Monday, December 15, 2008

The Grey Color of Crossing the Six-Oh-Dear! Day

It's not so much that I'm touting my birthday—assuming that I don't die tonight—but today is my final day of being in my fifties. I may be sad. No, maudlin. Somewhat reflective. Kind of happy. But not really.


Two months ago I did something I thought that I would never do. I'm letting my natural hair color grow out. Baby, that's a freaking reality check. Thursday I either cut it to the one-inch grey and white natural color (a chic post-cancer treatment look), or I continue this subtle weave thing that blends the red remains with the grey and white business.


Why all this? I'm without a reasonable reply. It is, however, me and how I've approached whatever gifts and un-gifts that I came in with—or sort a of love it or leave thing. I've had to love it because I can't leave it.


I'm not the first of friends and family crossing that six-oh-dear line. I won't be the last. For two years I've written about it, which was okay because…my hair wasn't grey (?) so it didn't seem real? No intelligent answer comes forth.


So what to do? Pay tribute to my hair in all its incarnations from my first birthday on. To be continued.

1)Piano birthday-girl--My first birthday.
2)A red cowboy hat third birthday.
3)Eighteen and ready for the world.
4)"Heidi" in a purple haze birthday mood someplace near Wrightwood, CA.
5)A working birthday as a reporter/photographer. Other newspaper gave newsman Jack Overlade the same assignment. This was his birthday photo for me.
6)Bookstore mama with Big Bird wishing me a happy 50-something birthday.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Edward, Evelyn, & Natalia—Creating A New Age

As a person who writes and one who is no longer of the Paris Hilton-age club, sometimes I feel that the creative dream is over. When I rise above that sulking moment, I then weary of the no-longer 105-pound and limber body. Oh woe is me.

Then I run into folks, like Edward Parone, who's "Octogenarian Blues" graced this Sixohdear blog, who is out there shopping his memoirs. There is also the fit and active lady of 70-something, Evelyn Dabritz, who just published another children's nature book, "How the Innkeeper Worm Got a Full House" for the Museum of Natural History at Morro Bay, Ca (and she also raced by me in a recent uphill hike!), along with a fellow Sixohdear member, Natalia Calderon-McDonald, who just launched her Cambria Sea Otter Collection.

I haven't even mentioned my own aunt, going on 94, who when I last called her was in the middle of assembling craft-paper baskets for her weekly story hour at a Palm Desert, Ca. library.

Good Lord, I hope that when my Sixohdear moment officially arrives that I can keep pace with these folks.

You see, I remember when my late godmother, Marie Heeley, was forced to retire from her government accounting job when they discovered that she was well over age 64, and considered too old to be useful. It devastated her because she hadn't lost her skills, and knew more than half the people under her direction. She was not ready to retire.

Hoorah that now 60 is the new 40--or maybe even the new 30. Does this mean that the size of my britches is now the new size 6?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Elephant Seal Friends

photos by California Sue

The 30-day countdown begins for this blog's namesake: My big 6-0-dear! And life offers a brilliant array of possibilities, focus, confidence and newness. Aligned in the new column is my recent designation to serve as a volunteer docent for the Friends of the Elephant (FES) Seal on California's Central Coast.

This new life slice began in September when an advertisement caught my eye--an elephant seal sporting a red, white and blue Uncle Sam's chapeau and asking for volunteer guides. I applied on-line, noting my previous volunteer efforts, was asked to have some coffee and conversation at the French Bakery in "downtown" Cambria, which ended with, "You'll receive a letter soon that will outline the training schedule. Welcome aboard."

So, various experts in marine mammals, oceanography, local sea-life, ecology, and birding filled my head with magical visions and priceless information. The best elephant seal docents mentored me, I shared time with other volunteers who started this Friends of the Elephant Seals organization when the seals first hauled out on Piedras Blancas and humans were mindlessly running around these creatures on the beach (endangering themselves and the seals), and I now know fellow freshman docents.

Last week a raucous sea churned tons of kelp. Kelp hills lined the incoming tide line. I led spouse down and groused through the fresh kelp mounds looking at what I once saw as nothing but a pile of fly-attracting goop to discover a plethora of kelp varieties full of color, sizes, habitat and mystery. Saturday, California Sue and Janet were treated to another kelp show and tell. Soon, Janet was collecting pieces to take home. We talked about all the crafty things we could do with these samples of beauty. We headed north for my docent time at the elephant seal viewing point. I donned my blue FES jacket and began asking visitors if they had any questions about these creatures, that like the kelp, at first look like recently washed up do-nothing mounds of sea life, but when further explored harbor only just-begun investigation, all while California Sue lost (gained??) three hours and 129 photos of elephant seals.

Go to my page to view Sue's complete photo collection.

For more information about Friends of the Elephant Seal visit You can also write Friends of the Elephant Seal, PO Box 490, Cambria, CA 93428.

BTW if you are visiting the Central Coast, let me know and I'll be happy to give you more info about visiting the elephant seals.

Who are those docent mentors? Jim Brownell, Ann Grossman, and Bill and Pat Johnson.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why Barack Obama is President-Elect

The Santa Fe Mother Blogger spends too much time on her computer. Email debating is a big portion of my computer time with a group of near and on six-oh-dear! birth dates. It's called The Sandbox. Three sandboxers sent me their thoughts about this year's election. Thanks to Bob Johnson, California Sue and Jay Pelzer, all of today's guest bloggers. Please take a minute to read these diverse and thoughtful pieces.

By Robert Johnson

As I write this short reflection, we are three days removed from selecting the twelfth President to serve in office during my "60 O' Dear" years on this small planet.  I thought it best to put down these thoughts without reference to winners and losers. 

Political pundits have beaten the drum for almost two years and yet I find little or nothing in the candidates that strikes a strong chord, that truly resonates with me.  Although I found myself much more immersed in the day-to-day roller coaster rides of the candidates-in-waiting than in prior quadrennial bouts (one of the joys of semi-retirement) I could find little to recommend the process that I was witnessing.  Perhaps it is the dumbing down of our national discourse--a Presidential campaign reduced to meaningless sound bites, repetitive stump speeches, empty promises, sub voce innuendo - politics as usual on both sides of the narrowing aisle. 

Before dotting my ballot with a black marker (no hanging chads this go-around) I decided to do a quick historical survey of Presidents who served in office during my lifetime.  Since 1948 there have been eleven, six Republicans, five Democrats, comprising 35 and 25 years in office, respectively.  I thought it might be illuminating to peg specific moments in my life on the Presidential time-line.  Perhaps that sequence of dates would somehow demonstrate a recurring pattern of good times/bad times in correlation to the holder of the Presidency.  No luck!  I was born with a Democrat in office, married and had our children with a Republican in office, received my Bachelor's degree under a Republican, and my law degree under a Democrat, got divorced under a Democrat and retired from my government years under a Republican. 

Quite a mixed bag, but nothing substantial enough to sway me to the left or right for this election.

 After taking a short break to refill my empty glass with a mediocre California red (these being hard economic times), it dawned on me that perhaps all of this election brouhaha is nothing more than sound and fury, an empty tempest, signifying  nothing.  I came to the realization that the occupant of the Oval Office has a net-zero effect on the day to day lives of those around me, whether rich, poor, black, white, green or pink.  We live our lives as a "do-it-yourselfers". We don't look to government to solve our problems.  No one in government  stands in the way of what we choose to do with the remaining years of our lives.  So I shall leave it at that. 

