On the trail of Bolder Boulder Skechers: Memorial Day 2016

Obligatory Bolder Boulder shot on Folsom Hill.

I don’t know why I do the Bolder Boulder 10K. Maybe it’s the familiarity – the Blues Brothers crooning  right out of the blocks; the girating belly dancers on the Folsom Hill and off key Elvis at the 7-Eleven; the Slip ‘n Slide – now there are two.

I used to buy a shirt every year but got rid of all of them except the 2002 race shirt. That was the race that remembered 9/11. That takes the guess work out of my annual wardrobe decision making.

I started covering the race in 2006 when I was with the public access TV station and have been going out on the course getting shots of pretty much anything but the race, including all the bands that entertain the runners along the way.

Mugging with Elvis at the 7-Eleven

It takes me around three hours to finish. I stop about 20 times and spend a few minutes with all the bands and live entertainment along the route. I get out too late to sample any of the bacon giveaway – the other power bar – around the 9K neighborhood. I did notice that the Colorado Pork Producers are now a sponsor and taken over the concession.

When I was recovering from my illness in 2014, I had to take a swig of oxygen staggering into the stadium just before the orange shirts – the mop up crew – threw me off the course. My strength and stamina are way better, except the rock climbing on Saturday took its toll. That’s another story.

This year, I took a step on the wild side and made a Bolder Boulder impulse buy.

I was bound and determined to find a pair of new sneakers – Skechers. Last year, I was sitting at the lunch table with elite runner Meb Keflezighi. In 2015 Skechers was named as the big sponsor of the Bolder Boulder and Meb swears by Skechers. That’s been his shoe sponsor since 2011.

He couldn’t stop raving about Skechers – sort of like when after winning Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning said that he was going to relax and down a few Buds in reference to his Louisiana business interests.

Vintage Skechers

Not that I’m any kind of shoe aficionado, but I remember Skechers as pastel pink women’s walking shoes with the rounded bottoms. Now footwear for elite athletes?

If there’s anyone who’s the casual runner, it’s me. I bought a pair of Asics in 2002 and wear them once a year for the Bolder Boulder. Needless to say, my shoes are still in good shape.

Last year – 2015 – Skechers had a big trade booth on the Pearl Street Mall. The Flatiron Running Store was the local sponsor and was giving out T-shirts. I picked up a shirt and some literature about Skechers, but hadn’t made up my mind about the shoes.

Fast forward to 2016, this year I visited the Skecher trade booth and tried on a pair  of the 8 1/2 GoRun Strada shoes, but walked away. When I came back, they, of course, were sold, but I tried on every other shoe in my size, but none were quite right, even at $76. (Actually, any of them would have worked, but they were red. I don’t wear anything red because it reminds me of my high school rivals Cheyenne Central).

My $30 Skechers are little too colorful for my liking, but I won’t wear them until next year.

Not to be deterred, I went down to the Flatiron Running Store in the Table Mesa shopping center and much to my surprise, most of their Skechers were on the deeply-discounted sale table.

After searching around, I uncovered one pair, sticker price $130 marked down to $50 and marked down again to $30.

Retail is for suckers.

I got them home and as the Skechers shoe salesman on the Mall explained, the soles are made out of foam. They are light weight and felt good on my feet. As a general rule, it probably doesn’t make much sense to wear brand new shoes on a 10K run, but they were very soft and comfortable.

Afterwards, no bruised up runner’s toe or achy arches. For this kind of foot abuse, I normally need strong support, but not with these Skechers.

I sound like Meb.

Since I only wear them six miles per year, the foam should last me for a while. This model probably is not for hard core runners which may be why all these shoes were on the “buy these before we send them to “Aftica” sale table.

Ellen and infant Evelyn on Memoaial Day

One of my friends was due to have a baby around this weekend. In the pool, I had May 30th and sure enough baby Evelyn was born on Memorial Day.

Bragging rights.

I played the game of Risk in a past life. The custom of the group bestowed on the winner the imperial honor of folding up the board, sorting out the pieces and putting the game away.

Imperial bragging rights.

Baby Skechers rooted out of a pile at Nordstrom’s Rack.

In this vein, as the winner of the birth date guessing game, I felt obliged to get a present. I opted for a Memorial Day – Bolder Boulder themed gift of a pair of baby Skechers, which cost $30 – the same price as the pair I bought for the race. I’m pretty sure if Nike or Adidas sponsored the race, my baby shoes would have been way pricier!

After getting to Folsom Field, I happened to see two folks who were the last two finishers being escorted by the orange shirts past the finish line. Turns out the runners in their 70s were Don and Barb Worden from Rock Springs, Wyoming.

They said this is likely their last Bolder Boulder.

Maybe they have the right idea to end their running careers on a high note as the final finishers in 2016.

‘When I’m 64’ birthday book project for 2016 – 2017

A poem that inspired my book project.

Today is the final day of last year’s birthday activities.

A few months ago, a sidewalk poet in Fort Collins typed up a few lines for me that inspired the “When I’m 64” book project that begins tomorrow.

