Earlier this evening a guy named Hugh, who is in his 70s, showed me a pocket watch case that had belonged to his great-grandfather and been passed down to him.  That case was special because there exist no pictures of his great-grandfather, no letters or other writings from him and no other memorabilia.  So all Hugh knows about his ancestor is that the man must have owned a pocket watch.

Thinking about my ancestors, my father came of age during the Great Depression.  He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps.  He joined the Marines and was stationed at Pearl Harbor on that infamous day, December 7, 1941.  He fought at Guadalcanal and elsewhere in the South Pacific before contracting malaria.  He worked for years as a railway postal clerk.  He loved coaching youth baseball, and did that until he was about 80 years old

My mother was valedictorian of her high school class. She was one of the first Women Marines.  She was named Arvada, Colorado’s “Woman of the Year” because of her charitable activities.  She ran several successful businesses after she had pretty much raised her family.

My paternal grandparents came to this country from France, with their children, shortly before World War I.  They eventually settled in Western Illinois, where my grandfather was a railroad mechanic.

My maternal grandparents came West from Mississippi in a covered wagon.  The wagon broke down in East Texas, so they stayed there and spent the rest of their lives farming.

One or more of my great-grandparents may have owned a pocket watch.  I don’t know.  Hugh has more knowledge of one of his great-grandfathers than I do of any any of mine.

My mother passed away five years ago this week.  My father only lived about three months after that.  Back about seven or eight years ago, I asked my parents if they would write down some things they thought were important in their lives; but they said they didn’t want to take the time to write.

Next, I bought them a small digital audio recorder and suggested that they simply talk about those things because someday their grandchildren or great-grandchildren would wonder about them.  They did record for about 15 minutes, but then put the machine in a drawer and never took it out again.

My own life has not been very exciting, but one of the reasons I wrote my 65 Years in 65 Days series of blogs a couple of years ago was to have at least some record that I passed through this world, in case one of my great-grandchildren may want proof somewhere down the road.

I know, of course, that the 50,000+ words that I wrote are just as limited in their ability to convey to some future descendant what my life may have been like as are the 15 minutes of talking my parents recorded or Hugh’s great-grandfather’s watch case.  I can see why my parents were hesitant to try to tell something about their lives.  Except when used by a rare master, words are generally inadequate to describe a life.  What anyone’s life really meant is another story that maybe you don’t need to know right now; another story none of us quite know how to tell.

“That’s Another Story” is also the title of a song from the first album by a group called Lothar and the Hand People.  They only recorded two albums, releasing one in 1968 and the second in 1969.  Although the group did not have much commercial success, they were quite influential in the way they melded rock, or even country and Baroque, with electronic music.

The group formed here in Colorado, and played regularly at such venues as the Exodus in Denver and the Mad Dog in Aspen during the mid-1960s.  In the late 1960s, they moved to New York and were part of the experimental music scene in that city.  The personnel changed a bit over time, but for most of its existence the band members were Paul Conly, John Emelin, Rusty Ford, Tom Flye, Kim King and a Theremin named Lothar.

For those who don’t know, a Theremin is an electronic instrument that is played by moving one’s hands near two vertical metal antennas.  The musician does not actually touch the instrument; but since his or her hand movements are what produce the sounds, it was natural for Lothar, who had no hands, to think of the humans in the band as “hand people.”  The Theremin is the instrument that plays out the “vibrations” in the Beach Boy’s “Good Vibrations.”

Lothar and the Hand People’s music also incorporated Moog synthesizers and more traditional instruments like guitar, bass, keyboard, percussion and harmonica.  I could go on about the group and its music, however I think it is time to move on to another story.

Continue reading


May 12, 2013

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Rock People

We lived in the mountains of Clear Creek County for 12 years. Our driveway was a private road shared with several other property owners. From Fall River Road, you would go down about a quarter mile and across the River to reach our house. The road then went back up the other side of the canyon another quarter mile to our nearest real neighbor.

There were four other patented mill sites nearby. One was owned by some people from Missouri who we saw only once in the dozen years we lived there. Those folks stopped by one day to say howdy and to mention that a log “fort” our children had built for play was partly on their property. We promised to move it, but never got around to it before both kids had gone off to college and weren’t that interested in playing there anymore.

