Dale Says

May 4, 2015

On My Brithday — 2015

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 1:48 pm

On my birthday I am 64 years old. This year I am in Denver, Colorado on my birthday with my friends Bill Diefenbach, Ken Monk, Geoff Noakes, and Lee Tyree. This is a long-planned trip to see a couple of baseball games between the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies, and to show my friends the town and house I grew up in. We’re staying in downtown Denver, which has changed considerably since I lived here, and we have a full four days planned. This group comprises the Dashiell Hammett Society of Studs, a social and literary group we formed 15 years ago. The group has been together through thick and thin, and we get along very well. This will be a wonderful getaway for all of us.

The past year has gone by very quickly, and for the most part it’s been a good year. As has been the case the past few years, the past one has had ups and downs, but for the most part this phase of life is pretty terrific! I feel good, have good health, and have loads of freedom to do what I want. That’s the upside, and it’s a great upside. On the down side, I have experienced friends getting older and dying, and my youngest brother, Ed passed away last November at age 50. It seems to be part of this phase of life, and all my friends are experiencing it, too. The key seems to be to develop a thick skin, enjoy the good things, and accept the bad with the good.

As I wrote last year, time is going by very quickly – too quickly – and I am trying to slow it down enough to enjoy it. I know this phase is the sweet spot of life, and I’m trying to experience it fully and enjoy it fully, because I know it’s fleeting. Is there a way to slow time?

Strangely, I don’t feel my age. I’m healthy, strong, and energetic, and I feel as though I’m in my late 40’s or early 50’s. I exercise regularly, hike the hills of San Francisco with little effort, sleep well, don’t take any medication, and wake up feeling young. That’s all good. But when I look in a mirror or see a photo of myself, I am surprised to see an older man. That’s not so good. I recently had to renew my driver license in person and take a new photo. When it came back I was shocked to see the effect a decade has made on my appearance! My hair is almost completely gone on top, my eyelashes and mustache have turned white, and my cheeks and neck has begun to sag. That really threw me, because I don’t feel any different than I did 10 years ago.

The past year with Patty has been great! We have worked out a method of getting along that allows us to do our own thing, while spending time together on the activities we both enjoy. Her health has been good, too, and she is also living a very full life.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this phase of life is our circle of family and friends, and we spent a lot of time with them the past year. We see my family a lot, and I talk to my siblings often. My mother still lives at home, and while her memory and health are slipping, she still enjoys life, and she loves the fact that her children remember her and help her. I call her every Wednesday and those conversations are very enjoyable. I see her every couple of months, and those visits are enjoyable for both of us. She wants to stay in her house, and while there are a couple of my siblings who think she should be moved to an assisted living home, I support her staying at home, at least for now. However it works out long-term, I am very happy that she has the option to stay there, and I think she appreciates it, too. Over the past year, I was able to see Mom in May, August, October, and December.

We also took trips over the past year to see Ian graduate from high school in June, to see Katharine Noakes graduate from college in June, to see Kevin and Julia in Napa several times, to Oklahoma, our annual trip to Drakesbad in August, and Pt. Reyes with John and Eva in September.

We see our close friends a lot, especially Ken and Vicki, Kevin and Julia, and Ruth and Bill. We still have our holidays together as a group; including Easter (at our house), Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Years, and Christmas. The group is still intact, and though Ruth’s Altzheimer’s is getting very bad, she still participates as much as possible. The “kids” have grown up; with Christina and Beck married, and Katharine out of college.

A highlight of the year took place in October when I served as officiant for the marriage of Beck and Sarah at Ft. Mason. It was a beautiful and touching ceremony, and they seem to be very happy together. Katharine is about to finish a cooking school and go to work, and it will be interesting to see what that beautiful and talented lady decides to do next.

My writing slowed over the past year, as I finished my book of short profiles, put it out for review, and got less-than-enthusiastic reviews. After mulling it over for a time, I realized that it didn’t have a theme, so I got busy and started rewriting it as a collection of short profiles about San Francisco people. I’m writing and adding a half-dozen profiles, which are nearly finished, and I plan to send it out for another round of reviews within the next couple of months. My good friend, Lois Pryor, is interested in editing it, and I look forward to working on it with her.

Our big vacation trip the past year was to Vietnam and Cambodia in October. It was a good trip! The tour group in Vietnam (12 people, all British) were the nicest group of people we have ever travelled with, and we plan to stay in touch with them. The Vietnam portion of the trip was hot and humid, but very interesting. We enjoyed all of it except the frequent referrals to the “American War” – which was described as an evil effort by Americans to force a life style on the Vietnamese they didn’t want. A couple of times during the trip, someone from Vietnam would tell our group how the Americans divided their country in half, and when the Vietnamese tried to reunite their country the Americans came over and bombed them. That was hard to take, but I do see their side of it.

Our side trip to Cambodia was absolutely terrific! We spent three days touring the ruins at Angor Wat, and it was a wonderful and memorable experience!

