Now is the Time…


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When looking at the hour glass I see the sands of time are moving towards the back end of life at a speed not imagined when I was young. Now I count each grain of sand that reflects the wisdom of how blessed I am to be above ground another day.

So many things we should experience when we are young but put off as if there is a limitless amount of that most precious commodity, time. Fortunately I can say that I’ve lived quite a full life. However, there is one thing I am going to do more of, and that is travel.

When you’re young there are family and job responsibilities. Then there is the reality that because of these responsibilities there is not much money for travel. Plus, there is no time because of all the obligations to sustain your family and lifestyle. In life, many times, when you have no time you have plenty of money, and when you have plenty of time you have no money.

However, after careful planning, and much pain, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train coming towards me. The light is the combination of time and money to enjoy the fruits of my labor. That means that places I’ve always dreamed of traveling to are now targeted in the not so distance future.

Many of my contemporaries have already traveled to Europe. Most have done it when they were fancy free and without the encumbrances of family or a job. They saved up and were able to plot a trip that included hostels, cheap food, and memories that would last a life time.

For the first time in my life, Nancy and I are going to Europe. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see, in person, the places I’ve only read about in books. It’s a dream come true to plan for what could be the trip of a lifetime.

Planning the trip is like planning a military operation. To enjoy the experience the most is an exercise in balance. Balancing between seeing what we want to see and not doing too much. The balance between being a traveler and a tourist.

The unbridled excitement is palpable as we get closer to our liftoff. We will be spending time in London, Paris, Dijon (in the Burgundy region of France), Switzerland, and finally Germany. Each place will be a catalog of carefully planned tours, meals, and independent discovery.

Each destination will be a wonderful travel log written in a diary that will attempt to capture the flavor of the experience. It will be the fusion of language to ensnare the emotion of discovery with the painting of a picture.

Iconic foreign statues, pictures, buildings, castles, rivers, museums, and restaurants will only be a complete interactive experience when we enjoy the people from those different cultures.

Across the pond (as they call it) will test our acumen to understand different languages, currencies, and of course the metric system. Not only those aforementioned items but also train and subway schedules, and local customs.

I believe that anytime you put yourself in the mode of discovery you grow as a person. This widens your horizons and helps you understand a little better the general mind set of those you come in contact with from other countries. I’ve met many people from different countries over the course of my culinary career. I’m sure its quite different when you greet them on their home turf.

We don’t have numerous tours booked but the ones we do have booked should be epic. I booked the most strenuous tour on our second day in Europe/London. We will be going to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a river cruise down the Thames river, finishing up at the famous department store, Harrods. That’s the only tour we are taking in London, an all day extravaganza.

In Paris we are scheduled for a river cruise down the Seine with a gourmet lunch and copious amounts of Champagne. Our last day in Paris will be a guided tour to one of the most famous galleries in the world, the Louvre. Then we’re off to Dijon in the Burgundy region of France.

We will take a train from Paris to Dijon and rent a car in Dijon. Too much beautiful scenery and country in Burgundy and eventually in Switzerland not to take it slow and enjoy every castle and lake along the way. This is a dream of mine to finally scratch off the bucket list.  The Burgundy region has produced my favorite wine in the world, La Tache in the Vosne-Romanee, France.

We will enjoy a wine tour which includes a lunch and wine tastings at several Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards near Dijon. After a couple days in Dijon we will drive to Switzerland.

Our first destination in Switzerland will be the Ambassador Boutique Hotel in Nyon on Lake Geneva. Then we drive past Bern Switzerland and into Lucerne where we will stay at the Hotel Royal Luzern with a room facing lake Lucerne. Our last destination in Switzerland will be the Hotel Mokka in Laufenburg Switzerland. Half the town is in Switzerland and across the bridge from Switzerland is the other half of the town, in Germany.

Our final destination will be a small town near Frankfurt, Germany,  Oberursel (Taunus). This is an Air B&B, checking out November 2nd, and flying out of Frankfurt Germany, back home.

