Wednesday, May 28, 2014


This is the commercial I have a fleeting presence in; after 3 hours of casting in the Sandy River from 5-8 a.m. the 5 seconds of screen time was the result.  Paid well for the effort and another check off the bucket list.

Monday, May 26, 2014


What does it take to enrage you?  That moment when your words fly on pure emotion because enough is enough.  Is it a driver that cuts you off at high speed?  What about being an eyewitness to blatant racism or on the receiving end of some obvious injustice?
I know some people who never express rage.  I admire them but know full well I am not capable of such distance from that which would bring about such a strong response.
Another senseless shooting and 7 people die at the hands of a mentally ill gun owner.  The father of the 20 year old college student lets it fly and somehow millions feel a new sense of relief.  He calls the politicians bastards who do nothing, he wears his pain in public.  The news media responds but we all know that nothing is going to change.  We are the gun country.  We are the place where anybody, anytime, can be cut down just for being there when somebody else snaps.

Usually the perpetrators are delusional.  They have the look.  They leave videos or manifestos...or in this latest case, both.  There were usually warning signs.  They often manipulate the social workers, the police, their friends and neighbors who would be aware of their mental state at any given moment.
But we as a culture seem incapable of change.  We can't seem to find the rage.  The same rage when an illegal/immoral war involves our friends and family.  The ire that comes when we feel manipulated by Wall St. bankers and nobody is accountable.  The anger that comes with millions of cars being recalled long after the fact.
Maybe this time will be different.  Maybe this time tens of thousands will take to the streets, withhold their votes for candidates who sit on their hands or look the other way when the lobbyists grab their attention with fistfuls of cash.
But it's going to have to be much more than 6 or 7 college students on the brink of their own independence.  After all, we are well past the ultimate nightmare: a crazed, well-armed mentally ill gunman in an elementary school.
Today is Memorial Day.  How ironic.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Moment to Moment

We hear a lot of talk about staying in the moment.  There is a Zen parable that I love because it takes this difficult challenge to the extreme.  It goes something like this.  A traveler was chased by a viscous tiger to the edge of a high cliff.  Slowly the tiger advanced until the poor guy was backed off the crumbling hillside.  As he is falling, presumably to his death, he sees a blackberry bush growing on the side of the mountain and catches sight of one particular berry growing there.  "What a perfectly beautiful berry! " he exclaims as he continues to fall.  Staying right in the moment.
I agree; some folks are better at this than others.

When I take off for the mountains and fly fish on a stream or lake, I have to be ever conscious of staying in the moment.  One lapse could mean everything from taking an unplanned dip in the water to missing something important like a fish taking a fly or even the beauty of the surroundings.
Yesterday, I was able to flee the bonds of the city and the current state of this planet and have a little alone time (amid others also escaping) on a lake.  There was very little wind for awhile, lots of bird action from beautiful Mallard Ducks to a pair of eagles circling overhead, to an amorous pair of salimanders swimming by.  I temporarily forgot about climate change and the destruction of the middle class.  I laid aside the idiocies of Common Core, Kardashians, and fast food.  For a few hours no Nigerian terrorists, no security cameras, no Tea Party non-sense.  Free from the repetition of TV commercials, rising costs of everything from gasoline to a quart of milk.  No leaf blowers, advertising jingles or difficulty finding a parking place.
Just wind and water and the occasional interaction with a rainbow trout.
Dinner too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I'm a big fan of Antiques Roadshow.  It's the kind of TV program that is both entertaining and informative.  It's history too.  It's hard for me to realize that there are people who are not fascinated by a 300 year old piece of furniture, a book Ben Franklin published or a What about letters from the Civil War, turn of the century toys or a menu from the Titanic?
I've been trying to get tickets to the program for three years now, but it's by lottery only and you have to have more luck than fascinating objects for appraisal.  Just missed again this year.  I'm told that about 100,000 folks apply for 3000 tickets, so it's a real crapshoot.
Still, I keep thinking what I might have taken to the show.  Aside from a wonderful old watercolor painting of a young African American girl in a yellow bonnet I bought about 40 years ago in a Texas antique store, the remaining 4 objects would be up for grabs.  My wife's family has a relative wo is famous for his oil paintings, so maybe one of those.  It may have the best chance of getting on TV because the artist Bell-Smith, seems to have a nome for himself in Canada.  No old toys, or valuable watches; no Native art or Tiffany lamps in my home.  But there are a couple of things that might provide a mild surprise.

