Recently Read Books

  • A Delicate Truth- John Le Carre (fiction)
  • Perfect - Rachel Joyce (Fiction)
  • The Expats - Chris Pavone (Fiction)
  • An Event in Autumn - Henning Mankel (Fiction)
  • Winter in Madrid - C.J.Sansom (Fiction)
  • The Brothers - John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles - non-fiction
  • LIfe Among Giants - Bill Roorbach (Novel)
  • Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman (non-fiction)
  • Woodrow Wilson (non fiction)
  • Lawrence in Arabia (Non-Fiction)
  • In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helpren (Fiction)
  • Lesson in French - Hilary Reyl (fiction)
  • Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand (Non-Fiction)
  • Venice, A New History- Thomas Madden - (Non- Fiction)
  • Life is a Gift - Tony Bennett Autobiography
  • The First Counsell - Brad Meltzer (Fiction)
  • Destiny of the Republic - President James Garfield non-fiction by Candice Millard
  • The Last Lion (volume III)- William Manchester and Paul Reid (non-fiction, Winston Churchill)
  • Yellowstone Autumn -W.D. Wetherell (non-fiction about turning 55 and fishing in Yellowstone)
  • Everybody was Young- (non-fiction Paris in the 1920's)
  • Scorpion - (non fiction US Supreme Court)
  • Supreme Power - Jeff Shesol (non-fiction)
  • Zero day by David Baldacci ( I read all of Baldacci's Books)
  • Northwest Angle - William Kent Krueger (fiction - I have read 5 or 6 books by this author)
  • Camelot's Court-Insider the Kennedy Whitehouse- Robert Dallek
  • Childe Hassam -Impressionist (a beautiful book of his paintings)

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Christmas Eve

Christmas has almost come and gone. I am sure some are glad when it will be over. There are always a deluge of newspaper and magazine articles about the commercialization of Christmas. There always lots of conversations and assertions from friends and associates, as well as strangers, about the crowds, the shopping demands, the traffic jams, the rudeness of fellow shoppers and other negative aspects of Christmas time. To many people, Christmas is a mini war that needs to be planned, staffed up and fought. This morning while the Lovely Sharon was getting all gussied up for our 10:30 golf game on Ironwood’s South Course, I drove to Albertson’s to buy some crab legs for tonight. I thought about Christmas, what it means to me, how it affects me and how I perceive those around me at this time of year.

Christmas has a wonderful religious and spiritual history and significance. The Christ Child, the hope for redemption for each of us. This means something to me. But beyond the religious foundations of Christmas, or maybe because of the religious foundations of Christmas, for me Christmas is a detour around regular life. I must admit I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about religion during Christmas, or for that matter the rest of the year. I go to Christmas Mass. I say Christmas prayers. But Christmas makes me think of peace and war, of friends and family, of love, of the poor and the homeless, of the blessings and bounties that some have and the bare cupboard that others have.

Christmas music somehow touches my soul, it comforts me. These songs don’t change. The Christmas songs that I sang and loved as a boy 50 years ago are the same songs I sing and love today. These songs create a timeless connection of the years of our lives. As I look back on each decade of my life I see that I have sang the same Christmas songs. I have loved the same Christmas songs.

I like to see a beautiful Christmas tree. You see them at businesses, at country clubs, at churches and at the homes of our friends and families. Doesn’t it give you a warm feeling when you walk in to a friend’s home and the first thing you see is their Christmas tree, all aglow with packages beneath the branches?

During the Christmas season I greet friends and total strangers with the words “Merry Christmas” and in response they offer me their own “Merry Christmas”. I don’t know if it because of global financial ills, but it struck me this year that as I greeted someone with “Merry Christmas”, even a total stranger, I really meant the words. They were not just a mantra like “have a good day”. I really wanted to wish my friend or this stranger a Merry Christmas. I really hoped that all is well with them; that there is food on their table and a roof over their head. I really hoped that their health is good and that their loved ones are well.