I will be writing down the different takes on our experiences so that all whom follow will have a better idea of what to expect on this wonderful journey we call life.




Sports are the Unbridled Stage for Human Emotion


Each time I think back to my first experiences in playing or viewing sports I smile. The first time I threw a football, hit a baseball, or made a hoop in basketball I felt a surge of emotional satisfaction that transcended everyday life.

The first time I threw a football was in Fairfax California. I was on the street and a neighborhood father was throwing to his son. I asked, “Could I catch and throw the football with them?” They said, ” Yes”, and the rest is history.

I had an affinity for throwing small round balls against a wall so that they would bounce back to me,  but this oval ball was another story. Almost every afternoon (after I recieved a football from Santa) I would ask whatever neighborhood kid was available, to play catch. Eventually I got pretty good at throwing the football, maybe twenty yards, consistently.

Around that same time I would play basketball at my elementary school, Deer Park. I could hardly reach the backboard because the baskets were not lower then regulation. Still, I would be out there, virtually under the basket, waiting for a player to throw me the ball so that I could have a chance to score a basket. Didn’t happen too often, but I kept trying.

After a few growth spurts around the fifth grade, making baskets became easier. However, I found that my sport was kickball. Unfortunately this wasn’t a recognized school sport. I could kick that ball farther than almost anyone on that playground. I would catch the ball for outs and then I would kick that ball (when I was up) to the deepest part of the outfield, rounding the bases like Lou Brock.

Possibly the most fun I had in those elementary playground days was when I played what we called, “Prison Ball”. There would be a cordoned off court that was split in the middle. One team on one side of the middle line and the other team opposite them.

Players would be given two balls on either side of the middle line, one each. Then they would rare back and throw the ball at the opposing teams players. I would always aim for their heads (although this was frowned upon) to exact the most damage to the opposing players. I just wanted to win and not have these players re-enter the game on the opposite endline.  Because then there was the brutal crossfire that would eventually leave you crying or winning. There was no in-between, there was no “participation” trophy. There was just win or lose.

Another sport that I learned in our recreation camp in the summer was “Capture the Flag”. This was a game where the flag would be secured in a forest setting usually with the border of a creek or a ditch being the safety zone. When you crossed over to the enemy territory you would run like your life depended on it to “Capture the Flag”. If you were tagged in the process then you would be led to the jail  (usually located near the flag).

If there were enough of your teammates in the jail then it was very difficult to protect your flag as likely you’d be overrun. Then the opposing team would “Capture the Flag”.

All of these wonderful games have probaby disappeared. However, in my day they were the spark that brought out your competitive spirit and as Wide World of Sports would say, “The Thrill of Victory, or the Agony of Defeat”.

Watching sports became a very enjoyable pastime in the sixties for me with the advent of the two football leagues (the AFL and the NFL). The first game I remember watching is what was called “The Ice bowl”. The game in 1967 was played at Lambeau field in Green Bay Wisconsin.

At game time the temperature was 13 degrees. The Green Bay Packers were playing the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers quarterback was Bart Starr. With the temperature 18 degrees below zero and 16 seconds on the clock, Bart Starr  ran the ball into the endzone for the game winning touchown. I will never forget that first memory of the National Football League.

I went to many 49er games in the 80’s watching the greatest decade of 49er players ever assembled. That’s truly when I became a 49er faithful watching the team to this day as they amassed five Super Bowls.

Being from the Bay Area I was blessed to watch the San Francisco Giants win three titles as did the Golden State Warriors. The emotion from the players and the fans is truly a script that is never written. To unleash an emotion that only comes after experiencing the ebbs and flows of a whole season is magic.

Playing or watching sports is a gift. The competitive spirit that is intense and focused carries into all facets of life. The stage is different but the relentless will to win in anything that features competition instills the spark that pushes one to victory.


Planning for Tomorrow, Today

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Each day in the future reveals a message from the past. That message is predicated upon life’s chessboard and the pieces that are moved to achieve said goal. Along the way we can look to see how the moves affect our future and if the plan has worked, or is working. 