My 63rd year starts uneventfully tomorrow, May 2nd, with well-wishers on facebook and that will be the extent of it, but a yearlong celebration is stacking up to be action-packed. A smattering of events include:

  • a screening of “Aging Gratefully: The Power of Community” at the cohousing conference in Salt Lake May 19th
  • finishing up two documentaries – “New Deal Art in Wyoming” and “Art of the Hunt”
  • starting some new projects – in August “Plein Air in Thin Air” with a trek up the Grand Teton, teaching Arapaho kids movie production, Prince project in Wyoming
  • going fly fishing

When I turned 60 back in 2013, I had big plans to kick off a productive and action-packed decade.

Instead, it was a big mortality wake up call. I barely made it through 2013 with a big reevaluation of life which is why I continue my tradition of celebrating for the year.

The cohousing community had a talking circle tonight about transitions over the past few months.

Most of the conversation was rather dark about health issues and mortality.

I tried having those conversations a couple years ago with my neighbors which largely fell on deaf ears. Funny how people believe their own observations. It will be interesting to see if their perceptions will match up with reality.

As many of you know by now, May 2013 started out uneventfully – the Bolder Boulder; then the top of the Cyclone roller coaster; then a shingles attack; then too much work – “Mahjong and the West, Governor’s Arts Awards, a wedding; then a week stint in the hospital and then another six weeks in the hospital – that time on my death bed.

I snapped out of it and now every day I wake up, I’m grateful. I’ve been culling through my stuff which includes  a bunch of newspaper columns and other muses.

I’m compiling all that into a memoir woven through my health recovery experiences over the past couple years.

I took a couple writing classes to scrape off the rust, but turns out there are a lot of authors with worse cases of writer’s block than me.

The class exercises were helpful for structure and topics. Though, hearing about and helping others slog through their writing struggles was the most worthwhile. I thought I was stuck, until I met with my workshop-mates who are really stuck – scared to start.

I may run some parts of the book for you to check out. I still have a few things on my 2013 list to complete including weightlessness, skipping stones, climbing a tree and writing a book.

This ‘bucket list’ thing has been going around social media …

Fired a gun  – I’ve gone hunting a few times and blasted a few tin cans back to the Stone Age with an AR-15.

Gone on a blind date – I’m of the age where I’ve had successes and failures writing personal newspaper classifieds and internet dating.

Skipped school – I didn’t skip school when I was a kid, but during college, I planned my schedule so I always had three or four day weekends.

Watched someone give birth – No

Watched someone die – I was in a hospital emergency room when I saw a guy die from shoveling snow.

Visited Canada – Many times. The most memorable was a high school road trip with a bunch of kids from around Wyoming. We drove to Prince Rupert and boarded a ferry there for Sitka. We were on a Presbyterian work crew at Sheldon Jackson College.

Visited Hawaii – I’ve only been once in the mid-1980s to visit relatives and watch the University of Wyoming play Hawaii in football. It’s nice to watch a football game in balmy weather.

Visited Europe – It was a layover in Amsterdam on my way to Uganda. Staying longer is on my list of things to do.

Visited Las Vegas – What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Visited Washington DC – Many times. My aunt lived there. I went to Nixon’s 1973 inauguration and Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

Visited Asia – After all my grandparents died, my family made a pilgrimage to Japan. Kumomoto is where the big earth quake just happened.

Visited Africa – I was in Uganda for three weeks shooting a movie that never came to pass.

Visited Florida – Many times. I took a college class and visited all over the place, including Key West. Florida has the most cattle of anywhere in the country.

Visited Mexico – I worked in Zacatecas, Mexico off and on for about five years. That was quite the experience. My idea was to keep people from coming the the US to work. A couple of these little towns would be deserted when all the men left for construction jobs. I set up a bunch of home sewing operations putting together hair ties. In the end, I learned that the reason all the maquillas are located along the border is because of transportation.

Visited Australia – I have a proposal out to show my cohousing movie there.

Seen the Grand Canyon in person – Several times. I’d like to do some adventure there, as opposed to looking over the edge. If you’ve seen one gouge in the ground, you’ve seen them all. The Grand Canyon of the Gunnison is at least as spectacular.

Flown in a helicopter – When I was airlifted out from the Big Thompson Canyon after the big flood I rode in a Chinook to Fort Collins. This was 1976 before cell phones. My friends and family thought I was dead.

Been on a cruise – When in Alaska, I was technically on a cruise ship. My high school mates were in steerage on a liner called the Wickersham. I remember venturing to the upper decks and hanging with people in tuxedos and long dresses.

Served on a jury – I was on a grand jury in Wyoming. While in Colorado, I have never been called. Technically, I’m not supposed to mention that I was on the jury.

Been in a movie – I’ve been in a studio movie, “Catch and Release.” I was Passerby 257 in some Pearl Street Mall establishing shots. A couple of my friends are making a short movie next week and I’ll be an extra in that.

Visited L.A – Many times – nothing memorable though. Disneland, maybe.

Been to New York City – Many times. The most memorable was watching the Super Bowl between the Falcons and Broncos in the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. I didn’t realize it was a famous gay bar at the time.

Cried yourself to sleep – When my cat died.

Played in a band – I played in the Fremont County community orchestra. I keep threatening to get out my fiddle and hack away at it. I picked up my grandfather’s violin I loaned to a second cousin. She was done with it.

Recently colored with pencils – No

Sang karaoke – In Hawaii, there was a lot of that when it was new in the US. I can’t remember the last time I sang in a bar – unless it was at a college reunion at the Wagon Wheel Bar.