Personally, I do not find my heroes in the West Wing or in the hallowed halls of Congress, I find them in much simpler places, a family gathering, a church service, a community project, a walk around the block.  From this election day forward my mantra shall be: "Let all the scalawags have Washington, D.C., just stay clear of 74th Street and its nearer environs.  My neighbors, friends and I will do just fine looking after each other without you. "

 From my perspective, we become a nation divided when we are bombarded, each and every day, with those societal issues that separate us from one another.  From my small corner of the urban wilderness, the issues that divide us are most loudly trumpeted in four year intervals, coinciding with election cycles.   Our more unifying qualities are somehow forgotten, our more divisive qualities brought to the fore.  Enough is enough, it is time to ring the bell, bringing an end to Round Twelve of the Ultimate Presidential Fighting Championship.  Here comes the referee and it looks like a split decision.

Why is it time for Barack Obama to be President of the United States?

by California Sue

 We need to thank one political party for the other's election. Simply put, Conservatives have made it possible for Obama to be elected in the 2008 Presidential election. Why:

 1. We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the great depression. Corporations and individuals' wealth, retirement funds, and home ownership have plummeted.

 2. Since the early 1990s, Conservatives have either held the Presidency or the majority of Congress, or both for all but two years.

 3. In the eyes of other nations, the United States foreign affairs approval rating is abysmal.

 4. The Grand Old Party, over the years, has metamorphosed into something unrecognizable. It now holds itself in such high esteem as to define which religion is good and which is not, who is a Christian and who is not. To be a Conservative used to mean respect for civil liberties and passed on the message that we should conduct our lives standing up for the basic freedoms we ALL hold so dear.

 I have an acquaintance that is conservative- born of many generations before him.  I respect and admire his passion for, and belief in the conservative ideology.  Politely reminded of the definition of conservative, I was prompted to look up the same for liberal. This is when I knew Obama would win the 2008 Presidential election.

 My Webster's New World Dictionary defines conservative as: 1. tending to conserve; 2. tending to preserve established institutions, opposed to change; 3. moderate; cautious.

It also defines liberal as: 1. generous 2. ample; abundant 3. not literal or strict 4. tolerant; broad-minded 5. favoring reform or progress.

 Given the four points listed above, it was not hard to figure out that this great country needs more tolerance of the world around us, reform of economic policies, and additional progress to become a better functioning society as a whole.

 The conservative party needs to find itself again, and reinstate the original values, before it can elect another Republican to the office of the Presidency.

A Tongue In Cheek Thought About What If McCain Won

by Jay Pelzer

McCain won because Obama knocked on the wrong door in Akron, Ohio. "Joe the Plumber" walked outside to talk to him. And, with all the media watching, Obama said he wants to "spread the wealth." And the whole country heard him

Then, instead of letting the story die, Obama and his liberal media cohorts gave it "super life" by drawing more and more attention to it. To discredit him, they dipped so low as to say that Joe's real name isn't "Joe." It's his middle name. (My mother has always gone by her middle name ... Lina. You can scream "Mary" at her all day long and she won't turn around.) They point out that he isn't a "licensed" plumber. But they fail to point out that he doesn't have to be as long as he works for a licensed company. Obama ridicules Joe for days asking, "Does anyone know a plumber who makes $250,000?" Biden is out asking crowds the same question. But everyone clearly heard Joe say that it is the COMPANY that "makes $250,000, or 270 or 280."

And the best thing they all did was to show the brilliance of the Republican Party. The media were all trying to paint Joe as a "plant" by the Republicans. So, 14 years in advance, the Republicans knew:

• Obama would be the candidate;
• Obama would go door to door in Ohio
• Obama would go to the door of the house in which Joe lives; and
• the taxable income level that would be in question would be at $250,000. The sheer clairvoyance of the Republican Party amazed every one.

Even after having the media score another victory for Obama in the debate, on the "night of Joe," his lead in the polls fell from 7 points in some polls, to 14 points in another, down to 2 to 4 points in all the major polls ... all in less than three days.

At the Inauguration John McCain gave a shoutout to Barack Obama ... who was at home writing his next book, "How America Stole the Election ... The Defeat of a Black Socialist.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Edward Parone’s Octogenerian Blues

Edward Parone is today's guest blogger. He celebrated his eight-oh-dear! birthday this century. Edward is an editor, writer, director, actor, retired gentleman, and a soul I deeply admire.

He has much to say from his sage-eyed position.

by Edward Parone

Hi there! I'm Joe, the Octogenarian. You know, one of those geezers from the so-called Greatest Generation? The Great Depression --World War II--and all of that-- who woke up one recent fine September morn to find that, having lived his early life in that Great Depression, he is coming to the end of it in yet another one that may be even worse! It is, in a word, depressing. Especially for those of us lucky enough to have survived this long and still have most of our marbles falling into the right slots. If this is the farce version of the American tragedy, then I can only repeat a catch-line from a popular 30s radio program: "Taint funny, Magee!"

But how, you ask, did it happen?

Well, there's no point in dodging the issue: We did it. Yes, us, the Greatest G. Just as I felt strongly that after 9/11 the president should have done everything to enlist the help of the Moslem world in dealing with Islamic terrorism by pointing out that their children had done this murderous deed --so it is that our children, with our help, have brought us to this sorry state.

We survived our Depression and the lucky came back from that war all fired up with the notion that nothing like either would ever happen to us or our kids again. (We had all seen the scene in Gone With the Wind.) So we showered them with everything we had once been deprived of, and much, much more. From there, it was only a step to the showering of their kids with even more Stuff--until we had spoiled them into the over-parented, over-praised, over-indulged, half-literate, entitlement-soaked generation we see so often depicted today.

Piracy, plagiarism and cheating are nearly universal. Common civility and manners have vanished. Where once the departure of adolescence to take your place in the world of adults was the common, desirable goal, there is now little desire to ever leave adolescence. And living in America is like living in a perpetual high school, its hallways lined with magic ATMs from which you can make endless withdrawals and no deposits. Did we really tell you that you could have Everything You Wanted? Nostra culpa.

America had everything it needed, including more money and guns than anyone else, to enter the 21st Century leading the world in every field of endeavor. And then, flushed with having Everything, and given a choice between the inexperienced C-student and the experienced A-student, we took a fatal turn and chose the former--and marched resolutely backwards into an earlier century. Good enough became in a moment, well, good enough.

And where were the adults, the wise old ones, while this was happening? Right there watching while a cadre of fellow elders, determined to fulfill their frustrated ideologies, settle old scores and establish a single ruling party, misled our arrogant, unqualified C-student into one disastrous decision after another.

The complex mess that we are in is and will be the subject of a large library of books. But right now there are two aspects of it that I find scary and important:

1. How easily we are propagandized. Those of us who remember the rise of the Nazis can't ever forget how cleverly, how relentlessly, how smoothly the fascist agenda was promoted by the evil genius of Joseph Goebbels (find a word adequate enough to describe this Joe). And yet we watched while a propaganda machine of our very own and every bit as clever and insistent led us--voters, Congress, the Press--into an unnecessary and repercussive war. And from there to condoning torture, flouting Constitutional law, loss of moral stature, a depleted treasury, domestic neglect and the loss of thousands of lives--all of which revealed,

2. the disparaging of brains as a way of dealing with life's problems. When did Dumb become the new Smart? And who's been telling kids that using your brains, being intelligent, exalting reason and the intellect are for sissies, nerds, losers, and/or fools? We don't exalt brain power now; we exalt the mediocre things it's capable of: fame without talent or accomplishment, riches without making anything useful or beautiful. We don't even make anything that anyone wants very much anymore. An elite corps spends all its time manipulating money. (And ironically, not all that well.) How many Americans come home happy with their day's work?