I like the way that ladies wear Christmas finery to parties or to church. I like to see men in goofy Christmas ties. We pass cars and trucks with red ribbon bows or Christmas wreathes on their front grills.

I like the phone calls we make to loved ones scattered across the company or just around the block. These short phone calls are expressions of love, togetherness and thankfulness that we share a life together. These are the calls where we are trying to give our loved ones a hug through our words rather than our arms.

When I close my eyes and picture the Lovely Sharon on a Christmas morning, I see her in her robe and slippers. Her hair not quite combed; a smile on her face. Looking at her warms my soul.

Yes, I do love Christmas despite all of the craziness, the crowds and the bills. I love the fact it makes me think about being kind and helpful. It makes me want to do better, to be better. Christmas makes me want to tell each of you that I love you and I am glad you allow me to be part of your life.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pictures of Wilson

Afer reading my morning blog, my ex-wife emailed two pictures of dog Wilson.  Here they are.  Thanks to Debra who sent these photos from Brazil. The pictures were taken more than 9 years ago

 Wilson loved to ride in the golf cart.

 He always seemed to be smiling.

Another Dog Tale

On October 14, 2009, I wrote about “The Neighbor’s Dog”. Well even though I do not have a dog, it is my opinion that one cannot write too often about life’s most loving creature and finest companion, the dog. I had a couple of dogs at different times when I was a boy. During my first marriage I was blessed to have the “Wilson” who was the cutest, smartest funniest, most loving wired haired fox terrier on the planet. (That may sound like an overstatement, but since this is my blog, a blog of which I am the captain if you will, and you are only a passenger on this train through my meaningless meanderings, you are legally and morally required to accept my assertions as truths. You are required to accept and be bound my claims of veracity, not only to particular statements which are pointed out to you by me, the captain, but the veracity of everything written in The Big Picture.) Here are a couple of pictures of fox terriers if you a drawing a blank on what a fox terrier looks like:

OK, back to Wilson, the dog of my first marriage. We considered the matter of buying a dog for several months. I had always fancied the wired hair fox terrier and read several dog books about the breed. If you are fans of the Thin Man movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s you will be familiar with “Asta”, the dog of characters Nick and Nora played by William Powell and Myrna Loy. I was fan of the Thin Man movies; I was a fan of Nick and Nora; and I was a fan of Asta. Here is a picture of the three of them.

So we decided to get a wired hair fox terrier. Once we made the decision, we could not find a pure bread fox terrier puppy available in Salt Lake City. I bought a few dog magazines and found a breeder in Boise, called them up and was told they had a litter of 4 or 5 purebred puppies that were about 6 weeks old. We agreed to take one and we drove to Boise on a quest to adopt a purebred fox terrier puppy. It was a memorable trip to Boise and on the ride home Wilson became part of the family. What a wonderful addition to the family I must say. Such a character, so fun, so warm, so loving, he was great. My first wife and I ultimately divorced but have remained friends. If you have been through a divorce you know how painful they are and how disruptive they are to the lives of all involved. When you read the legal documents of the divorce, every sentence is painful. For me one of the sentences that struck me the hardest were the words “the party of the first part is awarded custody of a Dog named Wilson.” Those words were actually in the Decree of Divorce and I was not the party of the first part. It illustrates how much we treasure our beloved dogs when the court system makes a decision with an iron fist, as to who gets the dog.

I have had no dog since that time. My current situation of traveling back and forth frequently between Salt Lake City and Palm Desert makes it difficult to have a dog. Yesterday I had the best next thing to having a dog; the Lovely Sharon and I were asked to dog sit the dog of our dear friends and Palm Desert neighbors, Ray and Kaye. This was a different dog than “The Neighbor’s Dog" described in the October 14, 2009 blog entry. This was Hannah, the beautiful and dignified Golden Retriever.