Swam in the ocean – A few times. I’m not much of a water dog and don’t seek out the water.

Paid for a meal with coins only – When McDonald’s hamburgers were $.15 there was not much credit card use in those days. In a short movie I made in Vail a few years ago, the main character having a bad day ended up paying with his loose change, including from the ‘leave and penny – take a penny’ tray.

Made prank phone calls – Call to local store, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well, let him out!”

Laughed so much you cried – I used to really laugh a lot when I was a kid to the point of tears. Not so much as an adult. I also got bad grades for citizenship. Tonight Bill Maher made me laugh so hard I cried when he told 25 things you don’t know about Ted Cruz. 

Caught a snowflake on your tongue – The other day when it was coming down in cotton balls.

Had children – No

Had a pet – Family pets. I had three cats that were under my guardianship.

Been skinny dipping – At church camp, there was a pond and a bunch of us stupid kids jumped into ice cold, frigid water. Not very smart.

Rappelled down a building/tower – At the University of Wyoming, there were several building climbing routes and rappelling was a part of it. I also put up some routes in downtown Lander. I got in big trouble for that, especially since they ended up in route descriptions in the local newspaper.

Gone zip lining – I haven’t zip lined, but have swung in a big swing that pendulummed down from a big crane at the Colorado State Fair. It was a zero gravity experience.

Been downhill skiing – This was probably my last year. I skied four times and I’m not moved to go again, but who knows.

Been water skiing – I went once at Keyhole Reservoir near Devil’s Tower.

Been camping in a tent – I’m from the west. I carry one in the car at all times.

Driven a motorcycle – The biggest motorbike I’ve ridden is a 50cc Aprillia scooter.

Jumped out of a plane – No, but given the opportunity I’d do it. If George HW Bush could do it half crippled up, I can do it.

Gone to a drive-in movie – My first drive in movie was Cleopatra at the Motor-Vu in Cheyenne. I live in the Holiday Neighborhood which used to be the drive-in movie.

Done something that could have killed you – I fell asleep at the wheel driving back from Dubois to Lander. I woke up in the nick of time.

Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life – Yeah, it wrecked a friendship. Time has healed it, but one of these days we’ll talk about it.

Rode an elephant – The circus came to town in Lander and as a publicity stunt, I was asked to ride the elephant.

Rode a camel – No, but I did see camels that were for transport in Uganda. I didn’t think about asking about getting a ride. It was hard enough getting used to traffic on the wrong side of the street.

Eaten just cookies or cake or ice cream for dinner – I’ve eaten dessert for all three meals. The best thing about adulthood is being able to eat what I want and not have someone tell me it will spoil my dinner, I can spoil my dinner if I want.

Been on TV – I ran a public access TV station and on from time to time. Cheyenne has a pretty good local TV station and they offer time for event organizers to be on the air as a public service. I also used to be on for my work in city government from time to time.

Been in the newspaper – I’ve been writing in newspapers since 1963. I was in National Geopgraphic once.

Stolen any traffic signs – Some of my friends had traffic signs in their dorm rooms. Taking traffic signs wasn’t on my crime list back then.

Been in a car accident – The first was when I slid the Falcon through an intersection into one of my neighbors. The latest is when I rolled my Eurovan on the Hoback highway between Pinedale and Jackson a couple summers ago when I was sick. I shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.

Stayed in hospital – My longest stay was for six weeks a couple years ago. I was on my death bed, but snapped out of it.

Donated blood – I’ve heard there are people who do this on a regular basis. I’ve donated once for some camaraderie thing.

Had to pay a fine in the past 12 months – Traffic ticket. I was unloading stuff in front of the Boulder Theater for the Boulder International Film Festival and got an illegal parking ticket. I was going to contest it, but didn’t get around to it.

Eaten snails – There was a French restaurant in Denver where I had some escargot. I like ’em.

Gotten a piercing – Other than jabbing myself in the finger with a knife or needle?

Gotten a tattoo – Only the temporary ones that came in bubble gum. Topps made tattoos of baseball players. Mickey Mantle is worth several hundred dollars.

Driven a standard car – My first manual transmission was a red Ford Falcon and my last stick was a 1993 Eurovan that I just traded for a new Jetta.

Ever owned your dream car – I owned my two dream cars, a 1965 Karmann Ghia and a 1973 VW convertible.

Been Married – Yes, but it wasn’t memorable.

Fell in love – My first love was the best love. I’ve been in complicated love.

Paid for a strangers meal – In Mexico, I would regularly pull over in taxi cabs and treat the drivers to shrimp cocktails.

Driven over 100mph – Only once when a college ‘mate pegged his Roadrunner passed 120mph on a straight away between cornfields in Nebraska.

Worked in a pub – I ran booze between the bar and the Hitching Post Inn banquet rooms in Cheyenne during Frontier Days. That midnight to 8am shift was a lot of fun for a teenager.

Been scuba diving – No, I’m a land lubber.

Found a dead body – No

Lived on your own – Still do.

Sat in the back of a police car – The one time I was arrested for DUI, I sat in the back of a police car. It was a false arrest and I got close to suing the cops.

Written or published a book/story/poem/song – I was a newspaper writer. I’ve been rewriting a bunch of my columns and adding stuff like this list to jog my memory about stuff for a memoir I want to finish by this time next year when I turn 64 – just like the song.