Everything from the mundane grocery list to the selling of a property or the interaction with an attorney or even a spouse can be dissected. Even vacations, recipes, the recording of a sporting event or your favorite show… we should have a plan.

When you plan for tomorrow it’s important to not take your eyes off the experience of today. Living in the future completely, totally, means that today may not be enjoyed to its fullest. Life is about balance to fully be engaged with the choices of today will ultimately help us prepare for tomorrow.

The plans that are thought of well in advance are the most difficult to execute. These objectives are usually produced in carefully designed steps that most importantly are carried out in a certain order. This order can not be deviated from unless of course extenuating circumstances reveal their ugly head.

Health, job, monetary considerations, any change in circumstance can and will send us down a different path. However, the main plan/goal is etched in our DNA so that our focus is clear and our plan is a determined one.

Many roundabouts send us in one direction while the traffic of circumstance blows us to a different route. There are seldom shortcuts, because one thing in life is certain… there are benifits to gaining wisdom based upon the difficulty we endure to achieve our preordained destiny.

The art of creating a plan are two fold: First is the importance of our resolve to stick to our commitments. Second is the benefit from the satisfaction of achieving our plan. Each time we follow through with our goals in a timely fashion our belief in ourselves grows exponentially.

If we let life happen to us then we put ourselves in a position of always being reactive as opposed to being proactive. There is a huge difference between the two mindsets. One is based upon our strenght of will and our commitment to ourself while the other is making excuses for not keeping our word. Its about honor and integrety.

Honor… no man can give it to you, no man can take it away. It is a gift you give yourself.

Usually when we plan today for tomorrow it also involves others we love and care about. There are two ways for those we love and care about to view us as a person. There is the belief that we can achieve our goal in a timely manner (very important). Or there is the belief from those we love and care about, “Here we go again with the unrealistic goals never being met.”

So often people rely on the excuse, “A thinly veiled lie wrapped in reason.” To whom much is given, much is required. If you have a strong support system and an education there is nothing you can’t achieve given hard work and determination.

The art of planning today for tomorrow is the ability to realize potential obstacles before they occur. With that observation each obstacle must be looked at one at a time and not as a whole. If each time we hurdle the obstacle because of our preparation and opportunity then we set ourselves up to achieve our prospective goal.

However, if we look at all the obstacles in their totality then we are likely to be defeated before we even start. The task is too daunting and our resolve may come into question. Never let others point to the negative aspects of a decided goal as this too can add more stress to the aformentioned finish line.

Everything from the five year plan of action to the daily purhcasing of necessities executed in a way to save our most precious commodity, time, is of vital importance. When we save time and money with our daily routines we are putting ourselves in a mantra of success to achieve the more difficult long term goals.

Planning ahead with vacations so that we may experience the most from these sojourns is another important aspect of reward. Making the most of our time to enjoy a new experience helps us gain the reward of realizing the benifits of what we are so blessed to enjoy in our daily lives.

The place, the people, the things we’ve always wanted to see. eat, drink, etc. are so important to our psyche.  The possitive memories we can create from planning today for tomorrow is worth its weight in gold. For if we are in a position to enjoy forever that very special memory we share with those we love and care about… then our life will be enriched beyond anything we could have ever imagined.

Tribute to Tony Bennett

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Tony Bennett passed away yesterday at the age of 96. This is a tribute to the man, the legend.

Frank Sinatra once said, as quoted in 1965 by Life Magazine, ” For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.”

Duke Ellington in his autobiography, “Music is my Mistress” said about Tony Bennett, “To attend a Tony Bennett concert is to find yourself in the presence of a performer who exudes a rough-hewn natural elegance, devoid of airs… He can still end a song like “Fly me to the Moon” or “How Do you Keep the Music Playing?” with an old-fashioned, quasi-operatic crescendo but he makes these corny triumphal endings stick in your heart.”

