Doodling with Snoopy

My wife travels with me and my golf partner, Shawn Barker…not because she loves golf. She simply loves the surroundings and the time spent wandering places like Flagstaff and Monterey and Santa Rosa. After a yoga session in Santa Rosa this past week, she sat alone in a coffee shop and a man across the aisle sat with his dog. Karen wore sunglasses but no makeup, and was still sweaty from hot yoga. The man looked over at Karen and said, “That’s the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.” The man finished his coffee, got up and slowly walked past Karen’s table and he said to the dog, “Yep, most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.”

Which made me feel good because I’ve always wanted to be married to the most beautiful women in the world.

This is why I want to be a travel writer when I grow up, not because of sumptuous food or remarkable scenery,

Crepeville Sacramento
Crepe with Prawns, mushrooms, peppers, and pesto in Sacramento

but simply because when we travel, we meet people and discover stories and those stories spin around my brain like moths around a lamp at midnight. I write like a child doodling because the flurrying moths inside my head can only escape through the point of a pencil onto paper. 

This makes sense to me as I affectionately call my eldest daughter noodles and she calls me doodles. Maybe she calls me that simply because it rhymes with noodles, but now I know the deeper reason. I doodle.  

My favorite doodler hails from Santa Rosa, California, where we vacationed. His name is Charles Schulz, and he doodled Charlie Brown and Linus and Snoopy and an entire neighborhood of children who heard all grown up words as simply a muted trombone played by a jazz musician…wahwahwahwahwahwah…which is remarkably artistic. Karen and I are not artists, but we are doodlers, and we have a go-to doodle, a solitary subject each time we feel the need to draw.

Mine is Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown
I drew this much better in 4th grade



Karen’s is a flop-eared puppy.

Puppy dog doodle Karen
Karen’s doodle dog


Four days in Santa Rosa gave us the opportunity to see the majestic redwoods

Redwood vertical
This redwood is taller than a football field is long

 

and countless rows of grapes traversing the Sonoma County hills, and to hear stories about the man who inspired my artless doodle, Charles Schulz. Since I have always loved the Peanuts comic strip as well as the animated cartoon, it was a joy to meet a tennis partner of Mr. Schulz on our trip to Sonoma County.

Redwood and Karen
This redwood is taller, wider, and older than my wife…but not prettier


Dean James has a welcoming face that looks like a sun-faded catchers mitt and kind learned eyes that twinkle like stars when he tells stories about Sparky, as his close friends refer to Mr. Schulz. Dean swims every morning at 5 A.M. and is an avid tennis player who often played with Sparky.

Dean was also a well-known professional golfer who used to work at the Oakmont Golf Club. He started his professional career in Utah at the Alpine Country Club in 1959, then went to such locales as the Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club.                                                                                                                                     

Golf Mayacama hole 2
Mayacama Golf Club Hole 2

While playing golf at Mayacama, on the final hole, while I prepared to hit a hybrid to the green from 215 yards, a doe and fawn ambled onto the green and the fawn brusquely lunged underneath her mother to suckle while I waited for the green to clear. The mother shook off the fawn as if to say, “You’ve had your fill,” and I hit a high draw onto the lower plateau of the green. Dean told us that Mr. Schulz owned these 1,600 acres of rolling hills north of Santa Rosa.  He sold it and Jack Nicklaus then designed and built the Mayacama golf course.

There is a signature par five hole with a lovely high vista and a series of hair pin trails. Dean said, “A Stanford Heisman quarterback drove off that cart trail and into a steep thorny ravine but I can’t think of his name.” I could only remember one Heisman quarterback from Stanford, so I said, “Jim Plunkett?” Dean’s eyes lit up and he said, “Yes, Jim Plunkett!”

Dean told us that in 1967, trying to qualify for the Bing Crosby golf championship at Pebble Beach, he three-putted the final hole to miss qualifying by one shot. But he got to play Pebble Beach after all, when Charles Schulz subsequently asked his tennis buddy to play with him in the pro-am at the Crosby. He did for several years then was replaced on Schulz team by the golf legend Johnny Miller. Dean graduated from BYU and knew Mr. Miller, who also graduated from BYU and was also a friend of Mr. Schulz. Charles Schulz died 18 years ago and Dean told us about a conversation with Johnny Miller regarding the eulogy. Dean said to Johnny, “You are a tv golf announcer, you should do the eulogy.” Mr. Miller told Dean, “No, you do it.” And so Dean spoke at the eulogy along with Billie Jean King at Mr. Schulz memorial.

