only $12 for the first year of 12 issues. Such a deal! Here's the link if you want to order for yourself -

Guess I was absorbed in the recipes when the nice lady came out with my documents - in triplicate. I immediately turned my attention to her ... and completely forgot I had the magazine in my hand, along with a couple of other documents I'd brought with me.

I did not realize I still had the magazine until I got home.

Could not believe I pilfered a publication, and started wondering if they had me on camera and I was headed for the pokey.

So that night, I put on my all-black clothes, got a Halloween mask, broke into the Sheriff's office, and returned the magazine.

Okay, not quite. Since I had gone to the Sheriff's office late on a Friday, and I left on the weekend for a conference in a city far, far away (not saying what country), I had to wait until I returned to the place where the Sheriff's office is located.

I took the magazine back a couple hours ago - with the intention of apologizing to the receptionist, but there was no one there, and another nice lady was helping a family at the window so did not want to interrupt them. I placed the magazine on the table and tip-toed out the door.

Just hope they don't rescind my not-a-crook affidavit.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oh, the Agony

Got out the hacksaw and cut my putter in half. Sorry, friend; it's better this way.

I supposed I could have simply snapped it over my knee, as I used to do with misbehaving golf clubs when I was a teenager.

But my Rife broomstick putter has been very, very good to me, especially considering I got it free from the manufacturer at the PGA Merchandise show a few years back, thanks to my buddy Art. (He always said the pay in golf writing is lousy but some of the perks aren't bad.)

Why did I have to cut it? That's the only way it will fit in my suitcase to get it over to Europe. At 48 inches, it was too long to fit my golf travel bag. Shipping it would cost at least $100 and checking it as an extra piece of luggage would also cost $100. For less than half that, I can get a new shaft and grip in Saint Cyprien - and it needs a new grip anyway.

And, no, the broomstick putter is not 'illegal' by the new USGA rules. What's no longer allowed is 'anchoring' the club against your body - I can still use the club. Though I'm sure I will have to explain that to everyone I play with for the next few years.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Played a US Open golf course

Had the pleasure of playing golf at the Northwood Club in Dallas with my award-winning golf writer friend, Art Stricklin. The course was in fantastic shape, though I do admit to some turf damage on my early no-warmup swings. First time I played since July in Montreal, though I have range-practiced a couple of times in Saint-Cyprien.

Art showed me where Ben Hogan lost the 1952 US Open when his long iron approach into the 6th bounced over the firm green and across Alpha Road. Julius Boros won the event. Sweet-swinging Jay also won the 1963 Open at The Country Club in Brookline, site of the "shot heard round the world" in 1913 when young Bostonian Francis Ouimet beat the Brits, Vardon and Ray; scene of Justin Leonard's "The Putt" in the 1999 Ryder Cup; and where I played in the 1968 US Junior which Eddie Pearce won and Gary Koch was medalist.

On Monday, Art is running the annual fundraising tournament at Northwood for Marketplace Ministries (, which provides about 3,000 chaplains for prisons and workplaces, serving over 50,000 people. This is now one of four MM fundraising tournaments each year around the country. I was able to donate some items for the auction and prizes, and before meeting me Art had picked up some memorabilia from Justin, who happens to be one of my clients.

The weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny, slightly cool, but not requiring a sweater. Great day ... of course, any day playing golf anywhere is a great day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


My grandson Sawyer Bell has the lead in Honk! Jr., a musical theatrical version of Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling.

The story has a great message for all of us about prejudice against someone who may be different, whether nationality or skin color or disability or personality.

Here are part of the lyrics: 

I didn’t choose to look this way
I didn’t want to be unique
I don’t like these grubby feathers
And I hate my stubby beak
There’s a runt in every litter
One black sheep in every flock
But when you know it’s you
Somehow your ego takes a knock
Different is just … well … different 

Having lived recently in another part of the world than the one I grew up in and in which I’ve spent most of my life, I’ve adopted a much broader perspective … and tolerance … for people, places, cultures which are ‘different’.

The conclusion of the story, of course, is that ‘Ugly’ (what a name to be saddled with) was really a swan all along. But we miss the point if we now think the swan is beautiful but the ducks, the turkey, the frog, and others are less beautiful.

The true message is in the final lyrics: 

Somewhere out there
We don’t know where
Someone will care
They’re gonna love ya warts and all

Out there, somewhere, someone’s gonna love ya … 

Money, material things, fame, so-called beauty – ultimately none of it will be satisfying. But friendships, relationships, love will not only satisfy, they will last a lifetime.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I Lost My Granddaughter

I lost my granddaughter. Or the equivalent thereof. Weight loss wise.

Over the past year or so, I've lost about 35 pounds, or about how much my 5-year-old Princess Georgia weighs.

No secret other than eating healthier. More fruits and vegetables. Fewer french fries. Less gravy. I still eat all the things I like ... plus a whole lot more variety that D-L has introduced me to.

But my clothes have been hanging on on me like an old horse blanket on a foal. And I've got sequential business conferences coming up, so time to get some new duds.

I hate trying on clothes. Ranks right up there with going to the dentist (nothing personal, Dr Jay).

Won't bore you with the process, but was surprised, most pleasantly, when the 38 waist slacks I tried on were still too big. And the size 36 fit well. (I had been a 40 for at least a few years). Shirt size shrunk from an 18 neck to a 17.