Anthony Dominick Benedetto, known professionally as Tony Bennett, was an American singer. Bennett amassed many accolades, including 20 Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Prime time Emmy Awards.

Born August 3, 1926 in Long Island City, NY,NY Tony Bennett was a saloon singer that produced some of the most notable concerts and collaborations in the history of pop culture. In the last ten years alone he has sold over ten million records. The essence of his longevity and high artistic achievement was his steadfast approach to song and style.

Tony Bennett quite simply was a legend who served during the Second World War and then develped a career that spanned over a half century.

His father, Giovanni “John” Benedetto, was a grocer, his mother, Anna Maria (Suraci), was a seamstrress, and his uncle was a tap dancer. His parents were both from poor farming families in Clabria, Italy.

Young Tony gave a singing performance at the opening of the Tribourough Bridge at the age of 10. He studied music and painting at the New York High School of Industrial Arts but dropped out at the age of 16. He had to support his family and he performed as a singing waiter in Italian restaurants.

During the Second World War, Tony Bennett was drafted in the US army. He served on the front lines until April 1945  and was  involved in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp at Landsberg, Germany.

After World Was II he sang with the army military band under the stage name “Joe Bari” until his discharge in 1946. He returned to the US and studied the Bel Canto singing discipline at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill. He continued singing while waiting tables at New York restuarants.

At the beginning of his career he drew from such influences as Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby among others. He eventually created his own style of singing integrating a Jazz-style phrasing while sometimes imitating instrumental solos with his own unique voice.

In 1949 Bennett was invited on a concert tour by Bob Hope who suggested he use the stage name of Tony Bennett. Then, in 1950 he signed a record deal with Columbia Records which led to his first big hit, “Because of You”, orchestrated by Mitch Miller with orchestration by Percy Faith.

That record sold over a million copies, reaching #1 in 1951 on the pop charts. His other #1 hits included “Blue Velvet”, “Rags to Riches”. and “Stranger in Paradise” from 1952 to 1954. Bennett was able to do five to seven shows a day in New York City singing to crowds of screaming teenagers.

In 1956 he hosted “The Tony Bennett Show” which replaced “Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall”. After collaborations with Count Basie producing two notable albums, “Chicago”, and “Jeepers Creepers”, he was on to Carnegie Hall.

In June of 1962 at Carnegie Hall Tony Bennett featured 44 songs accompanied by an all-star band. That year was especially notable as that was the year he launched what was to become his signature song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.”

As life would have it Tony was offered many obstacles during the late 1960’s and 1970’s with a pop culture that changed from saloon singers to the Beatles.

Divorces, drug addiction, a failing career, dropped by Columbia Records, brought him to the breaking point.  In the late seventies a drug overdose signaled a desperate time for Tony, in which case he called  for help from his son, Danny Bennett. Danny signed on as his father’s manager which turned out to be the right move, and his fortunes eventually changed.

Tony Bennett rejuvenated his career with the help of his son. He brought back his original style (with tuxedo) while creating “The Great American Songbook.” In the 80’s he staged a strong comeback while re-signing with Columbia Records. It was during that time he received a Grammy, his first since 1962.

He has sold over 50 million albums worldwide, was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1997 while that same year published an autobiography, “The Good Life” which recieved a lifetime achievement award from ASCAP in 2002. A recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor in December of 2005 was closely followed by being honored by the United Nations with its Citizen of the World award. Tony Bennett will always be remembered as an international treasure.

Nancy and I saw Tony Bennett a few years ago at the Wynn theatre in Las Vegas. I wanted to make sure we saw this iconic performer before it was too late. His repertoire included “I Left My heart in San Francisco” and ended with an A cappella performance of “Fly Me to the Moon”. I will never forget that concert and the love in that concert hall for a true legend that brought so much joy to so many for so long.


What’s Really Important?

The definition of “echoes” is as follows: “A sound or series of sounds caused by the reflection of sound waves from a surface back to the listener. It can also be a close parallel or repetition of an idea, feeling, style, or event.”