One day Dean was playing doubles with Sparky and Dean missed a couple shots into the net. Dean slammed his racquet into the right net support shattering it into a useless heap of leather, string, and fiberglass. Schulz reminded Dean of that outburst from time to time…until one day Dean opened the paper and saw this Peanuts strip:

snoopy tennis
The comic strip inspired by Dean James

Dean James still has a copy of this comic strip autographed by Charles Schulz.

That’s a pretty cool doodle!

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The Tiny Home in Our Driveway

There are two kinds of people in the world. (there are more than that, but let’s not nitpick)

People who love to stay home and people who love to wander.

Home people nest and settle in for the long haul as nostalgia rules the day.

Wanderers are restless horizon watchers who understand that to be a stranger in a strange land is to be right at home.

What makes people long for home?

Why are others infected with wanderlust?

The neighbors believe we’ve spaced out with a symbol of wanderlust, a tiny home jacked up on a trailer in our driveway, partially obscuring the entry to our front door. 

We were driving to dinner last night and Karen said, “I thought wanderlust was spelled wonderlust and I didn’t know that it means a longing to travel.” I told her it was ok, that one doesn’t frequently hear wanderlust used in a sentence.  

Wanderlust is more true of my children than for me. They love to travel in this stage of their DINK lives (double-income-no-kids).

Wanderlust is perhaps the reason for the tiny home in our driveway. Brandon and Liz will move in soon…

So rather than accumulate mortgages and children and homes on fixed foundations, they are building mobility. Our children don’t own cars…they fly in jets and take buses, trains, and Uber. They’ve traded hamburger and fries for Meshana Skara from Bulgaria and Schnitzel from Germany.

This ticket to a simpler life is almost complete. Soon, Inola the dog will move in with our son Brandon and daughter-in-law, Elizabeth. In case you are wondering if they’ve lost their minds, here are 5 thoughtful reasons to build a tiny home: 

SPACE

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Simple Life    

Minimalism is back…if it ever really left, and it’s the idea that you have all this clutter in your life but does all the stuff make life better?  To downsize your living environment allows the pursuit of other passions and shared adventures.

Place becomes larger and the world smaller 

Living in a mansion can make you a citizen of nobility, but tiny living makes one a citizen of mobility. This desire to see the world reminds me of Maya Angelou’s comment, “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place.” You’ve broken the bonds of parochialism. In a sense, simple living makes your home larger because your footprints extend further into the world. You have more economic resources to move about, see the sights, and eat strange food. This movement isn’t just for the young. This reassessment of residential economics applies to empty nesters and retirees who find value in these same ideas.

Adventure 

Tiny home folks are tapping into a style of living that might be considered more adventurous than being one of 300 in an apartment project or a suburban development with lawn mowers buzzing all weekend.

Cool Factor 

I asked my son, Brandon, “Why don’t you just buy an Airstream trailer. Then you can be retro-hip and mobile?” He said that they didn’t want a trailer. It’s the hip factor. Well, tiny homes do have their own television shows…and they are kind of jazzy if you are into that sort of thing.

Environment 

My son is a Meteorologist who specializes in wind studies. His graduate degree is from York University in Toronto, Canada, where they are more aware of climate change than in my cloistered prairie universe. So he asked if we could build one for him and I said sure. Crosby Stills and Nash sang a song with the lyric, “Teach your parents well.” It’s a song about generations listening to on another. And so I try to listen. I just spoke with a 35 year old friend who vacationed at Glacier National Park in Montana and I asked him what he thought of the glaciers. He told me that they are stunningly beautiful and then the sad part…they are half melted away…and so younger generations are serious about caring for this good earth. What can I do that is radically significant to impact the environment by walking softer and doing so daily in a way that doesn’t require a daily decision. You only have to do it once….build it that is. It seems palatable to me…other than the composting toilet!

Brandon works for the National Weather Service (NOAA) in Norman, OK where they will locate their tiny home sometime in September. Here is a sneak preview!

IMG_0004
Shiplap interior walls

 

Colorado Travelogue: Red Bank

I tagged along with Karen to a yoga studio in Denver on our vacation. On the mat next to Karen is a woman who lives in Connecticut, although she grew up in Red Bank, NJ.

Karen grew up in New Jersey and we lived in Tabernacle, NJ during our early years of marriage. We are stretching and sharing stories about the Jersey Shore. I have never heard of Red Bank, NJ.

Later, we walked along Broadway avenue to Illegal Pete’s for some mexican food. We strolled by a creaky weathered bookstore with a rack of $3 books and I picked up a thick regal-looking volume of “Edmund Wilson: a Life in Literature.