What is the chief end of man?

jesus card

Jesus of Nazareth

I’m a baseball card collector. Any kind of trading cards, really. Especially if they’re interesting.

I’ve been at it since I was in Sunday school.

One of the main reasons I went to church was for the the swag – Bible verse rulers, cookies and … trading cards – Jesus cards. My Sunday school teacher had a lesson and then passed the cards around. I’m pretty sure the girls didn’t know what to do with them. Probably wrecked these paper treasures by gluing them in a scrap book.

Me, I had a Jesus collection.

jesus card back

If Jesus autographed this card, it would be worth a lot of money. I doubt anyone could authenticate it.

I’ll trade you two Mantles for this Jesus..

When I was a kid, my family went to the First Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was on the “other side” of town and kids from the other junior high school feeder schools went there.

In a sense, it was integration.

We went to church most Sundays. My parents were involved in the activities – women’s circle, Mariners. I’m pretty sure my mom was the main instigator of all that and my dad just tagged along for the food.

My sister and I went to Sunday school, sang in the choir and went to the youth fellowship group in the evenings. It was fun with not much emphasis on Christianity-related stuff. The mission was to make it home before “Batman” came on the TV.

Not like some of my friends who were Mormons, Catholics and Lutherans, there was some high pressure sales when I went to my friends church events. When it came to summer church camp, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists all came together.

I almost became a Mormon at one point. There was a girl involved but I came to my senses.

Presbyterians didn’t emphasize the “Jesus Saves” message or much of that sins = hell and good =  heaven drills.

It was mostly about the liturgy of church life – baby christening (which I don’t remember), free Bible in the 3rd grade (which I still have and rebound it when I wore it out. Well, actually dropped it off the top bunk at camp one too many times), catechism – “What is the chief end of man?” (I still know the answer), another free Bible for high school graduation (which I have but still in the box).

hc alan debbie karen mary coors

My mates and I at Hastings College.

A group of my Presbyterian high school friends all ended up attending Hastings College in Nebraska. The student body was around 650 which was the size of my high school class.

More liturgy.

Chapel on Wednesday morning wasn’t required, but there would be the occasional good program like Barbara Jordan.

Dress up family style dinner on Wednesday night was a hassle. We were enticed to attend with pretty good food.

Then there was the social engineering.

Freshman women weren’t allowed to leave campus for the first semester.

All women had to be back in the dorms by 1:00 am. They looked forward to daylight savings time because of the added hour.

There were very few minorities – a latino who now happens to live in Boulder, a couple black guys on the football and track teams, a Chinese and me.

These days, there aren’t women’s hours, but the school is still very white bread, but it fits in with that middle-of-the-grain-belt-culture, which is okay.

There was a Jewish guy who was big into Jews for Jesus. Apparently the Bible says there will be 144,000 Jewish men selected to be “saved.”

He wanted to be one of them.

He was the most religious zealot on campus. There were some pre-seminary majors, but this guy was over the top – Campus Crusade for Christ, all that.

At the time, the conservative lifestyle suited me – I was Republican then. In fact, my first presidential vote was for Nixon, I’m sorry to admit. The school year was 3-1-3. During the January Interim in 1973, I took a political science class called Legislators and Lobbyists in Washington DC. One of the activities was attending Nixon’s inauguration. I was tear gassed during an anti-war demonstration.

I was going through the motions, but still didn’t get the religious part of campus life at Hastings College.

chariots_of_the_gods-720080While in college I became interested in the “Chariots of the Gods” craze.

Basically, it’s about aliens from other dimensions who Erich Von Däniken believes are the angels who talked to various Biblical characters through burning bushes, pillars of fire, angels. The chariot that Jesus is supposed to ride when he returns at the end of the world is a UFO.

The Bible categorizes angels from archangels at the top to Satan at the bottom and several categories in between. There’s supposedly a constant unseen battle happening between good and evil.

Since I’m more into the tangible, the aliens / UFO model started to make some sense.

I’ll skip through time.

After graduating from Hastings with degrees in biology and political science, finding a job was not on my radar screen. My counselors forgot to tell me there aren’t many jobs counting smooth and wrinkled peas.

I sat out the post-Vietnam War recession in grad school at the University of Wyoming. After two years, I got a job in Gillette in 1977.

ufo mcguire

The water well on the McGuire farm with the Israeli flag flying.

In 1980, there was a story in the Casper Star Tribune about strange lights in the sky bouncing around a remote part of southeast Wyoming. I called the reporter about it and as a journalist he was awe struck.

At that time, there was a TV show called “That’s Incredible” hosted by Sarah Purcell and John Davidson.

The show was sending a crew to  Wyoming for a story about the UFOs visiting the Pat McGuire family at the Morton Pass Farm in the Sybille Canyon between Wheatland and Laramie on Highway 34.

“We have to go there,” I said to a group of my friends. I was obsessed by it.

The story is whacky and more involved than what I’ll write here, but hold on to your hats.


Leo Sprinkle

A world renowned paranormal psychologist from the University of Wyoming named Leo Sprinkle specialized in alien abduction experiences and through hypnosis, regressed McGuire to the time he was taken aboard the UFO several years earlier.

He claimed to have been in touch with the Archangel Michael and given instructions to drill a big well on his property and begin farming.

The well was a gusher – over 8,000 gallons / minute supposedly delivered by the aliens.