Yesterday, Ray and Kaye went to the San Diego Chargers football game and Sharon and I had a golf game scheduled with other friends. Kaye asked the Lovely Sharon if we could visit Hannah after we finished our golf game. Kaye requested that we take Hannah on a walk, and at 6:00 pm sharp, prepare a specifically described meal for Hannah. Sharon agreed. So after our golf, and while Ray and Kaye were sitting in the football stadium watching the San Diego Chargers game, we walked over to Hannah’s house. The encounter started slow as she bared her teeth and snarled when we approached. (I am referring to Hannah not the Lovely Sharon.) Although we have spent time with Hannah, it had been a number of months and she considered us as trespassers when we initially arrived. However, after we took turns smelling each other’s private parts (me and Hannah not me and the Lovely Sharon), things were just fine. We found a leash and went for a nice walk. I negotiated the best deal for me as I agreed to hold the leash and Sharon got stuck with handling the baggy duty.

After the walk, we took Hannah to her home and determined to leave her there on her own until 6:00 when we would come back to prepare her dinner. However, she looked a little sad so we decided to take her back to our place to watch the rest of the Charger game on TV. She willingly accompanied us to our place a couple of doors down the street and spent an hour and a half with us. She walked around the house checking everything out, she smelled the presents under the Christmas tree, she drank a couple of bowls of water, she curled up on the rug in front of the fridge, she stared at Sharon while Sharon was snacking on cheese and crackers and finally she came and sat by me where she licked all visible parts of my bare legs (I had on golf shorts). Don’t tell Kaye but we gave Hannah a couple of snacks. Hey what do you expect, you have a guest over you offer them something to eat, right?

Finally it was near 6:00 pm, the designated dinner hour. While Sharon walked Hannah back to her house, to prepare a dinner consisting of canned dog food with dry dog food mix. I took a shower to soap off the dog saliva from my legs.

After my shower, Sharon came back from dinner duty and we made our own dinner. I can tell you, it felt like something or someone was missing. The house was still decorated for Christmas and the TV was still on but it felt surprisingly quiet. Hannah was back at her home. When I went to bed, I thought about what a nice day it had been, thanks to Ray and Kaye for asking us to visit Hannah. Today I am going to buy some dog treats, just to have them handy for future needs.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Things I Like

Each of us has things, books, actors, songs, concepts that we really like. Each of has things we like to do. These things might give us pleasure, they may be helpful or they may evoke a rush of warm memories. Being the narcissist that I am, I will share some of my favorites with you. I am no expert in most of the things that I like, but who cares, I still like these things even if I don’t know why.

I like the Art Deco design style. I am not certain that I can even give you a helpful definition of Art Deco but I am pretty good at recognizing something that is Art Deco. Art Deco was a popular design style in 1920’s and 1930’s. There are Art Deco buildings, furniture, cocktail shakers and a whole slew of other products that were designed in the Art Deco style. I like Art Deco Murals. My favorite office building is the Chrysler Building with its beautiful top. The Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Buildings are both Art Deco projects. Many of the small hotels in Miami’s South Beach are great examples of Art Deco. If you like Art Deco, check out: or

I like zinfandel wine. Not the sweet soda pop white zinfandel, but the deep rep, full bodied red zinfandel. The Lovely Sharon and I search out and buy Zinfandels as often as possible. We like Biale’s several varieties of zinfandels, particularly Biale’s Black Chicken. We like some of the Rosenblum and Rombauer zinfandels. I like the way a nice zin looks in the glass as you slowly move the glass about.  I like the rich fruity smell of a zinfandel.  I like to walk through a wine store and look at the labels and wonder what treasure may be contained in a particular bottle.

I like movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s. I like the "Thin Man" series of movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. I like Humphrey Bogart movies of this era. I like "The Philadelphia Story" with Cary Grant, Kathryn Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart.

I like dogs; all kinds of dogs. I like to rub their head and ears. I like it when they roll on their back and beg you with their eyes to rub their stomach. I like it when they slide their head under your hand so you feel obliged to pet them. I like the fact that whenever, you come home, they are sooooo happy to see you.