I have been in my parents home that was once filled with their voices. I was alone listening to the memories that now filled the space. Echoes of times long ago seemed like the last note of a symphony, reverberating and suspended in thin air.  It’s a captured feeling, sentence, or event etched in my mind with a picture so clear and so simple in its essence, and yet so powerful in its substance.

I see the meal being cooked by my mom. She toils over a hot stove to produce another dinner for the three of us. I wish I’d asked her more questions about recipes, her life, her love for music then I did. I wish I had taken my eyes off myself to enjoy the beauty that was the essence of whom she was.

Now I stand in front of that same stove and think about the love that went into each and everything she did. Gifts come in many different forms. Those gifts are the echoes that reverberate around a hollow room helping me to remember that which I took for granted so long ago.

When I’m in the yard pulling weeds I sometimes think of my dad. We would pull weeds for hours on end. I thought at the time it was such a tedious task not realizing the conversations I could have had about his life. His musical career, his growing up in a small town in Kansas and how he came to learn the violin, were just some of the topics I could have explored. Now on that same hill we pulled weeds I hear the echoes of laboring in silence as I was too young to grasp the importance of how short our lives together would be.

My mom and dad filled our home with a protective, nurturing, and musical bond that was strenghtened by their humble backgrounds. Morality, honor, and commitment were the echoes of teachings engrained in their personas. Each element was enhanced by the strong devotion to their family.

As I walk through our home in San Rafael by myself, I think of the last moments spent with all three of us in a joyful holiday setting. Christmas of 1990 with my mom in a wheelchair and my dad and I making dinner.  As we served it, both of us realized this could be the last time we shared our blessed family together.

I hear that emotion as an echo that rings its harmonic dirge. As time moves beyond the past and into the future I see the many faces that lit up when my parents played music together.

As clear as day I see my parents friends drink their cordials at the end of a wonderful party, culiminating with a concert. I see my dad’s violin sway and my mom joyfully acompanying him on the piano.  They most certainly made beautiful music together.

Now I stand alone near the end of my own life. I’m not afraid of the end as I see it as a new beginning. A most wonderful beginning that involves seeing those which are no longer with us.

We do not know when our experation date is, but understand the gift that is our life. Soon there will be the home I once lived in, and those that I loved and cared about, sifting through the memories with me.

To them I can only say, “Remember the wonderful laughter we shared that will echo in our hearts for as long as forever is.”




The Silence of the Spam

What Is Our ‘Sell-By’ Date?
No, I’m not talking about the Spam processed canned pork made by Hormel Foods Corporation introduced in 1937. I’m talking about the many emails we receive on a daily basis that go into a folder we never look at.
Unsolicited messages sent in bulk email to our junk email or spam folder are ubiquitous, unavoidable irritations that are launched based upon our preferencces. These preferences evolve from conversations, web browsing, or Google searches that promote a product, place, or life-style change.

Each time I look into the spam folder to see if I’ve actually missed something important, I am concerned about the over lord that takes conversations or searches and produces a targeted narrative for monetary gain.

The insidious pressures of modern life are used as a springboard towards those that phish to gain sensitive information to defraud and accumulate data germane to bank accounts, social security numbers or other guarded secrets. Just the other day I was told that my bank account card had been used to purchase a large some of merchandise at Walmart.

I pay no attention to these phishing expeditions. However, there are those that live in fear that would buy into this constructed allegation. For those people the possibility of losing key information becomes a real concern especially with age. Most older people have increased agitation based upon living with a heightened nervous complexion.

This group must gain resolve to trust modern day protections. Lifelock, Norton and other services designed to fight for our peace of mind must be installed in this world we now live in.

Now the spam folder includes a myriad of political messages based upon our voter registration. The lenght and depth in which these ads project division is truly amazing. The messages always relate to the most divisive dialogue between political parties, races, religions, or genders.