Small summer or weekend cabins were built on two of the other mill sites. Those owners would use them infrequently. They were never occupied for more than a week at a time.

The last mill site was not used at all for most of the time we lived there. Just over a year before we moved, a couple from Illinois bought it with the intention of making it their retirement home. Unfortunately, the husband soon suffered a stroke and they were not able to leave Illinois.

All the rest of the land around us was National Forest. From our house, we could not see any other buildings; the only road we saw was our driveway; and usually we could hear only sounds of nature. We felt isolated, and we liked it. A visitor once said, “You could run around naked all the time and no one would know.”

Perhaps – but it gets pretty chilly at an altitude of 9,000 feet, especially in the winter. Continue reading


May 11, 2013

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I attended a gathering of Charismatic Catholics* at which the speaker was a former Four Square Gospel minister who had converted to Catholicism. He told of the miraculous healings he had done among the “born again” crowd, including once raising a young man from the dead.

He became Catholic when he married his second wife after he had lost his first to cancer. I learned that several months after this talk his second wife also died of cancer. On the surface, this seems a form of duality – the miracle worker who cannot save his owned loved ones – the cobbler’s children who have no shoes. However, we live in a physical world, a world of mortality. Even the young man who was raised from the dead will one day return there, just like Lazarus 2000 years ago.

This gentleman told us that the greatest healer in our world is the Catholic Eucharist. That is actually a logical conclusion arising from the belief that through transubstantiation the bread and the wine become the body and blood of Christ. The physical and the divine are merged, so there is no longer a duality, only a perfect unity.

I feel confident that all of the Charismatics present were completely confident in that belief. I did not get the feeling, though, that many of them would be considered mystics. They knew the formerly physical bread and wine can merge with and become divine, but most of them would not believe themselves to have also merged and become divine. Rather, there would always be a separation between us mere mortals and the Godhead, the Christ, the divine. Thus, transubstantiation eroded the concept of duality only to a point. The person receiving communion still remained separate from the consecrated host.

A mass was celebrated after the gentleman had given his talk. We were advised to pay attention to the whole process of communion, and to consider what healing we would want for ourselves or our families as we actually received the sacrament. As I walked toward the altar, I thought, “I’m healthy now. My whole family seems healthy. I feel fortunate.” I did not know that within the next year I would lose both my parents and my brother would be fighting the disease that would take his life. I have looked back on that time and considered the duality between my perceptions and what we call reality. Continue reading


May 10, 2013

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Burning Bridge(s)

I never attempted the game of bridge until I was a senior in high school, and it has been 20 years since I last played.  In between, there were a few memorable hands – like the kind described in the newspaper’s weekly bridge column – but there were more memorable people.

Bert was a good friend in high school.  He was extremely intelligent.  He was the first Unitarian I ever knew.  He was the first person I knew who brewed home-made root beer in his basement.  He was the first person I knew whose step-father won a Nobel Prize for Medicine.  And he was the person who taught me to play bridge.  It seemed that he was the only member of his social group who knew the game.  In order to satisfy his desire to play and still have friends, he began teaching a few of us the basics.

When we had learned to count the points in our hand and could remember that Spades is the suit above Hearts, we began playing friendly games in our spare time.  I seemed to like it more than some of the others, and by the end of the school year I understood the Stayman Convention and Jacoby Transfers.  I knew what it meant if someone said they bid “Standard American.”  Bert suggested we try our luck at duplicate bridge.

During the summer after our high school graduation, he and I would usually go once a week to the Arvada Bridge Club to play in a duplicate tournament.  The other players were generally the same every week, and most were quite serious about the game.  I remember two middle-aged gentlemen who were always there and who looked exactly like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee from Alice in Wonderland.  I can’t recall their names, but I knew they were opponents to be reckoned with.  Though Bert and I were always the youngest players, we held our own and even picked up a couple of Masterpoints. Continue reading


May 9, 2013

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Dr. Baskaran Pillai has an interesting educational background.  He earned his Master’s degree in English Literature from Madurai University in Southern India.  He then came to the University of Pittsburgh to study Hinduism and earn a Ph.D. in Religious Studies.  Along the way, he developed a special relationship with the Hindu god Siva and began to call himself Sri Siva (“Sri” meaning “holy” and “Siva” meaning “Siva.”)