I read the synopsis inside the cover and put the book back on the sidewalk rack and went into Pete’s. After savoring a carnitas bowl and soft tortilla, we walked back down the sidewalk and I passed by the book rack, until my daughter Lauren said, “Aren’t you going to buy the book?”

I took the book inside, handed the clerk a twenty and she fumbled around trying to find seventeen bucks change. Apparently this isn’t a cash infused enterprise.

I opened the book and read the first two sentences.

“Born May 8, 1895, Edmund Wilson, Jr., was a shy boy, the only child of Edmund and Helen Mather Kimball Wilson. He grew up in Red Bank, New Jersey, thirty-some miles south of New York, near the ocean.”

I wondered if the Connecticut lady on the mat who grew up in Red Bank, knew any relatives of Edmund Wilson.

What made me pick up one book…only one book off that rack?

Life is full of wonder.

 

Kathryn & the Sycamore

We pulled our car into the driveway, narrowly missing a huge sycamore tree while striking the curb with the front wheel, and I told Karen that one can guess the age of a particular house by the width of the driveway. This house was from the Leave it to Beaver era.

karen-lauren-picasso-2018-okc-e1524698160114.jpg

Dinner at Picasso’s in OKC with Lauren, Beck, and Karen

Nowadays, these mid-century Edmond, Oklahoma houses are being transformed into California Craftsman Bungalows by youthful attention to the style du jour. Although, Kathryn’s home is pretty much as it was in the 1950’s, except for the sunroom added to the back of the house, where she spends her time watching the OKC Thunder on television and planning her 98th birthday party.

Kathryn loves sports and she tells me the Oklahoma City Thunder need to devote more effort to offensive rebounding. I watched the game later that night and thought, she’s absolutely right. She is an athlete after all. Although now her knees hurt and she has a soft brace around one knee as she recounts her exploits playing tennis as a young woman. She once came to Wann, Oklahoma, not far from where I live, to stay for a few weeks in the summer because her cousin lived there and they had a tennis court.

We went to Edmond to see babies. We also went to visit with Nanny, the grandmother of our son-in-law, Beck. The babies are the daughters of good friends. Beck’s grandmother, Kathryn Lyon Martin, once an Oklahoma A&M Redskin Beauty, has grown stately and majestic for 98 years, along with the sycamores of her middle America neighborhood.

kathryn martin young

Kathryn spent three years in the 50’s living and working at Tinker Air Force base while her husband Marshall served in Korea. But most of her adult life has been spent in this home in Edmond.

The babies we visited were incredibly cute. I made faces at Eloise and Ramsie the whole time and tried to make them like me, but that’s a tall order. I didn’t make any faces at Kathryn, but I did say yes when she asked me if I wanted a cookie. I always say yes to 98-year-old grandmothers who ask me if I want a cookie, knowing it won’t be as good as Karen’s cookies. I just do it to help them recover some of that old memory.

And the memory of this home and a life that once revolved around food and kitchen and children in the backyard and neighbor kids coming inside to ask for a cookie. I don’t want to be a smart alek (even though I am) like Eddie Haskell on Leave it to Beaver:

June Cleaver: Eddie, would you care to stay for dinner? We’re having roast beef.

Eddie Haskell: No thank you, Mrs. Cleaver. I really must be getting home. We’re having pigeon pie this evening.

So I always say yes to cookies from grandmothers.

Kathryn still lives in the same home where neighbor kids came to play in the backyard unencumbered by fences that now restrict passage from yard to yard. There is a heavy round pipe swing in the southeast corner of the backyard and I imagine many swing set rules being violated, children falling in the grass laughing, crying, bruised, yet happy.

Life was different then. Not necessarily better, just less regulated.

She grew up in Geary, OK where there wasn’t much to do in a small town. So she would go to Catholic Mass with the neighbors even though she wasn’t Catholic. And when they left town, it was an event with life changing possibilities. Kathryn told us about a 1926 road trip to North Dakota when she was 6 years old. Her Mom and Aunt were driving a Ford, and I’m picturing the old coupe with the rumble seat. They went around a curve somewhere south of the Dakotas and lost Kathryn as she slid off the back trunk and fell head over toes into a borrow ditch. After a quick visit to the hospital, she was proclaimed fit, and they continued down the road.

Sensing an opportunity to gather perspective from someone who has seen a lot of history, I asked Kathryn about what events really shaped her, what was memorable to her. I was thinking three-character moments like 9-11 or JFK or FDR, but instead she shared a story about skinning cats.

beck & kathryn

old man & girl kathryn martin
Kathryn Martin was an artist…this is one of many pictures she painted after the children were gone, while Marshall was on the golf course

Which meant something entirely different years ago, and as Kathryn told the story, I watched my daughter, a cat lover, turn a shade of gray.