The key to spam control is to nip the messages in the bud and direct them to the junk folder ASAP. Of course spam is not just indicative of the space reserved for emails or texts. There are the robo calls that are most certainly an irritation of modern life. These will continue until you block them or install the app “Robokiller”.

In the days of future past we look to the rotary phone and the way of life before modern technology as a breath of fresh air. There was no spam and certainly very few robo calls. People honored and respected the sanctity of privacy and protection. When you received an unwanted solicitation it usually was in the form of a salesmen selling vacuum cleaners door to door, or perhaps cleaning supplies, encyclopedias, or even Jehovah Witnesses trumpeting their belief about the end of the world.

At least those interactions were few and far between. Especially if you lived in a setting that made it difficult for the salespeople mentioned above to hoof it over to your dwelling.
I remember when I was in college, every Sunday we’d get these Jehovahs Witnesses coming to our door. Of course Sunday was not the day to knock on our door at 8am in the morning to pontificate about the need for us to go to church and listen to the word of God.

It was their version of what the truth about God was and at that point in time we didn’t need a preacher we needed a priest. Then we could go to the “Sacrament of Reconcilliation” to confess our sins from the previous day, month, and year which certainly would have taken the priest into the following week.

So, we came upon a diabolical plan to stop the every Sunday ritual of opening the door to greet the Jehovahs Witnesses. They opened the door the next Sunday and we simply told them, “We worship the devil.” They never came back. In retrospect perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea as it will probably be the difference between going to heaven or in the other direction.

Now my spam folder is filled with mostly topical political issues that provide a no-win scenario. What can we do about the gender dialogue or race issues? All we can do is hope that because it’s in a folder we don’t open (hardly ever) the emails will stop. Taking a pole which only promotes more division is certainly not the answer.

How about this? We rise above the spam folder and judge each person individually and not as a group. Hence, taking away the power of the organization usually designed to extract money from the very people they are trying to help.

Into the Night


I see the many creatures that form a conga line around our home. This formadable breath of gesticulating animals exchange greetings and warnings of impending danger or nurturing safety.

Each animal uses the cloak of darkness to hide amongst the brambles, bushes, and trees. Even the color of their coats change with the seasons. The deer have white tails when winter approaches. The bear wakes up from the slumber of winter to prowl in search of the sustenance of spring.

Hunters ready their armament to catch the wary four legged targets marked by cunning and watchfulness as they attempt to escape the danger as prey. Each dance within the boundries of mountains and streams provide another chapter in what has become a ritual resulting in life or death.

The border of our property is a safe zone. Each animal feels the energy of acceptance and protection. Almost smiling, the deer sense the relaxation that comes with tranquility.

This “safety zone” only relates to our viewing.  The natural predators lurk just outside of the visual sight and sound of the common area. This experience is shared by all and yet dominated by those few bear and mountain lions that roam just beyond reach.

The birds are another beautiful compliment to this scene as we view their majestic flying paterns over the pond, trees, and the underbrush. Each movement is complimented by an array of muscial tones.  The range is from an annoying squawk to a tenor riff that creates a melody usually exchanged between two or more of our feathered friends.

As night fast approaches other voices encroach into the mix. The frogs with their baratone voices, the crickets with their rhythmic chirp, and the melodic undertones of other distinguished contributors.

Darkness brings the stars to light in a place with no white noise or light that would take away the magnificence of the moment. Adding to this display through-out the course of the month is the moon.

The full moons glow empowers us to see that which was hidden. Prior to its quarter and half, the full moon reveals a landscape inspiring us to wax poetic about things that seem so clear and yet so distant.

Night is the cloak that hides the movements of those that don’t wish to be seen. In the envelope of darkness our imagination forms a dream in the reality of suspended time. This concept of images not present heightens our five senses to expose that which is not real into the realm of possibility.

To be in a place that evokes thoughtful expressions of appreciation is really the light before the curtain is raised. As the curtain rises it exposes the landscape beneath our feet revealing the last breath of consciousness before we drift into the black veil of night.