This is not good enough for a great country.

We Octos are the last of the grandchildren of the Edwardians. And while we might wish that some of the best of that now-distant age would cling to your future, the last thing we want is a return to that past. Far too much of the world is not using the past to learn but is mired in it, in old superstitions, old beliefs and dogma, stuck in systems that will not allow the expression of real feeling and thought in the present, and that offer no real future. Unless you consider death a desirable future.

Two things made this country possible: energy, and before that: imagination. And without imagination we're lost. Because you have to be able to imagine a possible future in order to have one--but one rooted in reality, not myth, or fairy tales. And for that we need brains, all the brains we can get. We can't keep dealing with our problems by riding down to the OK Corral to solve them.

So what are we leaving you, those we have helped to spoil? The very thing we thought to save you from? Or is the legacy of the Greatest G only the enormous job of saving the country and helping in the survival of the planet itself?

It's enough to give anyone the Octogenarian Blues.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Money Laundering: Lifestyle Recirculation

Without a weekly income for months now, without buyers for buy my house, and with folks who flock faster to garage sales than Neiman-Marcus sales, I have a new job.


My new employer is my bank book.


Finding the balance between a business owning me and the new proprietorship of myself and my time has some costs—no fluid income.


I panicked at first. But panic resolves nothing except the realization that my choice was made, the national economy is not working with me, I'm not exactly employable (no one is hiring anyway), and that I better reactivate my inner chain saw. That's right, cut down the overgrown expenses of a former lifestyle.


We'll see how well this works. I'm still going to have to invent some kind of real income. Spouse and I are working on it right now. See But we don't plan to bleed as brutally as we bled owning our former business in Santa Fe for 20 years.


Meanwhile, it's a perfect day on the California coast—so a good walk is in my immediate future. When I get back I'll tend to my itsy-bitsy fall garden. It's a part of my savings/good health program. I'm relearning some old talents that I closeted. Check out what's sprouting on the sidebar. And send me your great cost ideas from food, drink, wear and pleasure. I'll share those ideas here.

Photo: My fall garden planted 2 1/2 weeks ago!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Economic Crisis Boils My Blood At Independence Hall

When I recently held my grandson, Quinlan, for a photo in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, tears happened. It was one of those times when I felt the Revolutionary War and Patriot bloodline that runs thru me pulse over to Quinlan—even though he's a toddler.

My blood began that slow boil. Let me explain.

The glorious daughters and son-in-laws that spouse and I are blessed with, celebrated our SIX-OH DEAR! time with a whirlwind tour of Philly, NYC, and a mini-urban respite on Long Beach Island, NJ.

Our NYC visit included the Lion King on Broadway (Note to EP: It was a cartoon but a pleasant lift from the news.) and, of course , the tourists' tour of Manhattan: Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and Wall Street. And that's where it all began for me.

Wall Street was electric and almost overwhelming. Media was everywhere waiting. Pensive people were everywhere waiting.The old journalist in me started clicking photos, while a French television team cornered daughter Ocean for a person-on-the street interview.

"Wow," I thought, "this is the real deal." Several well-dressed young professionals passed by with boxes and luggage in tow. Their jobs dissolved that day. Everything I've ever read about the fall of capitalism was coming true. We were witness to the ugly arm of today's disaster capitalism.

Fall's colors were only a hint, but the weather was perfect in Philadelphia. There was no way I could not be there and not visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Understand that my ancestors marched with George Washington against wrong-doing and tyranny. So as my grandson and the rest of us sat on the cool lawns around the sanctum of our Constitution's beginnings, my blood boiled (No! It wasn't a hot flash.) For eight years, tic by tic, our country's most precious document has been ravaged. Our leaders instilled fear instead of courage. I feel like our new language should be baa-baa.

And to defend this abomination on our American foundation is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. It's time to strap the huevos back on and bring America back to its bravery, honesty, and forthrightness. Get out of the closet, turn on the lights and get a grip on what is going on around us. We didn't fight the Revolutionary War because we're a docile people. It's time to collectively get our minds, bodies and souls back in shape and just say no to this dark-rooted diatribe.

Our terrorist enemies are laughing their beards off. They don't need to attack us here anymore. We're doing a fine job of it ourselves.


Photos: Quinlan and his Moire at Independence Hall
Santa Fe Mother Blogger and Spouse at Lion King on Broadway
Daughter Ocean on Wall Street Interviewed by French Television

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stuck In Needles, CA As The World Ends

When the temp hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit and the power went out, it looked like the end of the world and I was stuck in Needles, CA.

Spouse and I were on the road for ten hours, heading west for some QT with the beach. The ride brought torrential rains in Flagstaff, lightning strikes to the pavement on Interstate 40, and more blinding rain. Needles—the questionable desert oasis--wasn't far, and Motel 6 always has its light on for a quick night's sleep alongside our traveling cat, Mouser.

We made ourselves and the cat at home at the M6, schlepped through the stifling 110-degree air over to Denny's for an icy chicken salad and iced tea. The sky blackened, spiraled wind-gusts roared pass our view window, and a few showy lightning strikes crossed the wicked sky. Waitresses chatted and yucked around with the three other customers, and really bad music slipped through the really badder speakers.

"Crack!" "Pop!" Silence. Darkness.

I asked our waitress to fill my cup with more tea and a side cup of ice—just in case. The storm continued, but the electrical power ceased, desisted and died. The restaurant's shift manager decided to shut 'er down. We shoveled our warming chicken salads down, counted out exact change for our bill and headed back to M6. Mouser was fine. He loves heat AND he wasn't in the car. He took to the window sill and smirked at the arriving guests and their pets.

"Hey, we have some wine in the ice chest," I recalled to spouse. Like superman to a crime scene, he was on it. Wine opened and plastic cups filled, we pulled our motel chairs outside thinking that at the very least the storm's winds would cool us down until power was back up and those noisy air conditioners would rattle us to sleep.

Single lightning bolts turned to web-like fireworks against the coal skies. The air seemed to turn red and I started thinking about Revelations. We looked out over the Colorado River where it took its Spanish name seriously. The temps didn't really lower by much, there was no a/c and we were witnessing the world's end and stuck in Needles.

I recanted my bad ways: No more swearing at stupid drivers and nincompoops; no more driving over the posted speed limit; no more lusting after chocolate when others must go without; no more gossip; no more calling annoying sales people Ferengi ; no more not flossing my teeth when I'm too tired; and no more wishing I had more when I have enough.

Meanwhile, the grumpy guy next to our room told all of us to "take our party someplace else." "All of us" were our new best friends—the other guests at the M6 who couldn't take the heat of the sealed tight and severely hot rooms. We shared our stories and photos of grand kids.

My cup of ice waned as did my energy. I had to lie down. So into the cold shower I went before stretching out against the warm sheets. It took three more hours of four cold showers, and several wet wash rags across my forehead until I knew that the world wasn't really ending after all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Guest Blogger Ready to Debate Al Gore

Jay Pelzer

Guest Blogger

The "writer" (me) had done a "rational gathering of facts." The most recent (updated since my blog) numbers I could find are at: Global Temperature Report: June 2008 As you can plainly see, all the temperatures are either at, or below the 20 year average. If you wish to go check the NOAA, NASA and UAH numbers, you will find that the temperatures are now below the 2,000 year average. Since Al Gore's Jan 2006 prediction that we have "Only 10 years left.....," the global temperature has dropped 0.6 degrees C. (During which period we have had record usage of fossil fuels ... and record sized forest fires in America and Australia.)

