Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Our 1999 Christmas Letter

                                                                                                            22 December 1999

            Now that it is almost here, Alice and I hope that you and your family are eagerly awaiting the start of the new millennium in the same frame of mind that we are - expecting nothing but a continuation of all that is worthwhile and wonderful in this remarkable journey of life.  As proof of our confidence, bordering on arrogance, that nothing terrible will happen, Alice and I will travel to Los Angeles to greet the new millennium.  Since Los Angeles just has to be in the top 10 list of places that deserve an Apocalyptic moment when righteous judgment is made, I am sure that many of you feel that we may need your prayers to protect us as we spend the Eve of The New Millennium in the belly of the beast.  Fear not. We will spend it in the company of dear friends, who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Somehow, I don’t think we will have anything to worry about.

            The past year was another hard-travelin’ year, although we didn’t do anything as challenging as the four-month bicycle tour to Europe we did in 1998.  Our travels this year began in late March with a week in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, followed by a week in Branson, Missouri.  Arkansas was pretty, and peaceful, and we seemed to be about the only Californians there.  We felt right at home, because just about everyone we chatted with shared our low opinion of our National Embarrassment.  We got to Branson, Missouri, just as the entertainment season was starting there, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Branson is like Las Vegas, except it is not crude, rude, nude, lewd, and you don’t have to be stewed or a prude dude (don’t stop me now, I’m on a roll!) to have a heck of a good time.  In fact, the jokes were funnier, every performance was done with high energy and professionalism, and the prices were “rageous.”  My favorite show was the Oak Ridge Boys concert, and Alice’s favorite was Remember When, because we became part of the show, including having to “neck” in the back corner with the spotlight on us.  My funniest moment was when the solo fiddler in Spirit of the Dance got his legs caught in the fiddle’s microphone wiring, had to stop fiddling while he got untangled, and yet the fiddle music continued. I never knew the Irish had invented “fiddle-synching.”

            After a couple of weeks back home in Gualala to rest up (and repack), we went for a five-week vacation to the Caribbean and Florida.  We spent a total of two weeks on Dominica, the Nature Island (not the Dominican Republic). Among the highlights was a grueling six-hour hike to the Boiling Lake and back.  Imagine a pot on a stove 100 feet wide, 95 feet deep, boiling water bubbling in the center, enormous clouds of steam constantly rising, with an average water temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Some hot tub!  

            Signs of volcanic activity were all over Dominica, and we even snorkeled among bubbles coming up from the sea floor in an area aptly named Champagne.  We also spent a total of eight days on Guadeloupe and Terre-de-Haut in Les Saintes.  We finished the last two weeks of our trip in Florida, in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, which included a short cruise to Nassau, The Bahamas.

            The first big highlight of our year occurred July 3, when Alice’s youngest daughter, Debbie, married Joe Cosentino at the Saint Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.  It was a beautiful wedding, Debbie was gorgeous, Alice was radiant, and Joe’s friends and family showed how highly they esteem his loyalty, thoughtfulness and friendly nature by coming great distances (Boston area) and in great numbers for the happy occasion. Alice and I stayed the week in a small hotel in the Fort Mason Officers’ Club near Fishermen’s Wharf and enjoyed good company and sightseeing with Alice’s cousin Sue and husband Bob from Colorado.

            For the balance of July and August, some friends and relatives accepted our invitations to visit us in Gualala. Alice and I took advantage of my high school reunion (Point Arena Class of 1960) to have many friends and relatives join us the next day following the reunion to celebrate our 10th Anniversary of the Honeymoon that started at the Presidio in San Francisco on the 5th of August, 1989, and continues to this very day. 
            At the end of August, we started another trip, this time for two months.  We started at Niagara Falls, as many other honeymoon couples have, spent a week in Calabogie near Ottawa, and nearly a week in Montreal.  We then visited friends and experienced the fall colors in Vermont and New Hampshire.  Hurricane Floyd hit us in Vermont, and we had to leave one place we were staying because of no electricity.   We moved on to the Boston and Cambridge area, walked the Freedom Trail, covered Harvard like two undergraduates, stayed a week on Cape Cod near Hyannis, enjoyed great whale watching (one Humpback came so close, we smelled its bad breath), came away feeling like we had a much deeper understanding of our history and of what freedom is and means - we really learned a lot, and we really enjoyed the learning experience.

            We also got to spend some time with Debbie’s in-laws, and a finer, warmer bunch of in-laws cannot and will not be found. Joe’s parents, Bill and Julie, hosted a second wedding reception which was great fun and was extremely well attended. In addition, they invited us for dinner twice at their lovely home in Reading, Massachusetts, and at the second dinner we were joined by their two tall, beautiful daughters with their families, and Joe and Debbie.
            At this point, our trip was far from over. Alice indulged me by allowing me to visit the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass, and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, we both enjoyed the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, Mass, and Alice visited two homes she lived in up until she was nine years old in the Ithaca, New York, area.

            A chill in the air reminded us that it was time to leave for the last part of our trip, the Virgin Islands.  A week on St. Croix was about as good as it gets, and then we moved on to St. Thomas, then St. John.  Unfortunately, Hurricane Jose headed to join us on St. John, so we left for Tortola, cut a week from our vacation, and returned home to Gualala. We were not back long when the final big highlight of our year occurred.  On 10 November, Alice’s oldest daughter, Jeanette, and husband Kieran, had a baby daughter, Savannah Leigh.  Alice and I tried to help with the newborn by entertaining her two-year old brother, Kevin, by taking him to the zoo and to parks.

            With less than a month remaining until Christmas, we already visited my step-mother Ruth and brother Ron and his wife Kathy for Thanksgiving in Fortuna and will soon leave again to visit Bay Area friends and relatives including my two older boys and their families in Vallejo and Concord. In addition, we are traveling to southern California to visit Alice’s father George and wife Edna, and her brother Rob and wife Melinda and family, and many of Alice’s friends.
In summary, it has been a busy year, it’s not over yet, it’s a big world, we haven’t seen it all yet - guess we better get going.  So next year, for the most part, we are going to take a good look at Gualala and Northern California.  We’re going to try to find out why so many people come up here to rent our house while we’re off somewhere else in someone else’s house.  Therefore, since you know where we are, and where we will be, you should plan on spending some time with us.  The book is open, and we are taking reservations now. 


Happy New Year !!