― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
MY Journey isn't just about the stories of people I meet on the bus. To be sure, the search for those stories is what is what drives me, especially during those long, lonely, middle-of-the night stretches, surrounded by darkness, when the dogs of doubt are most likely to hound my spirit.
No, this Journey is also about reconnecting with the people and places that have defined my story. It's about renewing and celebrating friendships that have both sustained and uplifted me over the years. And, yes because I'm a cheap bastard, it's about having a free, warm bed and hot shower waiting after 24 sleepless hours on a Greyhound freaking Bus.
I've known Tim Hackett (right) and Bill Kohlepp (Center) for nearly 30 years. They formed the West Coast office of Local Marketing Corporation (LMC), a Cincinnati-based advertising and promotion company that was my career home for more than two decades. LMC was doing cutting edge work at the time, and our services were much in demand. It was both an exciting and gratifying time for me professionally.
Tim and Bill live outside San Diego. This photo was taken as we walked the ocean trail at Torrey Pines National Park near Encinitas, California. It was a perfect Southern California day and, as you can see, a stunning panorama.
Confession: I always feel inadequate when I spend time with guys like Tim and Bill. That's because their lives are immersed in "real men" activities:
- Like real men, they backpack up steep, treacherous mountain passes and set up camp under the stars, surrounded by bears and mountain lions. I've had one camping experience as an adult. It was at a state park 10 miles from our home. Kate went ahead of me to set up the campsite, at the center of which was a massive tent with four separate wings and a two-car garage. I arrived at the campsite to a cold martini and perfectly cooked steak. We watched DVDs on our portable TV player. We slept (well, everyone but me slept) on $200 air mattresses. We were under the stars surrounded by our three pugs. It was a magical evening, communing with nature. It was also the last time I ever camped. We gave away the equipment several years later..
- Like real men, they fish in mountain streams, from the beach or on the open seas, using either homemade flies or bait they dig up themselves. When I was 10, my father, an avid NON-outdoorsman, asked his good friend Dominic to teach me how to fish. Dom was one of the scariest men I've ever known. He smelled of stale beer. He had a perpetual scowl, made more menacing by the cigar butt that seemed to be a permanent fixture in the corner of his mouth. We went to a nearby, manmade lake. Dom gave me careful instructions on how to cast. I listened intently, all the time knowing that he was capable of killing me. My first cast got tangled in the tree above me. Dom mumbled what I'm sure were death threats as he cut the line. I could feel my bowels loosening and tears welling up in my eyes. Before giving me another chance to cast, Dom moved me away from the tree. But the tree must have moved with us as my second cast went straight up, tangled hopelessly on the same branch. The lesson complete, Dom dropped me off at home, suggesting to my father (well, no, insisting) that I was too stupid to fish.
- Like real men, they go canoeing or kayaking or surfing or, in particular, rafting down rivers containing Class 6 rapids with signs every 500 feet that say: "Caution: You Can Die On This River." Several months ago, Kate watched a PBS special on "fun with kayaking" and promptly purchased a gift certificate for a free kayaking adventure on the Little Miami River. I just as promptly reminded her that 10 years earlier we spent what I believe to be the longest day of my life on a six mile canoe ride on the same Little Miami River. During our "adventure" I lost a $300 pair of glasses when a low-hanging branch swiped my face; I tipped the canoe several times, the first being BEFORE we even pushed off; and that we nearly divorced because I couldn't figure out that, when she screamed "go right," I should have had the oar on the left side of the canoe.
Despite my feelings of inadequacy, it was great to spend a few days with two of the finest, real men I know. As for adventure, for now, I'll stick with the Greyhound freaking Bus.