The globe is cooler than it was at anytime between 550 and 1200 AD. In June of 2008 it was cooler than it had been since Jan 2000. But, you can bet it is going to go up again sometime. And then it is going to go back down again ... just as it has for 2,000 years.

If Al Gore is so sure of his facts, why won't he debate representatives from the other side of the argument? John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, has a couple of thousand PhD's behind his side. Lord Moncton, with the support of the American Physical Society (APS .... possibly the world's most renown group of physicists), has challenged Gore to an international debate on the issue. Why isn't Gore taking any of the challenges so convert the "nonbelievers?" Instead, he leaves his "20 times the national average carbon footprint" house in his SUV. Goes to the airport to get into his private jet to fly to his destination airport where he is picked up by a limousine. Then he drives off to preach to his choir.

If Gore truly believes what he says, why doesn't he have like just a 9 or 10,000 square foot house? Drive a Prius or other hybrid? Fly commercial. And try to convert the disbelievers? Why was his Nobel Prize for peace, and NOT for science? (Oh, there's no "peer review" for a peace prize!)

Thankfully, "S ... With Ardent Veracity," you did come up with the honest answer to the question about what SUV's and air conditioners did the cave men use to end the ice age?" : NONE! But the globe got warmer and the Ice Age ended. Go figure.

So far, Al Gore's 2006 prediction is doing about as well as Ted Dansen's 1987 prediction that the oceans would be "dead" within 10 years.

Note from the Santa Fe Mother Blogger: Do you agree? Let me hear from you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rush Limbaugh Okays Edward’s Cheatin’ Heart

Trusting and loving your partner in marriage is one of those things that can rip apart a heart when the trust is broken.

Marriage is an institution that can bring so much joy, comfort and misery than any other institution I've experienced. I'm comfortable discussing matrimony's state since I'm on my third set of vows.

We can't help but notice that the far right is pro-marriage as long as it's man and woman. But that's not what this blog is about. Yesterday the far right water carrier, Rush Limbaugh, slipped up and told the truth about himself and maybe his ditto heads when he said,

"We've been told that Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards.  That's part of the puff pieces on them that we've seen.  Ergo, if Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards, is it likely that she thinks she knows better than he does what his speeches ought to contain?  And what kind of things he ought to be doing strategy wise in a campaign?  If she is smarter than he is, could it have been her decision to keep going with the campaign? 

In other words, could it be that she doesn't shut up?  Now, that's as far as I'm going to go…It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman—whose mouth did something other than talk."

Are you disgusted or do you think it's funny?

I wasn't in cancer treatment or just out of treatment like Elizabeth Edwards was while her meandering ass of a spouse was doing his thing with whomever. (Quick note, spouse #3, was my strength and blessed one while I was in cancer treatment.) However, once upon a time when I was not in good circumstances, an earlier spouse wandered from our bed into another's. I cannot express the lasting anguish that followed me for decades. At a time when I needed my husband more than ever (and Elizabeth Edwards needed hers more than ever), he was busying himself with another woman-women. Why? Because he could, and as other's have stated, like Limbaugh, maybe I should have taken "better care" of my husband.

My friends (sorry about that McCainism), this is bull crap.

May I recommend to those considering joining Club Wed, think seriously about that "in sickness and in health" business. If that doesn't really work for you, stay single.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Stop the Name Calling Now

Police Say Church Gunman Hated Liberals


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (July 28) -- An unemployed man accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing two people at a Unitarian church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal social policies, police said Monday...It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that and his stated hatred of the liberal movement," Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said at a news conference.

"Aw you liberals just hate America"

"We liberals love America. We just hate goosestepping fascists bastards like you pretending to be Americans."

"Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream."

Name calling; hateful assumptions: Probably part of the toxicity that so poisoned yesterday's liberal hating, unemployed Knoxville man into his killing rage.

When we hear a pastor call another religion "The Great Whore," when liberal pundits refer to our current leaders as "liars and murderers," or even Nazis, or when the other side slashes opponents of their thought with words like "faggot," "dunderhead alarmists," this smarmy talk is just the nasty little ticket to trigger violent reactions by the less stable among us.

It's time to be civil in church, on the road, and in the grocery store, America. We've fallen from grace into a tarred pit of insults and entitlements.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cell Phone Challenged or Communication Overloaded?

When I'm out of town daughters call me with explicit instructions:

1) Turn your cell phone on.
2) At end of day, charge your cell phone.
3) Next day, turn your cell phone on.
4) At end of day, charge your cell phone.
5) Repeat #1 and #2 until you have a land line.

They are not being smart asses. It's known that I am cell-phone challenged. It may have something to do with the looming 6-0. It may have more to do with the fact that I've answered so many useless and annoying phone calls throughout my telephone-life, that I just don't give one happy crap about having one more bell demanding response.

I don't 'hate' cell phones. They are remarkable pieces of technology, but insidious beasts at the same time. You won't catch me without my cell--mostly. However, it may not have any juice left in it, or it's likely turned off because I thought I had it turned on. Whatever!

Santa Fe satirist, Jim Terr just posted LAY YOUR CELL PHONE DOWN on YouTube.

I think more of us than not will go, right on, bro!

Honestly, when I was the youthful one, I could not wait to get a phone call from a BFF, or a guy! There was nothing like that crackled-testosteronish voice asking, "Is this Charmaine?" Back then I had my own pink princess phone in my bedroom--but it was the family phone line. Nature controlled my volume of calls. Today, I have at least five different telephone numbers,and five email addresses. It's communication overload. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Not-So Nice World—But Maybe That’s Okay

Another SIXOHDEAR candidate and guest blogger, Ken Meddock of Irvine, CA, took some serious thought about the state of our planet and us as humans. It's a different point of view, and your Santa Fe Mother Blogger encourages you to read and respond.




Ken Meddock


I suppose an argument can be made that 5000 years ago the earth was a nicer place to live in. You could drink the water in most streams that you ran across, the air was nice and clean (maybe a little smoky if you sat too close to the fire), there were no landfills to speak of, and we didn't use any of the natural resources that surrounded us that were not self replicating, I suppose because we didn't know how to. Every person, all around the world, used only his or her proportionate share of the resources that we did know how to use. Not like those nasty Americans today that use up 25% of the world's resources while only making up 5% of the world's population.

Now we live in a world not so nice. The average lifespan has more than tripled. We spend about a quarter of our time working, a third of our time resting, and the rest of our time playing. Plus, most of the time we are warm when it's cold outside. Cool when it's hot outside. Whereas we can't drink out of streams anymore, the water we do drink is delivered to our feet and won't make us sick. Nor will the food.


Those other parts of the world that make up 5% of the world's population, and use only 5% or less of the world's natural resources are called Somalia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Solomon Islands, Congo, Sudan, Angola, Guatemala, and 50 others I could name. And you know what? They all want to use up more of their resources. After all, it's not like America is the only place on earth that has natural resources. Every place has resources.


But we have something they don't have--a democracy and a free market system. Certainly corrupt in many instances (but at least we can weed them out when we find them) but still free enough to allow hard workers to succeed and non workers to fail. (The right to fail is a cornerstone in a free market system.)


But if you live in one of the countries above, you're screwed. You can't weed out the criminals when they're the leaders of the Country. (And if any of you dare say or think that Bush is a criminal, shame on you.)


Now having said all this, could we be nicer, of course we could. But we have demonstrated that we are the most generous nation to have ever taken up space on the planet. And it is only through our continued use of our resources, natural and otherwise, that will allow that prosperity to continue and to be shared around the world, at least by those that want it.



Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Parental Care-Giving: A Common Challenge Today

Cathy Rudy of Santa Fe is today's SIXOHDEAR guest blogger. Cathy is a local businesswoman. We used to lunch regularly, but her life has changed over the years as her mother requires more care than before.


This issue of parental care-giving is one that I will not have to face, however, so many of us must.



By Cathy Rudy


I still have several years to go before I reach SIXOHDEAR, but the stress of being a caregiver makes me feel like I am already one hundred and SIXOHDEAR. 


A few months ago I went to Kohl's and bought a new throw rug to put at our front door.  It was on sale, but rang up even less than I was expecting.  I looked at the register screen and saw they had given me the senior discount, since it was Tuesday or something.  I asked how old you had to be for the senior discount and the young girl would not give me a specific age.  She just said she noticed my gray hair and thought she should give it to me.  I would have said I didn't deserve it, but since she was not giving me a specific age, I could not prove it.


A few weeks ago I stopped at McDonald's and ordered some chicken nuggets and a drink (I need comfort food in all shapes and forms!)  The young girl rang it up, then glanced at me, and said "oh," hit a bunch more keys and the total went down.  Later I looked at my receipt and saw she had charged me for a "senior drink."


The best though was when I went to Albertson's and happened to be there on the day they give senior discounts.  This saved me almost $10.  Again I asked how old you had to be to get the discount, and the answer was nonspecific. The youngin threw out a couple numbers, all of which were higher than my current physical age.  Again, I would have said I was younger than that, but it was already a done deal, and I figured for all the times Albertson's has overcharged me for *sale* items, maybe this was a way to make us even.


I did not ask for any of these discounts, but apparently I look like I deserve them.  Maybe I do, maybe there is some benefit from growing older, but they do not outweigh the parts that are not fun.  At least not as far as I can see in my 89-year-old mother, or in myself since taking on the responsibility of caring for her.  Tomorrow I have an appointment to get her hair cut and colored, and while I am there, I will be making an appointment for myself.  Maybe we will both feel younger.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Rebuttal to “Cause & Effect” Blog by Guest Blogger


I am shocked that someone with such high education equates "SUV's and air conditioners the cavemen were using to end the Ice Age". I would have trusted that a higher education and a greater trail of experience than the average Joe would dictate rational gathering of facts, ability to digest those facts, and the lost art of stating a factual summarization.


Maybe I should not take the writer's question literally. If so, maybe I should not take this particular blog seriously. Was the writer trying to make a point? In making a point, did the writer selectively use a statistical oxymoron with a purpose? Maybe ALL the statistics should have been introduced to us readers so we could have realistically evaluated this blog. Maybe the writer is a person who just wants to get people thinking about a real problem. Maybe he is an environmentalist in disguise. Maybe the writer is a person who really does not want to make a decision on what facts are real and what facts are not. Maybe part of the problem is that he chooses to believe in selected facts. Maybe by using name calling, the writer hopes he will snag someone who will argue with him. If so, I wish him luck.


I will step up and answer his question as to "what SUV's and air conditioners the cavemen were using to end the Ice Age." The answer is none. 


Having said this, no one is really disputing that there is global warming going on. Global warming is a problem.  There is a fundamental approach to problem solving. All problems have a solution. Sometimes the solution is to, for the moment; lessen the load of the problem until a solution can be found. Sometimes this in itself will eventually solve the problem. I want to put forth an effort. I DON'T want to look back and say I should have seen this coming but "there was NO logical reason" why the Exxon Valdez should NOT have traveled into pristine waters.


The Writer's article has not disappointed me. Thank you Writer. Your article has "caused" me to try to have an "effect" on global warming, no matter how small a percentage my individual effort will contribute.


I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  So, I will put my energies into an effort not an argument.

With Ardent Veracity….S

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Complaining While Another Freezes To Death

Santa Fe New Mexican 04/15/2008, Page C03

In brief
  Body found in La Tierra identified

  A woman found dead in the front yard of a La Tierra home was identified Monday as a 42year-old homeless city resident, said Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano.
  Patricia Leyba's decomposing body was found Thursday in the yard of a home on Paseo de Pajaro with no identification. Detectives searched the surrounding area and found a backpack at a construction site a quarter of a mile away that contained a document from the Santa Fe County jail with Leyba's name on it, he said.
  Detectives then matched fingerprints and identified the body, Solano said. Leyba had been taken to the jail several times for her own protection, and had been in and out of the county sobering center, where people can be taken to sober up and obtain rehabilitation services, six times in the year the center has been open, he said.
  While investigators believe the woman likely died of exposure, an autopsy didn't determine the cause of death, Solano said. The woman had some evidence of injuries to the side of her head, though they didn't look like they contributed to her death, he said. Investigators don't believe Leyba died as the result of homicide, Solano said.
  Tim Stepetic, a spokesman for the Office of the Medical Investigator, said the cause of death is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, your Santa Fe Mother Blogger was in California painting, purchasing lights, tile, etc for the coastal home remodel. Whales swam by and I hoped that my San Ignacio friend (Skippy—See March 15, 2008 blog) was the one that came the closest to my vision on the northward trek.

I spent days complaining about my housing conditions: Plaster and sawdust everywhere, no heat, one electrical outlet per floor, a failing air mattress, and so on. Spouse tried to break my complaining-cycle by challenging me to several tennis matches on the great public courts in Cambria, Ca. The French pastries he picked up in the mornings were pretty good too. "But I've never liked camping," I whined.

Back in Santa Fe, a spring storm dropped the nighttime temps back into the teens and twenties, and many of Santa Fe's homeless bore more for complaint than my leaky air mattress. Apparently Patricia Leyba did not survive the freezing nighttime temperatures. Unceremoniously, her body was dumped right in the middle of my tony Santa Fe neighborhood.

This is one of the dirty little secrets you won't read in the tourist flyers. We are a city of haves, have more, and have nothing. The late Ms. Leyba fell into the have nothing title. I don't know why. I don't know her circumstances. But I do have strong suspicions as to how this 42-year-old woman became a lost soul in the city of St. Francis of Assisi.

The irony of a dead homeless person on "this" side of town is classic. I'm glad it wasn't me on my morning walk who found her. I'm humbled by the blessings that I've received. I pray for Ms. Leyba's next venture one of peace, warmth and joy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

“Cause Effect: Guest Blogger Questions The Premise

6-0 (dear!)approaches. It's a good thing because I've learned there are many other points of view. While I may not embrace all ideas, I'll quote Joni Mitchell from my fave song of all times, Blue, "Everyone is saying that hell's the hippest way to go. Well I don't think so, but I'll take a look around it though."

My American bloodlines run deep and I pray that we continue to respect freedom of speech and honor our Constitution. (Yes, I even qualify to be a Daughter of The American Revolution.) So give let's give a welcome to Jay Pelzer(another 6-0 person) as he has allowed me to enter his thoughts into the blogosphere.

Let me hear your battle cries or applause.
Charmaine, Your Santa Fe Mother Blogger.

PS: If you can't get your comments up on my blog, email me at and I'll put them up for you.

After a painful, "disappoint me with the lack of common sense" review of Cause Effect, it scares me to think that these people actually get to vote.

I admire the actions being taken by the people involved with children, AIDs, MS, etc. But the whackos like the guy in Episode 1, Part 1 thinking that he is "protecting the planet." He and the guy in Episode 4, Part 2 are on some kind of an ego trip. They actually think that mankind has more effect on the planet than does God's plan ... whatever it is. I still want someone to tell me what SUV's and air conditioners the cavemen were using to end the Ice Age.