But skinning cats doesn’t mean that…it means just hanging upside down from a tree limb and flipping yourself through your own arms, or other crazy such flipping and jumping about. Which is what Kathryn was doing one day with her little brother and he was underneath a slab of wood when Kathryn flipped over onto the wood and it fell down onto her brother breaking his leg.

I was looking for deep meaning and got skinning a cat with a brother’s broken leg…which seems more real and American anyway. 

Beck and Lauren have a long-haired gray cat named Smokey. Kathryn’s husband Marshall was nicknamed Smokey, and Kathryn told us a story about a gray cat getting caught in the wall and birthing a litter. One of the cats was called Gray ball. Kathryn said, “Smoke tied some rags together and fished them down the wall but he couldn’t get the cat out…” So a fireman cut a hole in the wall. And so Smokey who tried to get a gray cat out of a hollow in the wall is now the great-grandfather of a gray-haired cat living in Denver with his grandson. 

The world has changed a lot in 98 years. Kathryn spread her limbs like the sycamore as she listened to FDR on the radio and saw the headlines of VE day. She wondered about her husband in Korea for three years and watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. She experienced the birth of radio, television, air travel, interstate highways, several gray cats, and four children. She grew with that sycamore, in her neighborhood filled with children swinging and playing in that great backyard without a fence. 

We live in a digital world that’s full of firewalls and privacy fences. We hear a lot of talk about privacy these days. But we sometimes trade our unfenced backyards for the security of lives never shared. Life sometimes seems virtual, a digital world of ones and zeros. There is something rich and authentic about living in the moment, skinning cats and flying into ditches, and knowing at the age of 98 just what the Thunder need to win.

Kathryn’s life along with that sycamore tree seem very real. I enjoyed listening to her stories and viewing her pictures and paintings. Her reality is analog, a continuous stream of stories and experience, backyard swings and old sycamore trees and children playing and cats trapped in walls and broken legs and flying from a car into a ditch somewhere south of the Dakotas.

Talking to Kathryn made me think of Virginia Woolf who wrote this about memory:

Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world…may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the under linen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind.

Memory exposes our family linen to the gale winds of life and we find out how much our linen looks like everyone else’s. That gives us comfort. For at some time in each of our lives, we’ve felt beautiful and broken, guilty and redeemed, welcome in our neighborhoods and tossed into a ditch. This is life.

Happy Birthday Kathryn! Thanks for telling your stories and painting your pictures and raising your family and serving your country. 

You’ve helped bring us all a little closer to home.

 

 

55

Yesterday was Karen’s birthday. She is 55, but tells me her bones feel 65.

She looks 35. I’m a lucky man.

We went to the mall before dinner to check out Dillard’s 30% off of 50% sale where they price things really high then make you do complex math in your head to figure out the real price. After a while, I realize that I don’t need a pair of stylish Dior socks originally $20 but now $7 so I sit on a recliner in the middle of the mall and read 126 Happy Birthday wishes on Karen’s Facebook feed. This is obvious, but she has way more friends than me. Here is one of my favorites:

Happiest of birthdays to one of the best friends in my life. We may not see each other often, but when we do, we are just as goofy as we were in high school. Love you, Karen Mason Taylor!

Kim, you are spot on! She is goofy. Cute, but goofy.

We ate dinner at Laffa, described on the menu as Mediterranean & Middle Eastern. I asked our waitress what was different about the Israeli Cappuccino. She said, “It has a little whipped cream on top.” I replied, “OK, give me the Hot Green Lemon Ginger Honey Tea,” because whipped cream sounded Bavarian and I wanted something more Jewish and with a longer name.

We love the laffa which is a kind of bread. The menu says that laffa is named after the conical oven that is used to make it and that bread is thought of as a gift from God and only the hands should be used to break it because cutting it with a knife would be like raising a sword to God!  If some bread should fall to the ground, it is picked up and symbolically pressed to the lips & forehead as a sign of respect.

We tore Laffa bread with our bare hands and dipped it into West African Hummus-spicy, sweet potato & peanut hummus with a touch of coconut served with curried tehina, balsamic glaze & feta and Muhammara-roasted red pepper spread made with eggplant, walnuts, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic & spices.