I like golf courses. The Lovely Sharon is a very good golfer. I am a hack, getting worse. But I like the looks of a golf course. I like to read about golf courses. I have read a number of books on golf course design and architecture. I have numerous coffee table type photo books of golf courses. I like to know who designed the courses I play. Some of favorite golf course architects/ designers are Alister Mackenzie, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and Tom Fasio. Some of the most renowned golf courses were designed by Donald Ross but I have never played one so until I do, I can’t include him in my favorites.

I like to read history. I like to read the speeches of Robert F. Kennedy.  I like to read anything written about or written by Winston Churchill.

I like to read about, listen about and discuss politics.

I like Swiss Army Knives.

I like silk boxer shorts.

I like books. I like to walk down the aisles of bookstores and libraries. I like to hold a book in my hand and feel it. I like it when I am finished reading for a session and I put a bookmark in my book knowing where to start up next time.

I like the song “The Way You Look Tonight”.  I like to hold the Lovely Sharon in my arms and in my awkward way, slow dance listening to this musical gem with the scent of The Lovely Sharon dancing around me.

I like road trips. I like to get in the car and drive.

I like to talk to my son Alex. He is smart, knowledgeable and always has something of interest to say.

I like chick flicks. "Sleepless in Seattle", "You’ve Got Mail", "The American President", "When Harry Met Sally". I have seen each of them many times and will no doubt watch again.

I like my guitars. I have a Martin HD 35 and a Collins 02M. They are beautiful handcrafted, acoustical works of art. I like the rich full sound they each make. I like to pick one up and finger pick a riff.  I like to turn them over and let my eyes caress their beautiful rich, dark wood backs. I like to feel their smoothness on my fingertips.

I like movies with Denzel Washington, George Clooney, and Tom Hanks. I like movies with Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda and Julia Roberts.

I like Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Their songs and musical styles are timeless yet they take me back to another era.  A time when life seemed safer.  When it was easier to tell who the bad guys were.  A time when life seems less complex. I like the lyric "I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places".

I like people who are passionate about something even if I don’t share their passion or even if I disagree with what they are passionate about. This world needs more people who care deeply about something.  People who are not afraid to speak up and take a stand on something.  People who are not afraid to put their name on something they care about.

I like people who do what needs to be done without having to be asked to do it. No one was better at this than my mother and father.  If something needed to be done, if someone needed help, they were there.

I like to make risotto. I start with a chopped onion, saute it in olive oil until its soft and golden.  I brown the rice a little and then slowly add chicken stock to allow the rice to absorb the liquid.  The theme of the risotto changes depending on what I have in the fridge or the cupboard. I might add chicken or scallops or diced ham.  It may be a vegetable risotto.  Sometimes I add a pinch of saffron.

I like to read the paper while I am eating eggs benedict at Café Beaux Arts on El Paseo in Palm Desert. I like to sit in the sun at one of their open air windows, reading and watching the people stroll down the sidewalk.

There are many more things I like but this is enough for now. If you want to share any of your favorite things, leave a response on this page or send me an email because truly one of things I like is to know the favorite things of my friends.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Weekend

It has been a little quiet around the homestead the last couple of months. The Lovely Sharon and I have been in different cities for about 43 of the last 50 days. We were together in Salt Lake for 3 or 4 days in the end of October and together in Nebraska for 3 or 4 days before Thanksgiving. I was in Salt Lake for Thanksgiving and she was in Nebraska. So with that limited one- on-one time, I sent her an email yesterday morning, Saturday December 5th. Knowing that she was going to a holiday gala at our Palm Desert country club Saturday night and knowing that I was going to thaw out a frozen meal for dinner and then watch the dust in the Salt Lake house grow (it kinda looks like a Chia Pet - one of the plants advertised on TV that grow to look like the head of Abraham Lincoln), I asked her to send me a sexy email that I could read on a lonely, cold night in Salt Lake. (Hey I might be 57 but I am not dead yet). So yesterday evening I opened my email and sure enough there was one from the Lovely Sharon. I thought oh boy this will be great. Well the email consisted of a normal greeting, then a 5 or 6 word “come hither” type message and then ended with a reminder to deposit funds into her Salt Lake bank account. That was it.