Scientists have taken ice core samples from both polar ice caps that go back over 200,000 years. From the densities of the ice they can tell what the earth's temperatures were. The atmospheric gases were trapped at the time of freezing the ice. And what did they discover? Well, there have been times that CO2 and temperatures rose. There were times that CO2 rose and temperatures fell. There were times that CO2 fell and temperatures rose. There were times that CO2 fell and temperatures fell.

If all the cars and trucks in the USA were taken off the road tomorrow, CO2 emissions (worldwide) would drop by less than 1%. Based on the fact that only 0.0392 % of the atmosphere is made up of CO2, climate-wise ain't nothing going to happen. But just think of the economic disaster that would happen if we were to force only 10% of vehicle traffic off the road. (Which would be a 0.0000392% change in CO2.) This is ridiculous! And just where is Al Whore now that scientists are predicting a major drop in the earth's temperatures due to solar activity changes? Heck, he's out counting the money he made off of idiots with his "Inconvenient Truth" crap.

While I am on my rant, let me touch on one more issue—petroleum--that's oil. (Mind you, these are thoughts from a guy with a 158 IQ, an Air Force Academy education, A Master's Degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology and who does a lot of research on issues of the day items.) Right now we have Hillary Clinton bombasting about "record profits" for oil companies. Let's put a little perspective on that idea. The oil companies are paying record prices for oil which is being sold at record levels of demand. So, their "record profits" amount to a meager 9.2% return on investment. If that drops by about 0.4%, people are going to pull their money out of this average return investment. Won't bother people like you and me who can afford $7 to $8 a gallon gas when the companies disappear. But there are a lot of people who MUST buy gas to get to work. And I am not going to take the time to look up his name again, but there was one of the Clinton advisors today who was cited as saying that 44% of all retirement account holders (401K's etc.) have an investment in oil.

Estimates reach to over 100 BILLION barrels of oil in the ANWAR. Can you imagine what simply pumping out 2 million barrels a day would do to lower gas prices? What about 4 million barrels? How much would that reduce the price that Iran and Hugo Chavez get for oil? How much would it reduce their sales of oil? And, as for the "pristine" conditions of the ANWAR that would be hampered, the area is water most of the year. There is NO logical reason to not drill there. You have the nuts who think that producing more oil will stall efforts to come up with alternative fuels. That's ignorant thinking. Everyone knows we have to change eventually. It's like people who want the government to mandate fuel mileage standards. What idiot doesn't understand that the car companies are already trying to produce the most efficient vehicles they can so they can beat their competitors? Heck, if government mandates work, why not have Congress mandate that all cars get 100 miles per gallon?

OK. Wrote too much. Aren't you glad I couldn't fit this onto your blog? LOL


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where Once Gray Whales Were Slaughtered--Peace Reigns In San Ignacio Lagoon

Our four-vehicle caravan bounced along the 2-hour Baja dirt road to San Ignacio Lagoon where Captain Melville Scammon first led six whaling vessels in 1860. Scammon and other whaling captains risked the narrow and shallow water passage into the lagoon, where for centuries, gray whales safely bore their young. The ensuing whale slaughter initiated the near extinction of the Pacific Gray Whale.

Today, the lagoon is a World Heritage site, and gray whales have reclaimed their sanctuary. Now with limited permits, one can visit the lagoon and experience—up close and personal—the majesty of these creatures.

Your vessel is an 18-foot wooden fishing boat, a panga. It’s similar to a dory. It was in one of these pangas where in 1972, Pachico Mayoral, a local fisherman, was approached by a gray whale. Surprised by the whale’s lack of aggression and its insistence, Pachico reached his hand out to the whale. The whale moved in closer and allowed the fisherman to touch it. Of course this was a heck of a whale story back at the lagoon’s village. However, word made its way out of the secluded village and curious visitors began arriving to experience this new relationship between human and whales.

Pachico’s Eco Tours led our adventure. Eight of us filled one panga and six filled the other. Our respective captains opened their outboards. We navigated the salty swells to the whale nursery. Dolphins skipped along the nursery’s perimeter. Our captain whistled and they came closer. He spoke fluent dolphin.

The far away expelled water plumes that I fervently watch for from our coastal home will NEVER match the first expelled air and water by a 30-foot cow less than 10-feet from our panga. A full show of fluke signaled her deep dive. “Okay, I’m good,” announced Clif who was oddly silent the entire panga ride. “If I see nothing else,” he added, “I’m happy.”

Hands splashed the nursery water. “Here baby, here baby,” beckoned the seasoned lagoon visitors. My camera clicked and clicked. (In the mid-1980’s I wrote and photographed a whale watch report for the LA Times, the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee. Unfortunately, I photographed more water than whale.) My 2008 digital camera has a half-second delay—a lifetime when shooting nature in action. {Check out the amazing video at the end of this blog}

The San Ignacio Lagoon whales were all around us. We watched them breech, spyhop, and swim close by, but none chose a visit to our panga. When lunchtime arrived, our captain made waves thru the placid and clear lagoon to a sandy shoreline. Here Jesus Mayoral, Pachico’s son, answered the billion questions we asked while munching on homemade burritos and cold soda.

“Let’s see what we can find out there now,” Jesus said, as he and the other panga captains took us back to the nursery. Our captain took a different route. Now the water was choppy and windblown. Dolphins signaled our closeness to the whales. The captain silenced his outboard and began scooping and tossing water into the distance. A 40-foot cow surfaced. She was so close that when she spouted, her wet exhale showered my face and shoulders. She eyed the panga, grunted, and her 15-foot, 1.5-ton calf followed suit. Here baby, here, baby beseeched like a prayer. My tears at the nearness of these two made photographing their closeness impossible.

The pair circled our boat, swam under the boat and touched the bottom of our boat. Finally, curiosity brought the calf alongside. Hands reached out to let him know that mutual inquisitiveness was aboard along with our desire to connect. I gave up my photo quest. No longer did I know if I was star board or port side. To touch that one-ton creature erased my boat safety knowledge. But, alas, he came to where my hand reached for him. He raised his steel grey back and my right hand was able to run the course of his spine.

What did it feel like? Rubbery. Soft. Cool. Magnificent. Like the evening prior when I uncontrollably shook and was unable to identify the spot that was touched, so it happened again with this dream-like whale encounter.

My writer friend, David Wagstaff, has told me time after time, “Char, you are such the earth mother.” I guess I am. Whether my hands are in the dirt, or skimming the salty seas, I’m in a peaceful place that not even a church can match. Touching and sensing the little guy I called “Skippy” (little being relative to his multi-ton mother) will be a challenging emotion to match and jumped far ahead of anything I experienced before.

Amazingly Friendly Whale, San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, Mexico - AOL Video

More Information About Whales and The Tour

Photo credits: Pachico Mayoral, Pachico's Eco Tours; Panga Load, Charmaine Coimbra; Spouting Whale, Fred Heinecke; Spyhop, Charmaine Coimbra; Splashing for Whales, Charmaine Coimbra; Skippy 1, Charmaine Coimbra; Skippy 2, Fred Heinecke.

In Search of San Ignacio’s Friendly Grey Whales

Ride ‘em Cowboy: A Wild Cabo San Lucas to Loreto Flight


When the other nine passengers made the Sign of the Cross as we boarded the single-prop Aero Calafia, Loreto-bound flight, I recited my own silent prayer.