The old stuff is heading for Goodwill, along with any of my super-size still in the closet.

The new, trimmer clothes should also serve as incentive not to put weight back on. (With the exception of the pumpkin cheesecake at Saltgrass - it's only available for a short time each year.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Walk Back in Time

A half-timber house from Will's era
We time-traveled back hundreds of years Sunday -- to the 19th century London of Charles Dickens and the 16th/17th century settings of William Shakespeare. Took a walking tour ( with a couple dozen other mostly older folks, though not all, led by a delightful historian / professor / journalist / actor with the fine English name of David Tucker. Except David is from Wisconsin.
We saw houses, inns, parks, statues, and other settings not only related to the great authors but to other English writers as well from the area around St. Paul's Cathedral, which seemed a hotbed for prose, poetry, and plays.

We were also treated to historic context of shrapnel wounds left in the sides of buildings ... not from World War II but in fact The Great War a generation earlier. Reminded me of my great uncle's voluntary WWI service, flying for the American Expeditionary Force in France.
We also learned about architectural changes to windows in the aftermath of the Great Fire, the brutal executions of opponents by Henry VIII, who had their heads mounted on spikes at the entrance to the Tower Bridge, but also of a quaint restaurant that serves the best English breakfast in London.
We also saw the excavation of original Roman ruins, as well as a wall of remembrance, honoring everyday heroes who gave their lives to rescue someone else. The wall is still active today, a century after it was begun.
David is without question the most knowledgeable and loquacious tour guide I've ever encountered. He doesn't just point out that this house represents a scene from Oliver Twist or that park is where William Wallace (Braveheart) was executed. He goes levels deeper -- for example, explaining how Shakespeare used certain words in Romeo's opening line so that the actor's face and expression would reinforce the passion of the words themselves. Incredible context.

The weather was spectacular and the Sunday streets uncrowded, which added to the pleasure of having this historic section of the city practically to ourselves.

We capped the day by stumbling upon a brasserie - Cote - in the shadow of St. Paul's. The food was superb, the young waiter (from Sardinia) a most pleasant and attentive fellow.

For another view of the tour, please read D-L's blog:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chugga-chugga, whoo-whoo

As a navigator, generally I'm pretty good. When I pay attention.

For 2 1/4 days,  I had managed to get us from Geneva to London, move around London with little difficulty the entire weekend - to dinner at Covent Garden, to the theatre, to St. Paul's Cathedral, a walking tour featuring Shakespeare and Dickens locales, back to our train station of choice, to and from the hotel in Croydon.

Was fine Monday morning getting us to Oxford, though the first two trains were delayed. The third train - from Reading station - was on time, and we missed it by about 30 seconds because of the previous delays. This, in turn, caused me to miss the connection to Cholsey when we finally arrived in Oxford. (D-L disembarked in Oxford to meet a writer friend, while I was heading to do interviews at a Royal Air Force base Benson.)

They announced the Oxford-Cholsey train would be late, too, and that's when things really fell apart. I decided to check and send some emails during the delay, and when I glanced up I thought they had also changed which platform the train would depart from. So I rushed over to Platform 2, and when the 11:07 pulled in I hopped on. It was supposed to be about a 30-minute ride to Cholsey. It turned into nearly 3 hours!

After 30 minutes, the train pulled into - not Cholsey - but Leamington Spa. I knew something was seriously amiss, so I got off, learned that I was going north instead of south, and prepared to catch the next train back to Oxford, then Cholsey. Except the next train was also delayed - by more than 40 minutes because of a passenger medical situation further up the line. Eventually managed to get to Cholsey, walk a mile or more into the little town, call a taxi, and get to my belated meeting at the airbase.

Lessons learned:
1) Trains in the UK are habitually late - unlike the Swiss trains, which are always on time, and the French trains, which are pretty much according to schedule;
2) I need to pay closer attention to which train/bus/plane I'm getting on. Should have realized that with only two platforms in Oxford, one was for southbound trains, the other for northbound.

D-L would add lesson 3: turn the damn smartphone off.

Thursday, October 3, 2013



For those of you who know me (or think you do), you decide what I mean.

Only one, maybe two, of you will get it right. But your answer may not necessarily be wrong either.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Governing by Dialogue and Consensus

The current sad - no, comic would be a better word - state of affairs with the US government political impasse should cause the American people to ask whether the highly polarized two-party system is a viable method of governing.

Consider the Swiss system. The graphic shows the seats held in the Swiss parliament by several different political parties. Each color represents a different party. There are more than just 'reds' and 'blues,' as in the US.

Because no single party controls a majority of votes, the various parties must actually talk with each other, sort out their views on whatever the topic may be, and reach a compromise and consensus that most can accept.

The Swiss do not have a strong, separately elected executive branch. There are instead several leaders over different aspects of the country's affairs - sort of like the American 'Cabinet,' and the leaders take turns being President. No rule by 'Executive Order' or quasi-royal decree, as recent American Presidents have tended to default when they cannot otherwise get their way.

Moreover, most issues are put to a vote -- of the Swiss people! They vote on whether to continue compulsory military service or whether to allow stores to remain open longer in the evenings. The people decide ... not a handful of self-important politicians who are largely controlled by powerful, wealthy lobbying interests.

America could use another major political party ... or two or three. Then maybe there would be some genuine discussion about what's important to the American people.