On the way home from Cambodia, we picked up emails and discovered that my youngest brother, Ed, had died. So we got home, unpacked, repacked and went to Chappell for his funeral and burial. It was a very sad and tragic time for my whole family – and especially for my mother, who had lost her youngest child. Ed’s life was a sad and lost venture, and he chose an early and tragic way to go out – drinking himself to death. Two weeks after his death, Anne and I went to Colorado Springs and cleaned out his apartment. While we were doing that, we both felt the tragedy of a life wasted, and it made us very sad. I volunteered to serve as executor of his estate, and that will keep me busy over the next year or so.

My health continued to be good over the past year. I try to keep in shape by working out at a gym, hiking, cycling, and keeping my weight down. It’s a continuous struggle, but it’s going well and is rewarding.

My mix of volunteering, writing, and home life continues to suit me. I go for walks on Mondays with Norman and serve lunch and run errands with Ina on Fridays. I also drove to Bodega Bay once a month to see Paul Meuse – until he died in March. His death was sudden and was a blow for me. I’m very happy I got to know Paul, and I have wonderful memories of our times together, but I miss him. Death is so final!

This phase of life is extreme: extremely rewarding and extremely sad. There is time, energy, and money to do pretty much whatever I want to do, and that’s extremely rewarding. It’s what I worked so hard for so long for – and it was so worth it. I try each day to focus on my freedom and my health and to enjoy that day to the max. But there is also aging, illness, and death, which is extremely sad. Watching your youngest brother slowly kill himself because he couldn’t get his act together is extremely sad, as is seeing your good friend die of an illness in his 60’s and watching another good friend have her mid slowly taken away with illness.

Things in the U.S. are generally very good now, with a strong economy, peace, increasing employment, and generally good times. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to decide that same-sex marriages are legal. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the stock market is at all-time highs.

We have an African-American president who is struggling to accomplish much, because Republicans oppose everything he stands for. Campaigning for the 2016 presidential election has already begun, with Hillary Clinton running against a group of severely-divided Republicans, who range from ultra-conservative to moderate. Congress accomplishes very little because Republicans oppose anything proposed by Democrats. Our country is virtually at a stand-still.

In other domestic news, the U.S. officially ended its war in Afghanistan on December 28 – the end of the longest war in U.S. history. Robin Williams committed suicide August 11, from depression and the news that he had Parkinson’s. California is in the third year of a severe drought that has all of us worried there may not be enough water for agriculture and home use. A strong earthquake in Napa in August destroyed several downtown buildings. High-tech wealth continues to move into San Francisco, which is bolstering the City’s finances, but causing gentrification and some unrest.

Beneath the surface, however, there is a lot of trouble. Several factions of Republicans are very unhappy with the direction the country is heading, and they are trying to un-do some of the progress we have made over the years – in civil rights, in health care, in welfare, and in employment. Those divisive groups are clinging to some sort of outdated way of thinking that allows the strongest and smartest people to succeed, with little concern for anyone else. It’s a very sad statement of our times.

Also beneath the surface, there is civil unrest between minority groups (especially African-Americans) and law enforcement. Several recent instances of police brutality and police shootings have stirred the nation and created demonstrations and social unrest.

The world I live in is also filled with social unrest and terrorism. Whenever I open a newspaper or turn on the television or radio the news is shocking and a little depressing. Terrorism is rampant in the world now, with splinter, radical groups attacking and killing for unknown reasons. Attacks happen daily — in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, etc. Why is there so much unrest in the world? Why do young men feel so badly about their situation they leave their families, friends, and homes to travel to other countries and kill people? And so many of them do it in the name of religion! It’s troubling.

Several countries; including Syria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan (among others) have nearly daily instances of bombings, mass killings, beheadings, and riots. Terrorists kidnap young girls and turn them into sex slaves or hold them for ransom. Radicals post videos on the internet of their henchmen using knives to behead journalists they have captured. Women and children strap explosives to their bodies and blow up crowds of innocent people praying at mosques. Bands of terrorists attack embassies and shot and kill everyone in sight. A religious-extremist group calling itself ISIL has taken over large portions of Iraq and Syria and is kidnapping and murdering huge groups of people in the Middle East. That has caused European, Middle-Eastern, and Western countries (including the U.S.) to respond by sending bombers and troops to fight ISIL.

Sadly, the people of today’s earth still settle their differences by killing each other.

Other international news is also generally sad, as a German airline pilot intentionally crashed an airplane into the Alps last month, killing himself and the 149 others aboard. A huge earthquake in Nepal killed over 7,000 people. Russia took over the Crimea in Ukraine. Battle between rebels and government troops in Syria kill thousands of innocent people every month. Israel continues to see battles between Jews and Palestinians.

Oil prices plunged over the past year, which has been good news for most people, but bad news for oil producers and oil-producing countries.

In San Francisco, hordes of young, high-tech men and women have invaded the city, raising rents to the highest levels in the country and driving lower-income workers and artists out. Lawrence Ferlinghetti recently said they are bringing buckets of money and no manners to the city.

Birdman won this year’s Academy Awards for Best Picture; Eddie Redmayne received best actor for The Theory of Everything; Julianne Moore won best actress for Still Alice.

In sports, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup.

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