Refreshments (bottled water in a plastic ice chest) were noted in Spanglish by our captain, who became our caballero riding a wild bull over the windy currents of lower Baja California. After a few sideways air slides and a dozen dips and resumptions of altitude, our cowboy/captain looked back at us and I gave him the thumbs up, claiming, "El toro, el toro!" The other passengers exhaled. El Capitan flew his bird onto the Loreto landing strip as easily as an osprey landing in its nest.

"The problem is, we have no cars to rent," explained the agent who was leaving in a brand new 4 x 4 Chevy truck as we pulled into the Budget Car Rental site in Loreto. My platinum credit card was in hand and the glint caught his eye. "Well," he reassessed, "it is possible that I can rent you this truck." Knowing that we had 4-hours on a Mexican highway followed by 2-hours on an ill-spoken dirt road ahead, the bargaining for the truck began.

The agent said it was new, I said it has Budget Rents Trucks all over it, he said but it has only a 100 miles, and I countered with I'll be advertising your business all over this state. We met in the middle, and Clif and I headed across the Baja peninsula in search of friendly grey whales.

Alemany Class of ’66 Returns

Former high school classmate, Ken Meddock
and his wife, Sandy, initiated this entire Baja adventure when he sent out an email titled "Whale Trip" sometime last spring. It was an open invitation a year in advance. I didn't know Ken in high school, but I did know about the whales of San Ignacio. "Keep me on the list," I immediately emailed back.

He did. In September he followed up with more details. On Sept. 20, 2007, I reserved our time for a February 2008 San Ignacio escapade.

Meanwhile back in Santa Fe, the business, the holidays, the family, etc., consumed time faster than playing solitaire on the computer. February was here, and like I did back in 1966, I hurried through my homework at the last possible minute, booked a flight-miles trip to Cabo San Lucas through US Airways and figured I'd punt the rest of the details when I got there. I had a zero idea of how we would get to San Ignacio, or even how far away it is from Cabo. Besides, I reasoned, I spent years making my way in, out and between mainland Mexico as a single mom with two little girls. Baja for just myself and spouse at the wise age of 59 should be a piece of cake. God bless my spouse for his patience and trust. He says I freewheel.

The village of San Ignagio is lovely and more to our taste than the grand hotels along the CSL beaches (where people who should NEVER, EVER, wear bathing suits in public—like myself—do and even worse, flauntingly). The whales we wanted to see are beautiful, unlike my corn-fed fellow citizens wandering thru the warm resort swimming pools drinking cerveza y cerveza and NEVER leaving the water.

The quaint Desert Inn Hotel in San Ignacio seemed to attract a different crowd: journalists on an assignment for the Smithsonian; a gaggle of chain-smoking Germans; bikers, and some Alemany High School (AHS) graduates and their family and friends.

Now, Ken recently jumped into an email sandbox of opinionated and fun AHSers who have inspired or fueled some of my blogs. Another AHS '66 sandboxer, Frank Bonacorsso, AKA Lamont Cranston of the Shadow Knows blog at left his Hawaiian haven to also seek these legendary whales.

I never knew Frank in high school either. But when we all met face to face in the hotel cantina, we chatted like old time friends. So many emotions rose to the surface within my psyche, that when the night ended, I returned to our double-bed room and shook as if I were freezing. “Clif, move over. We’re snuggling all night.” As always, he held me until I fell sound asleep.

Dear readers, the next edition will land you right in the middle of a whale nursery. This remains one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Pictured with me, from left, Ken Meddock and Frank Bonacorsso.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Wished That The Local Vultures Were As Charming As The Nearby Pelicans.

"Want a breakfast margarita?" Clif teased.

"No, but I do want to find the farmacia," I replied

Warm sun blessed, we reintroduced our bodies to summer clothes and sandals, and then wandered the San Jose Del Cabo streets. We found the Mega Store which included a full pharmacy. Twenty steps inside we heard "May I help you find something?" in rehearsed broken-English.


"Si, follow me," answered the Mega Store employee.

We chatted in Spanglish—where are you from? You have a childrens?—blah, blah, blah. Approaching the pharmacy, he asked, "Well, amigos, how would you like 100 American dollars—free? I can also get you a free dinner, cruise…"

"Gracias, senor," I interrupted. "I just want my prescription.

"Then I get you 150 American dollars…"

"No, gracias, senor…"

"But you get free money, and a dinner cruise worth another 200 American dollars, and…"

"No! Gracias, senor. We are tired and want nothing but the view from our hotel and…"

"You don't want free money?" he insisted.

"There's no such thing as free money."

"But senorita," he continued his bottomless pitch.

"No! We are not interested."

He continued and then God intervened with a radio call. "Excuso. I'll meet you when you are finish," he noted as he headed to a cashier in need.

And I'll lose 20-pounds tomorrow at the all you can eat buffet at our all inclusive hotel, I self muttered.

It was Valentine's Day and we spent what was left as long-time lovers should: bask in the sun, walk the beach, watch the people, have wine with lunch, and spend the evening watching a cabaret of dancers as dinner was served. "Would you like more red wine?" asked our waiter as the dancers changed costumes. Of course. And where's the chocolate?

We slept like babies unaware that a vultures' roost, so removed from their natural state of retreat, that they were ready to pick still living flesh from us.

Royal Solaris Hotel--AKA Vulture Headquarters

At exactly 8 a.m., our telephone rang. "Buenas dias, Senora Coimbra. I call to remind you of our 9 a.m. appointment today. Please meet us in the lobby."

Clif grumbled. "Think freebies," I recollected for him.

A Spanish princess greeted our lobby arrival. "Buena dias, senor y senorita.
Follow me, please.

When I saw one meeting room crowded with folks like us a bad feeling crept through my bones. Uniformed men stood in front of our only way out.

Have you ever watched a vintage black and white film: Hypnotic jungle drums rumble in the distance; an unsuspecting—yet intrigued—American wanders dangerously close. Hungry eyes hidden inside dark and dense foliage, lustfully watch. Suddenly, the blonde American in her white safari pants and shirt is trapped, and then yanked into a nest of starving cannibals while vultures soar overhead and the drums maniacally beat.

Enter handsome young Aldo with his 20 very personal questions. How much do you make? How many children? What are their names? Do you travel often?

Not fond of such questions, I made up answers: Millions of dollars, twelve children, Matthew, Luke, John, etc. This is our first trip away from the multitudes.

What really gave us the willies was the placement of us pigeons to Aldo, who directly faced an aging brood of vultures perched along a wall. Really—it was that obvious.

"Aldo, let's cut to the chase," I interrupted his prodding, "How much for the
time share?"

"Oh, no, no senora, this is not a time share? It is a partial full ownership…."

"Aldo, I'd say that a 'partial full ownership' is an oxymoron if ever there was an oxymoron."

His face contorted. I think what he heard was "you are a moron." Then from rear perch, one of the senior vultures sniffed for dead meat and soared to our table. "Aldo, take them to breakfast," he hissed. Now it was my turn to ask Aldo 20 personal questions. He got the picture and suggested, "Just go back and act like you are listening. You're done in 30 minutes, and then enjoy your gifts."

Back to the dumping ground, Aldo went through the numbers. Within 10 minutes another vulture left his perch hungry for fresh carrion. He reviewed Aldo's paperwork and grunted out an even better number to become a partial full owner of nothing. "Sorry, we are not interested," Clif insisted. Not good enough. A more aggressive vulture rocketed off his perch to swoop in and kill the meat himself. That was #6 vulture, named Ignacio.

The veins in Clif's neck showed his quickening pulse and his blue eyes searched for soft flesh to pierce. A wise vulture would leave. Ignacio was not wise. After some hostile exchanges, the Coimbras were escorted from the poisoned nest, handed our freebies, and then escorted to the elevator. Ignacio went in for easier kill

We tangoed the night away on our Cabo sunset dinner cruise, watched whales swim by and marveled at the geological beauty of San Andreas faulting that separates the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Cortez.