He was approved for a low interest loan from the state of Wyoming for some irrigation equipment, even though hydrology studies that said the sage brush country would remain dry and unproductive dur to lack of water.

In homage to Michael and his other alien abductors, he flew the Israeli flag over the water well pump. He said the aliens wore Star of David belt buckles. He also wore one on the belt that held up his Wranglers.

ufo lights

Nocturnal Lights seen from the Morton Pass Farm in 1980.

My UFO entourage drove down and met the “That’s Incredible” crew. The nocturnal lights weren’t quite as active as they were earlier, but nonetheless, there were some to be seen, which I photographed.

On my way to Laramie from Gillette to visit my parents I generally stopped at the McGuire’s through the early 1980s. One day, the access road was closed.

After that, I lost touch with the McGuires.

Over time, I learned the McGuires had family and financial problems and were unable to make ends meet with their high altitude barley crop, even with the free water.

I heard the University of Wyoming ended up with the farm.

Pat died in 2009.

I read a couple books on the topic of angels as aliens. One was “Angels: God’s Secret Agents” by Billy Graham. It puts into context good angels and bad angels and mentions the UFO phenomenon and I can’t help but make the same comparisons with what I saw on those hills on Highway 34 that summer.

angels gods secret agentsGraham writes, “Some reputable scientists deny and others assert that UFOs do appear to people from time to time. Some scientists have reached the place where they think they can prove that these are possibly visitors from outer space.

“Some Christian writers have speculated that UFOs could very well be a part of God’s angelic host who preside over the physical affairs of universal creation.

“While we cannot assert such a view with certainty, many people are now seeking some type of supernatural explanation for these phenomena. Nothing can hide the fact, however, that these unexplained events are occurring with greater frequency.”

A few years later, after I moved to Lander, I was in Cheyenne for some reason.  I saw that Billy Graham was speaking at Frontier Park. It was free, so I went over to listen.

Alan and the PopeCopter in 1993

It was the biggest religious event I’d attended, at least until I went to see Pope John Paul II at Cherry Creek Reservoir in 1993. Now that was a crowd. I’d only taken Catholic communion once and it was at that papal mass.

Rev. Graham didn’t talk about angels or UFOs, but he’s one inspiring speaker.

I was compelled to give a few bucks when his minions passed the hat. I was attending the Evangelical Free Church which was a fairly conservative branch of the Presbyterians. The preacher and his wife were young and personable. I had forgotten that I wrote my home church on the offering envelope. Back in those days, to get a tax deduction, the church had to send you a receipt.

My minister was surprised I went to see Billy Graham and I told him my Angels and Aliens story.

He looked at me as if I was the son of the devil and the topic didn’t come up again.

I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve.

I do think there’s something to the historical Jesus as being a guy who walked his talk about the benefits of being nice to each other.

I bought a copy of the Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson separated out all the scripture that was said by Jesus and compiled it, which is pretty much what I follow.

“What would Jesus do?”

The path I happened to take to get me there, was the UFO and alien route. I ended up where most others end who come through more conventional recruitment.

Based on the super natural stuff I’ve seen, the claims that Jesus was taken up to heaven don’t surprise me.

I don’t care if there’s a resurrection or not, nor do I care if I get raised from the dead. As far as I’m concerned, one lifetime here is enough!

jesus alou

Jesus of San Francisco

I’m still an avid card collector and plan to hold on to them, just in case.

I don’t want to be standing at the Pearly Gates and Peter says, “Welcome to heaven, but where’s all your stuff?”

To go along with my Jesus of Nazareth card, I have Jesus of San Francisco – Jesus Alou.

He and his two brothers Matty and Felipe all played for the Giants. The three played in a few games together in 1963.

Most of what I know about life is from trivia on the backs of trading cards.

jesus alou backAnother factoid and why I like this card is, Jesus Alou started his professional baseball career in 1959 playing for the Hastings Giants in the “D” Nebraska League.

Will my Presbyterian coincidences never cease?

By the way, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Ode to Greta, and other furry friends

gretaGreta got to the end of her leash.

My long time friend, Barbara is probably my best friend considering we’ve managed to stay in touch after bouncing in and out of each others lives for 23 years – including some small and large emergency situations, which now includes pet hospice.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to know her German Shepherd, Greta, pretty well – good company, great traveler, friendly, attentive and smart. Your basic good dog.

Neither of us have children  which is one thing that binds us together and as such, I feel bad about Greta. Losing a pet is certainly not the same as when a close relative dies on you, though.

I relate to Barbara losing her dog. It was emotional. Losing my cats was emotional.

george and gracie smallMy tan and gray tabby cats,  George and Gracie, were given to me by a coworker when I was in Lander, Wyoming close to 40 years ago. Both were the runts of the litter. I fed both with a medicine dropper until they were able to get around on there own.

Both took a liking to me.

They better have.

Gracie stayed mostly indoors, but George was an outdoor cat and would  be gone for a week or more at a time. I’m pretty sure he had a second life some where else, but he’d always come back like nothing happened.

Every morning George would sit on the sink while I was in the shower. I don’t know what it is about cats and bathrooms.

One day, he wasn’t there.

It seemed like he lost his self esteem, was depressed. I started finding him laying in his litter box.