I've got a few items from a small grocery-soda fountain my parents once owned well before I was born. A Cola-Cola tray, ice pick and bottle opener still exist.  They are fairly common, though, and easily accounted for with a quick internet search.  I've got a few rare books and records, but, again, nothing that Google can't handle.  Besides, much as I'd like, books and records have to be extra special to bring big prices.  Year after year, the most shocking appraisals involve either Tiffany products, Colonial furniture, Native American baskets, and sometimes an oil painting that someone found hiding behind another painting.  No Rhino horns in my closet, or Ivory or other contraband.  Any other item I do have isn't signed or adorned with a maker's mark, so it's doubtful there are any real treasures lurking undiscovered.  But I do have a pair of cuff-links that I bought at a small antique store in the Bay area about 25 years ago.  They were antique then, so it's safe to say they are approaching 100 years in age.  I certainly wasn't looking for cuff-links, especially antiques ones.  As I recall, I was deciding to purchase a framed graphic depicting various breeds of horses when the woman behind the counter diverted my eyes to consider a pair of hand painted horse cufflinks.  They were stunning.  Each had the paired heads of a bay and a gray horse.  They looked  like something Currier and Ives would have pulling a sled dashing through the woods about 150 years ago.  I bought them, wore them once after buying a shirt with the proper cuffs and then forgot about them for awhile.  To me they will always be special, just because they are beautiful and depict horses.  My standard of beauty includes horses.  Over the years I've tried to do a little research but none of the horse depicted look anything like these.  Horse cuff-links are plentiful; they range in price from a few dollars to fifty or sixty bucks.  Mine look older, more like a painting, have finer detail.  I don't care what they are worth, just want to find out something more about them.
If the Roadshow comes within a thousand mile radius, I'll keep trying, if not, someone will have the pleasure of discovering them again, someday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Take This

Some people call it karma.  Some just note the frequency with which it occurs.  Some never notice it at all, while others can predict it.
It has other names, but I just like to think of it as the universe evening things up.  Not revenge, but an equaling out in the form of something big.  Something life-changing.  Something well deserved.
It has probably happened to you.  I know a few accomplishments or random acts, or perhaps just surprising consequences that have drifted into and out of my life fit the bill.

That's why when California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby last weekend, it was much more than just a victory for the little guy.  Sure, all those elements were there.  An $8,000. horse drawing away from the best 3-year-olds in the country to win the first leg of the Triple Crown is more than enough to put a week-long smile on the face of those who don't live in the fast lane.  But what I'm talking about here is 77 year old trainer Art Sherman.

This is a guy who has been on the racetrack all his life.  His roots go deep into both the Derby and the sport.  As an 18 year old exercise rider, Sherman accompanied the great Swaps to Churchill Downs sleeping in a rail car with the former Derby winner.  After his riding days, he married his sweetheart, raised his family (two sons who are both in the game) and put up modest statistics. For decades. I'd see him early in the mornings on the Bay Meadows or Golden Gate Fields backstretch, joking with his compatriots, or exercise riders, or owners or jockeys.  He played by the rules.  He did the work, went through the highest highs and lowest lows of the sport as everyone does.
There were  few good horses along the way, but mostly claiming horses and an occasional stakes winner.  This horse, a California bred, comes once in a lifetime.  That time is now and that's where the karma comes in.  It's as if some great force in the universe rises up and says, Art, you lived a righteous life thus far.  You set a good example.  Better still, you kept it all in perspective.  Here, take this horse and go have fun.  You deserve this kind of reward.
Schmaltzy...I know.  But terribly satisfying.
One more thing.  This is horse racing, so I'd better not speak too loudly or too soon.  One thing is for certain.  The Derby is over and the results have been declared Official.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Derby Day II

I was hoping TW would pick up the phone when I called yesterday.  Not surprised when he didn't.  There was always the chance that he'd call back after I left a message.  What bothered me was that the phone never rang.  My call went straight to the answering machine recording.  "Not available now, please leave a message..."  I know he's dying.  I know he might not be home or in a position to come to the phone or maybe even in the hospital.

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece called Derby Day.  A slice of memoir that detailed how we used to meet up early on Kentucky Derby morning and play the early races.  He lived in Marin County and I lived in the East Bay.  I'd usually pick him up at a BART station, then we'd coffee up, get bagels, and head over to the Top of the Stretch Room at Golden Gate Fields.
Then went MIA.  He just dropped off the radar and everyone assumed the worse.  There were so many reasons to make that assumption.  This Vietnam vet had kicked a heroin habit, but ran into so much bad luck.  Everything from being hit by a car on a foggy SF morning to battling prostate cancer.  His badly abused body had even more excuses to fail.  No matter he'd been a chain smoker since his teen years.
Ted was an excellent handicapper,  great chef, who worked for a top caterer, and was acutely intelligent.  He was the kind of friend who knew history and could talk about current issues.
Then, last year, while visiting a relative in Sonoma County, I ran into Ted, alive, but not well.  I'd stopped by the OTB there for a couple f hours and there he was.  Well, most of him.  He told me that he didn't expect to be around too much longer, that the VA hospital was treating him well and that he had good and bad days.  We spoke over the phone about a month later, and then yesterday I tried to call again.
It is Derby day...he might just be busy.