This is the second installment of our Baja adventures. Inside a Mexican single engine Cessna, we began our trek toward reuniting with Alemany 66ers and a glorious encounter with grey whales.



Saturday, February 23, 2008

Los Zopilotes of Cabo San Lucas

Aeropuerto San Jose Cabo San Lucas

As heat seeking, middle aged, well-fed Americans, Clif and I recently flew US Airways to Cabo San Lucas. Mentally dull from the recent sale of our business ( our radar ran at low ebb upon landing in San Jose Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico.

Just outside Mexican Customs we walked into a vultures’ nest. We arranged airport pickup service, so when a well-spoken Mexican man asked us where we were going, we were clueless that he eyed us as road kill with luggage. (Figuratively, we were.)

He whistled for his boy and rattled out in Spanish what I think was probably, “Dude, I got me some fat American pigeons. Stall while I set them up.”

“Where are you from?” he asked. “While we wait for your transportation, come over here and let me give you a bienvenidos package with free cruises, massages, and tequila if you like.”

Two-word interpretation: Time share, amigo.

His half-hour pitch ended when I lost my patience, grabbed my luggage and found my way outside to the glorious 80-degree temps. A whole other kettle of vultures waited outside. “Gracias, no,” became my mantra until a taxi carried us away.

Royal Solaris Hotel

Celebrating 20 years of marriage, I reserved an ocean view room at the all-inclusive Royal Solaris Los Cabo in San Jose del Cabos.

Endless food, margaritas, sun. Oh yeah, baby.

“Bienvenidos,” greeted a young man with earthen brown eyes, a black guayabera over khaki Dockers. His name tag read Christian. He called for the bell boy, then asked us, “Where are you from?” New Mexico, blah, blah, blah. “Wonderful! Follow me for your bienvenidos package.”

Inside the gala lobby, Christian sat us at one of the many welcome desks and asked, “Would you like a margarita, cerveza, or maybe a mimosa?” Not yet. A young woman brought us chilled bottled water.

As in the airport, Christian asked if we’d like a Cabo San Lucas bay tour? ATV rides? A massage? All free, of course. He was also enthused about the possibility of us being invited to an exclusive cocktail party and even a free breakfast (but isn’t this an all-inclusive hotel I wondered) if we would just give the hotel 90 minutes of our time that will show us how to save big money on travel. What the heck, we said.

Well into our 6th floor room, directly facing the white sandy beaches of the Sea of Cortez where whales floated by, mantra rays splashed in the surf, and white clothed mercados offered touristas hats, jewelry, scarves, wind chimes and tattoos, our feeding frenzy began accompanied with the promised endless supply of margaritas.

Amigos, this is the first part of a multi-part blog. Ahead: A warning note to the unsuspecting traveler, meeting up with Alemany High School grads of ’66, and moments of unexplained emotions from a close and personal encounter with grey whales.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Immigration, Homelessness: Some American Woes

    A recent email discussion of illegal immigration issues tweaked my thinking bone. So did a woman in mismatched second or third-hand-me-downs, ending in a pair of oversized men's shoes on her feet.

    This discussion group is educated and multi-faceted with as many opinions and thoughts on the issue as there are probably illegal immigrants. The shabbily clothed woman was trying to open the massive glass and steel doors of a county office, but she struggled because one arm held what may have been her possessions and the other arm looked too thin to manage the door's weight. I assume that the word download in her world is putting down her oversized plastic bag either in a shelter or, God forbid, a person-sized box, abandoned car or underneath a bridge also known as her bedroom.

    So what do I think about illegal immigration? I think it is inevitable and unstoppable. In spite of the United States' economic woes, this country is the greener side of the fence. With classism and racism strong elements of the countries south of our border, poverty remains incurable. Yes, there is a middle class, but by my observations the haves and have-nots are clearly defined and unchangeable.
The have-nots will not get education, will not get advantage, will not rise above impoverishment, and will not stay in their country to watch their children wake up hungry. The haves will gladly accept the $23 BILLION in revenue sent to Mexico by illegal and legal immigrants in 2006 (Dallas Morning News, Jan. 31, 2007), while their neighbor, El Salvador welcomes the $2.5 BILLION in revenue by Salvadorians working in the United States, according to Rene Leon, Ambassador of El Salvador.

    In 2005, the US immigrant money sent to Mexico exceeded foreign direct investment in Mexico. And in El Salvador, the $2.5 billion was 13% of the Gross Domestic Product of El Salvador.

    Meanwhile back to this obviously Caucasian woman with white hair and funky clothes. What does she have in common with illegal immigrants? She was probably born here. She's probably half-way educated. Somehow her life unwound (Abuse? Mental disorder? Addictions?), and she has sunk lower on the social-economic totem pole than the illegal immigrant picking the strawberries I'll consume next week. She's just of one of an estimated 3.5 million people (1.35 million of which are children) that will experience homelessness in a given year.

Some more sad statistics from Los Angeles Homeless Services Coalition

Children under the age of 18 account for 39% of the homeless population. 42% of these are under the age of 5.

43% of the homeless population are women; 40% of these women are unaccompanied. 22% of homeless women claim domestic abuse as reason for homelessness. 25% of these claim to have been abused within the past year.

Families with children comprise 33% of the homeless population.

Vets constitute 40% of the homeless population.

1 in every 5 homeless persons has a severe or persistent mental illness.

25% of the homeless nationwide are employed.

Clearly, it is time to take care of America and those who choose to become Americans. The circumstances are complex and almost inconceivable in scope. Earned pride and well-being come from within.

Yes there is a war against America. I'm not Pollyanna. Our military and police are irreplaceable. When America is good, it is very, very good. Balance, humility, insight and compassion must return to our daily consumption.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pigeonholing Liberals and Conservatives. Wrong!

Yesterday I saw two bumper stickers on a pickup truck: "Rush is Right" and "Piss off a Liberal: Work Hard and Be Successful."

From my point of view that is dumbness personified. I'll tell you why: Rush has a shtick and makes up facts--we all know that. He is profoundly wealthy as a hate monger. That's funky karma in my world. And this business about liberals not working--wrong. Spouse and I work hard and are successful business people. I won't quote dollars, but we're in the tax bracket that pays big taxes. We anonymously donate to the underprivileged. We choose not to have our name on brass plaques.

This is not meant as a statement of sainthood, but as a statement of pigeonholing folks. Didn't we cease pigeonholing after leaving high school?

I don't mind being spurred about my liberal thoughts because I can answer with conviction, facts, and knowledge of the subject. I was raised in an active political family of both Democrats and Republicans. From the time I was 3, I worked on campaigns with my godfather, who raised me. I knew big time state Democratic leaders, and I socialized and worked with Republicans. Heck, my great grandfather, was a Republican candidate for mayor of Los Angeles--but he died of TB before the election.

Once upon a time, when I was 28-years-old, the father of my two baby girls and my husband, was accidentally killed. I had stayed home with the babies, worked part time developing my own business, and tried to finish my education. Boom. Suddenly, my income was gone. I qualified for county aide and state aide. But this good old-fashioned liberal said, screw your aide, I'll do it myself, thank you very much. And I did. I learned about investment. I took a minuscule life insurance policy and invested that into second mortgages which earned me a tidy income along with my reporter's job that I did during the day while taking night classes at UCLA. Does this fit the shape of a liberal?

Yet, I'm still without a candidate for 2008!