Wayne Dyer is a psychologist who has become the country’s best known self-help author and motivational speaker.  I once heard a recording by Dr. Dyer on which he talked about meeting Sri Siva, whom he said was a very holy man.  He said that he came into the room where Sri Siva was sitting and took a seat across from him.  Nothing was spoken between them for a considerable length of time until Sri Siva asked, “Do you have any questions?” and Dr. Dyer replied, “No, you have answered them all.”

Soon after I heard that recording, I learned that Sri Siva was giving a lecture in Boulder.  I thought it would be good to be in the presence of a very holy man, so I attended.  I also brought our children, Michael and Suzanne to let them experience the presence.  My wife Cathy had to work, but another friend – Kathy – wanted to attend and met us there.

After hearing Dr. Dyer’s talk, I wondered whether this was to be a darshan experience in which we would all sit silently until he asked if there were any questions.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  The lecture was a discussion of mantra and sacred sounds.

He primarily discussed the mantra “ara kara” which is supposed to aid in the manifestation of abundance.  Continue reading


May 8, 2013

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There Is a Season

Some of us marry; some become college graduates; some travel overseas; some are healthy; some are ill; some are famous.  These are common occurrences for many (not all) people and are easy to write about or discuss.  More difficult is something that happens to every one of us – death.

Birth is also a universal experience, and it is much easier to discuss.

Together these bookend events provide an ebb and flow for families.  When I was born, there were three people in my immediate family – my parents and me.  Over the next few years the family grew to five as my brothers were born.  It continued to grow as my brothers and I married, bringing spouses into the family, and becoming parents ourselves, adding children and nieces and nephews.

Of course, it actually grows even more than that.  When I married Cathy, she not only became a part of my family, I also became a part of hers.  Times of growth are good times that seem to go on and on.  Even when all of our next generation has been born, those children continue to grow and learn and marry.  Somewhere in the whole process, though, a difficult change occurs.  There is a pause to what had seemed an endless time of increase.

In our family, the first such pause was in 1997 when we lost Cathy’s father. Continue reading


May 7, 2013

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The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

This is another travel story.  I am including it because it has very clear and simple morals.

In 2009, my wife Cathy, our daughter Suzanne and I had planned a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during Suzanne’s Spring Break.  We could have purchased tickets for a non-stop Frontier Airlines flight, but they seemed expensive.  We searched on the internet and found that we could save $80 a person – $240 total, which is quite a bit – by flying on United Airlines from Denver to Monterey, California and from Monterey to Los Angeles.  In L. A., we would need to take a Mexicana Airline flight to Mexico City, and then to Puerto Vallarta.  We chose to save our money and take the more complicated route.

As we boarded the plane in Denver, the person taking our tickets said, “Have a good flight.  It is currently foggy in Monterey.”  It turned out she was right.  When we reached Monterey, the pilot tried to land, but was prevented by the weather conditions.  Instead, the plane was diverted to San Francisco.

An announcement was made that United would provide a bus to transport all passengers to Monterey.  However, no one wanted to go there.  Nearly everyone on the plane had chosen that flight because it was the least expensive one from Denver to Los Angeles.  The customer service agents were surrounded by passengers trying to find a new connection.  The agent for the line in which we were waiting quickly became frustrated.  He told us that we had been given the opportunity to change flights before we left Denver due to the weather, but we had chosen to come anyway.  Apparently that was why the gate attendant had told us it was foggy in Monterey, though she had not said anything about changing flights.  It was implied, perhaps.

That statement caused many of the frustrated passengers to become angry and the customer service agent to become less helpful.  Finally, Suzanne, Cathy and I were placed on the stand-by list for the last plane leaving that evening.  However, our checked baggage had been unloaded in San Francisco and would not automatically come with us.