A friend of mine, John Mionczynski from nearby Atlantic City, Wyoming was a pet herbalist. John most recently is well known as a cable TV Big Foot expert. He came over and diagnosed George as having cat leukemia.

He prescribed a goldenrod mush. That worked for a while and George perked up for a few days.

In retrospect, it wasn’t the best choice since the treatment prolonged his agony. I picked up George and put him in the basket where he liked to sleep. The next morning I found him lifeless on the kitchen floor.

The loss of that cat was hard on me, harder than any of the other critters I’ve had to put down over the years.

I went through that alone.

I haven’t heard of many animals who die naturally, as George did. In Lander, there was a vet who made house calls. He was gentle but very matter of fact.

I asked about an autopsy. He told me not to worry, which sounded like he would take care of George.

I didn’t want to be a “crazy cat” guy and bury him in the back yard, but it wasn’t a very ceremonious departure. The vet placed George in a black trash bag and hauled him off.

As for Gracie? After George died, I moved to another house and she disappeared, probably got lost trying to find her previous home.

As for Greta?

I helped Greta to her bed on the porch. She had degenerative myelopathy and lost the use of her back legs and bladder. She was still with it, checking out the horizon, sniffing the air. She couldn’t hear much anymore.

After scratching behind her ears, I bade her farewell. Barbara had a couple other friends over for when the vet came.

Over the past year, I’ve been to memorials and wakes for three family members – my Uncle Rich, Aunties Jeannie and Elsie.

Those three relatives went out with little notice. They didn’t want a big fuss, considering that past funerals in my family were pretty big deals.

When my dad was in hospice care at the hospital, I had a good talk with him when he was still lucid and conversational but I wasn’t present when the plug was pulled.

I was unemployed for the first time and finally landed a job. We talked about that and both agreed I should show up to work for the first day on Monday.

He must have taken a fast turn for the worst because he died that Sunday.

Dad had a good run, but a miserable life the last few years with COPD. I think I had what he had, but his was misdiagnosed. I came out of it because of better technology – namely the Video-assisted thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) lung biopsy.

I probably should have stuck for an extra day to support my mother. She died of a massive heart attack in her sleep three months later.

Deaths are for the living.

I wonder why dead people try to control others from the grave. In both my parent’s cases, they wanted people to get together. Those were a couple pretty good wakes.

Funerals are about the only times all the cousins get together anymore, at least the ones within a few hundred miles. Auntie Elsie denied us of that, because she didn’t want what she considered a big todo, it actually had the opposite effect.

It’s odd that it takes a tragedy as an excuse to get people together. 

Pets on the other hand, alive and dead, are all about their people and happy we’re there regardless. Closing out a pet’s life is way less complicated than all the paperwork that goes into being sure a human is actually dead.

When the vet arrived, I imagine Greta didn’t know what was coming, but I know Barbara is okay with my mourning and the well wishes of others. I’ll always remember that dog.

As for me, there’s now Moon the cat who will likely out-live not only me, but everyone else.

Forget estate planning, who’ll take care of the cat?

Swish and spit

I got a call from my cousin, Leslie.

These days, whenever relatives call, there’s generally some sort of family emergency. This time, Leslie told me our Auntie Elsie died. She was 89 and after a fall breaking her ankle she was moved out of her house and into a rehab center in north Cheyenne.

I stopped in to visit her when I was in town before and noticed she had a banged up face. Cheyenne is a smallish town. Elsie’s roommate is the great aunt of some high school mates of mine. She said Elsie fell out of bed. What I wasn’t told, is that she was now in hospice care because of it.

I was planning another trip to visit her and get a couple bits of family history from her about the time she sprung my grandfather and her brother – my Uncle George – from a holding stall at the Santa Anita Racetrack when Executive Order 9066 was signed by FDR rounding up west coast Japanese – Americans.

Long story short, Japanese who lived in the interior like in Wyoming were viewed as being non-threatening and allowed to stay in their homes and Elsie was able to get them back to Wyoming.

After World War II Elsie chose to move to Boston where she attended dental hygienist school and upon graduation, returned to Cheyenne and worked for Dr. Carson, who ended up being our family dentist.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s going to the dentist was viewed, I think by everyone, as cruel and unusual punishment. Those belt-driven drills that moved the bits at the speed of a hamster spinning his cage were gruesome.

The classic diabolic dentist movie scene is when a Nazi war criminal played by Lawrence Olivier bores into Dustin Hoffman’s front teeth in “Marathon Man”.

I inherited my dad’s bad teeth. I don’t know if kids still get their baby teeth capped, but all my teeth were covered with stainless steel. If there were metal detectors back then, I never would have made it into a sporting event or through the airport.

My aunt the hygienist cleaned my teeth. She always made it fun for kids. This was during the days of cuspidors – those little round sinks with cold water swirling around. I’d get that gritty toothpaste which sort of tasted good squirted out by my aunt pulling the trigger on that high pressure water pistol that shot a straight stream from two feet away.

Then swish and spit.

I always liked the mist that splattered up on my face as the fast moving water sloshed up the ceramic sides of the bowl.

When it was Dr. Carson’s turn, he wasn’t the most personable guy, at least compared to Dr. Cohen, my pediatrician. After a few pleasantries, if I was in for a filling, he pulled out this Dr. Frankenstein contraption. It was a glass, graduated cylinder embraced in a stainless steel housing with a needle the size of a house nail. He would stick it in a bottle of Novocain, pull it out of the robber stopper with a squeak and squirt the air out before jabbing me various places in my mouth.