I thought man, that wasn’t quite like I had hope for. It was kind of like a husband giving his wife a romantic anniversary card accompanied by a vacuum as a gift. It was kind of like someone giving you tickets to an NBA game and you discover that your seat is three rows from the top. It was kind of like a beau taking his best girl on a long promised romantic picnic but first having to stop to rotate the tires on his car. I mean it was nice, but not quite what you had hoped for.

I mean for gosh sakes, the only visitor I have had in this house in the last seven weeks was the furnace repairman who visited me three times over the Thanksgiving holiday to repair a broken furnace. I am telling you it has been so quiet here that I found myself looking at his butt crack above his belt line when he was bent over working on the furnace. (OK that may be an exaggeration but I think you get the point). By the way, for three days it was so cold in the kitchen that I could store the uncooked meats on the granite counter tops. When I cooked, I wore an overcoat, gloves, as scarf and a hat. But the furnace is now fixed (thanks to Manwill Plumbing owned by my friend Jim Manwill). I am shamelessly hoping that this plug of his business results in a reduced bill.

The other night I got a phone call from a telemarketer in Florida wanting to sell me a cruise. I asked him where he was from, where he went to high school, the names of his wife and kids. It was nice to talk to someone. After our lengthy conversation, none of which involved the cruise, I think he put me on the “do not call” list. I stopped paying bills on time just so the bill collectors would call.

I bought a new IPhone last week. Just for fun I put it on vibrate, put in my pants pocket and called myself from my home line. After seven calls I started to feel like I was stalking myself so I stopped. Although the vibration in my pants was nice.

I suppose the good thing with this time apart from the Lovely Sharon is that I have had time for productive things. I have been using Photoshop to take my friends heads off of photos I have stored on my computer and put them on animal bodies. That is a good use of time. My friend Gordon looks great as an armadillo. My friend Steve R. looks very loveable as a llama.

It has also been fun to stack books all over the floor of Bud Cave. It looks like stalagmites growing from the floor to the ceiling.

One thing that has been a challenge is that I am reading one book, listening to an audio book in my car and listening to still a another audio book on my Ipod when I walk on the treadmill. Usually it is not a problem for me to keep all the plots and characters straight but in two of these three books there are characters named Jenna. I have never known anyone in my life named Jenna and now two of the three books I am involved with have a character named Jenna. In one book Jenna is the heroine, a nice woman who won the lottery and collected $290,000,000 ($150,000,000 after lump sum discount and taxes). The other Jenna is a scheming little trollop trying to steal the husband of some poor woman. I find myself confused over which Jenna is the rich one and which one is the trollop.

Yesterday I did one thing that, I must admit, was wonderful for me. I delivered poinsettia plants to my beautiful daughter-in-law (and held grandbaby Kendall Marie), to my friends Norm and Terry, to my sister and to my parents. I was lucky enough to find them all at home so I visited a few minutes at each house. That was really nice for me.

This morning I woke up early, I put a load of wash in the washing machine at 4:45 and watched from my window as the snow is falling, covering the street in front of my house in white. The only light outside at this hour is a single street lamp and the two lamps on the columns at the end of my sidewalk. There is something nice about the look of snow falling with no one around and the dim street lamp illuminating the snow, the street and the lawn.

Today I will pay the bills, and yes I will write a check for the Lovely Sharon’s account, put a few more friends heads on animals and watch NFL football. But for now, I am going to make me a cup of coffee and read about Jenna, the rich one (I think it is the rich one but it might be the trollop).