Suzanne and Cathy waited at the gate to see if we would get on while I hurried to baggage carousel to find our suitcases.  I retrieved them and went to the United counter to check them in for the new flight to Los Angeles.  I explained the situation to the ticket agent and asked what would happen if we did not get on the new flight.  He shrugged his shoulders and said, “As soon as the bags go through security, they are leaving on that plane whether you do or not.”

Thanks. Continue reading


May 6, 2013

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Darcy Dog

After the passing of Emmy, I didn’t know if we would ever have another dog.  It was partly because it feels so bad when a puppy grows up, experiences the prime of life, grows old and dies, all before your eyes.  Their lives are much like yours and mine, only compressed.  Unlike humans, though, dogs don’t leave you – they are with you for their whole lifetime, as long as you will have them.

It was also partly because our children were grown and Cathy and I were both working full time.  I didn’t want the dog to have to spend so much time alone.  Oh sure, our cat Mimi would be around, but she does not enjoy the company of dogs.

Our daughter Suzanne was with us when she was out of school, and during those times we had her Shih Tzu, Bailey, giving us some good dog days.  Eventually, Suzanne moved out on her own and then got married.  Bailey was not around as much after that, though we do get to watch her and Marvel (her husband Jeff’s dog) during their vacations, ski trips, etc.

When I finally set a date to retire from my work at Heritage Title Company, Suzanne decided it was finally time for me to have a new dog.  Every week she would look at the web sites and Facebook pages of shelters and dog rescue organizations and email me pictures of their dogs.  In mid-February (2012), she convinced me to go out and look at some of the puppies that Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue League made available for adoption at a local Petsmart store.  I thought they were all wonderful, but our house was not puppy-proofed and I needed to make some repairs on the back fence.  There were many “reasons” not to take one.

Two weeks later, Suzanne accompanied me to another Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue League event.  There was a list of the puppies available for adoption, and over to one side was a cute little 12-week old black and tan dog that had been named Sugarpie.  They said she was a Kelpie mix.  I was told Sugarpie and her litter mate had just arrived from a shelter in Kansas and they had not listed her with the others because she was so new.  I began playing with her, and she seemed to like me.  Nevertheless, I was not quite ready for a new puppy.

Forty-five minutes later, after I had held the dog some more and Suzanne had insisted I was meant to grow old with that particular dog, I agreed to adopt her.

As soon as we got home, I told my wife that we needed to determine whether we would let the puppy (I wasn’t crazy about the name Sugarpie, so I knew that would change) lie on the couch, remembering that she could grow to be 35-40 pounds.  Minutes later, we Darcy puppytook the picture you see here.

She told us, in her puppy talk, that the adoption papers I had signed included a lying on the couch clause.  It remains her favorite place.


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May 5, 2013 57of 65


Since graduating from law school in May of 1974, I have never been unemployed.  I was already working for the firm of Carroll, Bradley & Ciancio, where I remained for another year.  Then I was either a solo practitioner or a partner in a law firm for a little over 15 years.  After that, I practiced law part-time and was president of Clear Creek-Gilpin Abstract & Title Corp. for about three years, after which I devoted my full time to the title company for seven more years.  I left that company to start a new one called Gilpin Title.  Within another five years, I had sold that company to First American Heritage Title Company (which I will refer to as “Heritage”), and began working full-time for Heritage.

I never received a day of unemployment compensation or of workmen’s compensation – or any amount from any such program.

My wife Cathy has also been blessed with steady employment.  Since she moved to Colorado in 1974, she worked at University Hospital, then Rose Hospital, then Rocky Mountain Hospital, and at Lutheran Medical Center since 1982.  Like me, she has never received money from any kind of government program for any period of not working.

In short, we have spent our entire adult lives practicing our belief that if we are to have the resources to support ourselves and our children and pets, we must go out and earn them.  It is difficult to modify a fundamental belief that has been validated through many years of experience.  Consequently, it has been difficult for me to think about the concept of retirement – which implies supporting oneself without going out and earning money.  Nevertheless, most of us reach the point where we begin to entertain those thoughts.

For years, when people would ask me if I thought I would ever like to retire, I said I was still tired from the first go-around.  I couldn’t even think about re-tiring myself.  Now, though, I find that I am semi-quasi-partially-retired.  How did that happen? Continue reading