Elsie would come in and mix up the filling gunk, which consisted of mercury and silver. My mouth was so full of toxins by the time I was out of high school, it would make a tuna fish gag. I gave up my last old school filling when my root canal tooth finally gave way a couple years ago and replaced by a ceramic one. My dentist at the time talked me out of gold, because it would ‘show’.

I shouldn’t have listened.

There’s no wonder dentists are viewed as torturers.

I don’t have to tell anyone who’s experienced those low RPM drills how much more pleasant it is to go to the dentist now and have to submit to those water-cooled hydraulics ones.

When I have dental work done nowadays, I don’t bother with the anesthetic since the needle poke hurts more than the drilling and there’s no biting of the inner cheek because of the weird numbness.

At the end of the session, Auntie Elsie handed me a pencil and a toothbrush and I was on my way.

Dr. Carson’s office was right next to the Bunten Pharmacy on one side and a block away from Save More Drug and Thrifty Drug. While waiting for my ride, I killed time browsing the baseball cards and Beatle cards and waste my money one a pack or two of them.

Elsie was single and in those days, that was unique, but not unusual for my family with three of her brothers never marrying and a brother and sister marrying much later in life.

She lived in south Cheyenne with my grand parents and her brother, Richard. She eventually moved out to her own place. Rich stayed there until both grand parents died and eventually married. More on them later.

Elsie was quite the athlete – playing 2nd base in a competitive softball league and a 175 scratch bowler. When she quit playing, I think I have her glove in my baseball box. My dad gave me my first glove, which I still have. Not a good memory about it though. The neighbor kid, who was much older than any of us threw a ball at me that was catchable.

I was scrawny and my hand and arm weren’t strong enough to keep the ball from flying out of the webbing and into my eye. I think it knocked me out. I ended up going to the emergency room, but I was no worse for the wear.

The glove I used most of my Little League career I bought at a church rummage sale in November 1963. It’s a Rawlings Wally Moon model. It had a broken in pocket and I made many a good play with it. There were a couple fly balls I should have had but flinched when the fence came up on me. Those weren’t major league fences, they were chain link barely waist high with the barbed edges uncovered which aren’t allowed these days.

Elsie taught me how to bowl. Starting out, everyone uses the house balls. The problem was, finding the same or a similar one each time I went to the alley. I didn’t really get the hang of the game, even though my mom and dad were at one time avid bowlers. World War II put an end to that when they were both kicked out of the American Bowling Congress after Pearl Harbor.

Neither of them picked up the sport again after that. Besides, my dad had a bad back which kept him 4F and out of the war. I also inherited his back problems and was introduced to chiropractics and sat out my sophomore year of high school wrestling – a great sport for spindly guys like me.

I think chiropractors had the same macabre reputations as dentists – maybe they still do.

When I started working and had disposable income, Elsie talked me into buying my own ball and shoes. I wasn’t a great bowler because I didn’t spend enough time at it. I did bowl enough to win a bowling trophy while on a team in Lander, Wyoming.

That was a rite of passage.

About that same time “The Big Lebowski” came out. I related to the nerdy Steve Buscemi character, since I didn’t quite fit into the usual bowling crowd.

Bowling has changed. I got rid of my ball in an early purge, which I now regret. There’s no bowling alley in Boulder and the ones in Denver are these disco-like places with flashing lights and loud music.

The worst part is, the score keeping is automatic.

Keeping score with soft lead pencils projected overhead is a lost art form. It was a display of bowling knowledge. I was always lousy at math, but I could score a bowling game. I think I was good at it because it was very visual – marking those x’s and half x’s writing legible numbers. Some people were bad at it. Even if I wasn’t bowling, I liked to keep score.

After Elsie died there was no big to do, I come from a long line of low key die-ers. A few months earlier my cousin Alison called to report her mother – my Auntie Jeannie – had passed away. She had a stroke while sleeping and didn’t wake up. She had a small reception, nothing like some services I’ve attended.

I’m not much of a reader – 11 books I have read that have influenced my life


our new friends dick jane

My first exposure to fiction.

Not being much of a reader, I had a hard time coming up with the list of books that had an influence on me.

I should list the books on my shelf that I have intended to read.

Had I been able to read non-fiction rather than that nonsensical Dick and Jane stuff, I would have become a better reader. I was always in the lowest reading groups in elementary school. It was a bit demeaning since the top readers were in the ‘eagle’ group while I was in the ‘sparrows’. As noted in this list, the books I have read are for some purpose, other than enjoyment, or getting lost in fictional worlds. I have a hard enough time in the real world, let alone fantasy.

emperor divine

This was a book read by Boulder.

“When the Emperor Was Divine” by Julie Otsuka – This book was the Boulder “community book” selected a few years back. The book is about a Japanese – American family that gets split up with the father, who is thought to be a spy, is sent to one World War II relocation camp for the potential criminals and the mom, son and daughter get sent to another. I read it a couple times and ended up writing a screenplay from it, which reminds me that I need to get it out and tweak it. I’m still unsure of how to end it.

creative genius.png

Insight for the creative introverg



“You’re a Creative Genius, Now What?” by Carl King – I think I learned of this book from a movie maker named Michael Wiese who is also a book publisher and published this book. He made a movie called “The Sacred Sites of the Dalai Lamas” that screened at the Boulder Asian Film Festival many years ago. I want to make a documentary about his approach, particularly suited to introverts, such as myself. I should follow up on that.

