Thursday, December 19, 2019

Our 2019 Christmas Letter

Alice with packages of bale ties at the company she founded, Vulcan Wire

One of the many pleasures of my life is the annual rite of Christmas Card sending and receiving. After much experimentation over many decades I have finally arrived at an arrangement through the Costco Photo Center that is simple and straightforward: I compose the card on their site, order 300, then print and affix address labels and stamps, insert the cards, and admire a job well done. It has worked so well that I have felt immune to the machinations of Mr. Murphy and his law.

No more.

My order from Costco arrived December 2. A busy early December schedule of projects prevented starting work immediately. When I did get started I failed for several days to notice that the stack of 300 cards seemed small beside the 300 envelopes. It was then I realized that Costco had only sent me 80 cards to go in the 312 envelopes. I then phoned Costco and explained the problem. They said I would have the cards in three business days. UPS delivered the Costco parcel three business days later as promised. I opened it and found 130 more addressed envelopes. No cards. I phoned again. With luck - I'll update this soon - 220 cards will arrive on Monday, December 23, just in time for me to work hard all evening to get them in the mail the day before Christmas. 

Merry Christmas, with new respect for Murphy and his unyielding law.

We haven't planned next year's travel yet. Alice's memoir, The Lady With Balls, was published July 19 and Alice made her first book presentation to a full house at our local community owned bookstore, The Four-Eyed Frog. Since then our daily routines and travel planning includes consideration of book promotion activities. 

Watch out, we may appear soon at a bookstore or library near you!

On June 20, 2020, my Point Arena High School Class of 1960 will be hosting a reunion for the classes of 1964 back to the beginning of time at the Gualala Community Center. I'm hoping that we will have a big attendance and early commitment to help plan the menu, decorations, and all the rest. Send checks for $50 per person made out to me and mail them to PO Box 1639, Gualala, CA 95445. The $50 per person covers dinner and most drinks and all the costs associated with like decorations, hall rent, mailings, &etc. 

Alice was impressed by Amsterdam's Centraal train station, only a block from our hotel
It was very handy for our trip to Bonn, Germany, to board the riverboat cruise

Our 2019 travel was very ambitious. In April we went to a friend's beautiful wedding on a marvelous horse ranch in Virginia. 

We spent all of May in Europe starting with several days in Amsterdam, then boarding a Vantage riverboat for a 26-day cruise up the Rhein and then down the Danube. 

Fore view of our long, lean Vantage ship, River Splendor

Aft view of River Splendor

Along the way we visited a dozen cities in Germany, then Vienna, followed by Budapest and four other cities in Hungary, then onwards through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and ending in Rumania. Through it all we shared unforgettable sights with even more unforgettable new friends.

They don't build town halls like this one in Bamberg, Germany, anymore

We were really rocking in Markheidenfeld, Germany

Bike exploring was fun and vaguely reminded Alice and I of the four months we biked through Germany, the UK, and Ireland in 1998. Click on the link to find out more. 

Alice making a sheet of (recycled) paper in the ancient way and displaying the finished product to the delight of Bonnie and other observers

Here I get to lead a visiting band through a stirring rendition of German music
Bonnie's husband Tom thoughtfully videoed it for posterity 

 You meet wonderful people on long cruises that you're sad to say goodbye to. Above are Tom and Bonnie, he a former Major Leaguer and she a dancer. Both are dedicated to finding a cure for ALS.

Below are Terry and Diane. Terry's the first Air Force Major General I've met that I didn't have to tell all my good reasons for overspending the budget for my base (RAF Bentwaters, UK, 1970 to 1975)

The pictures below were taken at a wonderful concert in Vienna which was part of our cruise...

Vienna knows how to make you smile...

And keep smiling...

So does Budapest. We were guests to operatic arias presented on the staircase of the Budapest Opera House.

Budapest by night

Alice relaxing with a book...

 I tried to figure out selfies...

We saw exciting horsemanship in Hungary and here in Bulgaria. This fellow is "riding" a team of ten horses. Earlier they passed at a gallop and he was as calm as can be.

This was a marvelous piece of machinery in its day, undoubtedly better than the Eastern European products that followed under Communism

Taking a spin in Bucharest...

This is the Palace of the Parliament, or the People's House, in Bucharest, Romania. It's the heaviest building in the world and a fitting Cold War monument. And it's gorgeous inside and out.

In early August we spent three stimulating days at our annual attendance at the Mendocino Writers' Conference in Mendocino. It ended just before we celebrated out 30th Anniversary on August 5, by far the easiest thirty years of our lives.

Later we went to two Independent Bookseller conventions, first in Burlingame and then in Portland. My lasting impression is that there are far too many good books being written. The creativity and variety in children's books alone is astounding. So long, Dick and Jane, although I still remember how good I felt when I read "See Spot run" the first time. Alice too. She said that reading gave her a feeling of power, and she still reads a book a week (or more).

One of our trips only took us as far as the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino for Alice to give a presentation, but it took Alice back over forty years to the early days of Vulcan Wire and the pivotal event in her memoir where she is dropped down a flight of stairs when she tried to collect a $5,000 debt owed her by an Oakland business owner. As Alice began her talk, a fellow in the front row informed her that he was in the room when Alice barged into the Board meeting to attempt to collect the debt.

When Alice and I went to the Hayward Library to arrange another book presentation, the fellow at the second floor desk, Hector, recognized her from when he worked for her in her Hayward office thirty years ago.

Small world, isn't it?

I'm still working on my deathless prose... What old movie did I steal that line from? And trying to help Alice on online projects opened a way for me to do what I've played around with for many years, publish my own books via direct Kindle e-book. So it may not be long before the world gets Strong as an Ox and Nearly as Smart, my coming of age story about growing up in Point Arena, and It Ain't Necessarily So, which clearly and completely destroys the myth of human-caused climate change. I've written hundreds of pages for each; now I need a little - maybe a lot - of organization and editing.

 Radar knows what's important. Playing ball on Cook's Beach...
And Cheryl's snacks.

Kelly Mason and I enjoying the fruits of our labors on Gualala Rotary's annual Oktoberfest fundraiser.

Our community's Christmas spirit blossomed again as the Gualala Lions, Rotary, Soroptimists, and neighbors completed Project Santa for another year: buying, wrapping, assembling, and delivering Christmas presents and food boxes to over 174 needy families. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Every day, every night, all year long!