There is even advice on the menu from a Jewish grandma which was apparently stolen by my grandma since my people are not as old as the Jewish peoples…(we are Upper Corner White Bread Okies…paternal grandparents northeastern Oklahoma and maternal grandparents northwestern Oklahoma panhandle):

“EAT! You’re skin and bones!”
– Every Jewish grandma’s catchphrase (Along with “take a sweater!”)

We dined with my brother Greg and his wife Jill. I always enjoy our conversations with Greg and Jill. They understand us. We talked about our children who are college age to 28 years old.

Karen is lower right if you need help

Isn’t it interesting how children believe their parents to be fools when they are of “a certain age” and then they pass through vintage moment(s), return to us, and want to hang out, ask for advice, laugh at our jokes (or at least not roll their eyes quite as dramatically)…and yet they are still our children, only smarter than us, better looking, and somehow poised and eloquent and we think it strangely odd?

Except for some moments when they revert to childhood bath hairdos. 

Before dinner, we parked near the Tulsa Performing Arts Center so after the 8:00 showing of the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, we would have a short walk in the downtown cold and darkness. I brought a stocking cap for the walk from the restaurant to the PAC which any Jewish grandmother would have admired. I told Karen my hat gives me such warmth that I would be happy to sleep outside tonight if I had to. She said that I could still snuggle with her if I wanted which made me glad I married her.

You can never be too careful or plan too well. This is how you get when celebrating birthdays on the downslope of 100 years…as if it matters at this point.

Birthdays change along with us, marking our lives like pencil marks on a door jamb. Some have fat candles, others pin tails on donkeys. This one was fine wine in a vintage oak cask. It was good to stroll along a city street with my girl during the calm of a winter’s evening, basking in the warm glow of family and conversation and a lovely table of food.

Happy birthday my love!

30 days to change

Studies show that if you repeat something often enough, say 30 days in a row, it becomes part of you. A habit if you will. That’s not really science, I made it up, but it seems true.

I’ve decided to practice this to see if it works. I’ll  give you a report after thirty days. I have many 30 day regimens already planned, but I will begin simply.

My first thought is to change something in my diet, to change my stance from vile hatred to, dare I say, affection. So I’m going to eat something I hate for 30 consecutive days.

Cucumbers…I despise cucumbers.

benefitsofcucumbers

For 30 days, I dine on one whole raw cucumber daily. I can’t wait…

 

 

I’m Younger Than That Now

My son texted me last night and said, “We have some really big news.”

This is life; we are born and given a name without our approval, then we fall in love and marry, have children, who then leave and have their own children, and only then are we empowered to rename ourselves.

This is our chance to correct all the misconceptions of the past. I love the idea of second chances. Especially if your last name is Light and your parents named you Bud…you want a do over.

And this is a universal truth across generations. We want a name that highlights our better angels. I remember this about my Grandma Davis who typically cared very little about image and names. But there was one name we didn’t dare call her…granny.

This made for a perfect dare, and my sister prodded me to test the limits one day. I took the dare and called her granny. She hit me over the head with a rolled up Saturday Evening Post. She thought it made her sound old. I thought she was.

But like Dylan singing My Back Pages, “aah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” she must have thought the same thing that my generation thinks…we are younger than that now.

Our age defiance runs deep beginning with simple denial, to the subtle art of requiring our grandchildren to summon us with hip and youthful grand names.

Besides, if we are not naming ourselves, someone will. And it might sound not only old, but strange, for there is danger in allowing a toddler to name grandparents. The danger is that the name will stick like a sharpened #2 pencil thrown into an acoustic ceiling by a rowdy student, requiring a janitor with a ladder to make it go away. Otherwise, it will just hang there forever.

By virtue of the birthright bestowed upon the first grandchild, my daughter had the naming rights to her paternal grandparents. She named them Tampoop and Nammy. One stuck and the other, well, we had to get a ladder and remove it.

But why settle for the prosaic grandfather and grandmother?

The possibilities are endless. I’m thinking about Ace Umpa or Poppa Tart…or something Ukrainian that a baby can easily pronounce. Why not Baba & Gigi?

And the Greeks have wonderfully lyrical grand names…Yaya & Pappoús.

Karen asked me recently what I wanted to be called by a babbling grand. Perhaps I’ll be Bubs. Karen is leaning toward Keke.

And so it will be until the first grandchild changes it to Butts and Kaka. Maybe the old days of grandma and grandpa weren’t so bad after all, but just in case, I’m keeping that ladder handy.

Oh yes, the big news from my son and daughter-in-law. They are parents. We now have our third grand pet, Inola, a tiny furry bundle of Border Collie. I hope she calls me Bubs.