Tips from my favorite screenwriting critic

screent trade

Tales by my favorite screenwriter.

“Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman – I started out in the movie business taking a Lighthouse Writers screenwriting workshop. I didn’t know much about the craft and watched movies while reading the screenplays. For not getting much direction, my first screenplay critique was pretty harsh, which is part of the business. It was a rewrite of a stage play “The Webster Street Blues” which is another project still in development. I produced it as a stage play at the Mercury Cafe in Denver. It was a fundraiser in the wake of the big tsunami that swamped Japan. A couple of my favorite movies, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Marathon Man” were written by William Goldman. If I read any fiction, I read screenplays rather than books.


The screenwriting bible

“Story” by Robert McKee – I took a screenwriting class and had a hard time with the work flow. The workshop I was in seemed more like therapy for frustrated writers, some of whom didn’t ever finish one script over a couple years. After learning the basics of the craft, the first short I wrote won third prize in a contest. “Stardust” was the first movie I made when I was just learning as a volunteer at the public access TV station. I ended up traveling to New York and taking the “Story” screenwriting class taught by Robert McKee. It sounds odd, but this particular weekend event changed my outlook on life. I have read this book a couple times and still refer to it.


Inspired on of my short movies.

“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac – At the Denver Film Festival a few years back, I saw a short about the gas station in Longmont, Colorado where Sal Paradise (Kerouac) stayed after coming from Cheyenne on his way to meet Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) in Denver. I started the “Digital Scroll” project which has only one episode, that being a short docu-drama about Sal Paradise spending a night in Cheyenne during “Wild West Days (Cheyenne Frontier Days) on his way to Denver, via Longmont. Kerouac typed the original “On the Road” manuscript on a long piece of paper that consists of many sheets taped together. I was in Central City, Colorado yesterday and the next episode will be “On the Stage: Jack Kerouac in Central City. He and some friends spent some time hanging out with some of the opera players, I’m thinking at the Teller House after Fidelio played.

o'keeffe stieglitz

There isn’t a lot of information about Georgia O’Keeffe’s visit to Colorado.

“O’Keeffe and Stieglitz” by Bonita Eisler – While in Santa Fe, there was a book, maybe at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum that had all the works of Georgia O’Keeffe. The book included all the paintings she made while in Ward, Colorado. That was the first “famous people in strange places” moment that incited a movie based on the sketchy information available about her stay. I picked up this book as reference for a short film about her vacation in Boulder County in the summer of 1917. It originally screened at the church in Ward. Next stop is a screening in Santa Fe.


This was a book I read in a Books to Movies class in college.

“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad – I took a literature and film class at Hastings College taught by Sara Jane Gardner. It was the first exposure that I had to the nexus between movies and books. “Apocalypse Now’ is based on “Heart of Darkness.” Both have a first person narrative from the point of view of Marlow in the book and Willard in the movie. In the movie, Willard travels up the Mekong river in search of a Green Beret named Kurtz.

Robin Hood Was Right

This was the first book written about funding social change.

“Robin Hood Was Right” by Chuck Collins and Pam Rogers – When I first moved to Colorado, I somehow became involved with the Chinook Fund, which is a community – based foundation that funds mostly activist organizations.I was on the board of directors with John Hickenlooper, who was a biermeister at the Wynkoop Brewery. He was one of the first guys I met while in Colorado. He’s now on to other pursuits. His most memorable antic was passing out orange and blue placards at a Broncos game protesting the Mile High Stadium name change when the Stadium Authority was selling naming rights. This is one of the handbooks about how to fund social change. It’s a book about the classic example, rather than giving a guy a fish, it’s better to teach him how to catch fish.

spanish dictionary

I wore a couple of these out during my sojourns to Mexico.

“Spanish Dictionary” by University of Chicago – I did business for eight years or so in the late 1990s to early 2000s in the small town of Sombrerete in the state of Zacatecas in north central Mexico. Contrary to popular belief, English is not a very common language in most parts of Mexico, particularly in rural places like Sombrerete. This is the only book that I have worn out to the point that I had to get a new one. There are many Spanish – English dictionaries out there. I don’t know why I settled on this one.


A good children’s book introducing the topic of racism.

“Baseball Saved Us” by Ken Mochizuki – There used to be a group called “Reading to End Racism.” Community members would go into the school classroom and read a book to the students and have a discussion about it with them after. The book I generally read was this one about a baseball team that formed at a Japanese – American war relocation camp as a diversion during captivity. Oscar winner Chris Tashima (“Visas and Virtues”) made a short movie also about baseball in camp called “Day of Independence.”


One of the few books I read in high school, which did have a big impact on me.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee – I had to include one book that I read in high school. This book was one of the first novels that confronted racism and I read it cover to cover. I was in high school from 1969 to 1971 and it was very topical. I related to the Scout character. I thought the movie with Gregory Peck stuck pretty close to the book. The other book I sort of remember is “Billy Budd” by Herman Melville.

There you have it.

Based on my list, they are books which are purposeful and most were read as an adult. Turns out, I’m more of a doer than reader.

Like Will Rogers said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”