Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

June 27, 2009

Busy family night of music and BB...

It was one of those evenings last night where the family was spread between two major events - either watch Erin perform with her new band or watch Kalin play in a big BB tourney at BYU. Since we had already checked K out the other day and saw some great moves and points, and knowing Sean and Megan were there, we opted for Erin's gig, not having heard what she's been doing lately. The band is Five Guys On The Fly - and she's the new "guy", a girl singer among four fantastic musicians. It was a fundraiser for deployed military personnel and their families left here - but not attended very well unfortunately. Well, it didn't help that even if it's the end of June, it felt like Fall had "fell", along with a few trees in the 50 mph winds, rain and chilly temps - so only us hardy ones stuck it out. All 30 of us were finally forced into the pavillion to listen while the band turned its instruments and mikes toward us and gave us an earful. (Maybe this will be the group that will play at our 40th anniversary party our kids are giving us July 11, 8pm, 80 S 280 E, Orem - you're invited)

Anyway, Erin was top notch in her delivery and range, a great repertoire too, among which I especially liked her Bonnie Raitt rendition of "I Can't Make You Love Me", Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and Credence Clearwater's "Proud Mary". Then Shane got up as an invited guest singer, having auditioned also but getting beat out by his little sister - and knocked the roof off the place singing "Play That Funky Music White Boy" - our quiet creative guy who turns into a gyrating whirling dirvish whether the audience is small or large. It's been a while since his own band broke up, but he was right on the money tonight. So Colleen and I, Quinn and his girlfriend Darlene, Shane's wife Sharon and their boys and Shannon were all there, in addition to other close friends. Besides taking pictures, Shannon also did a duet with Erin on 'Killing Me Softly.

I talked with members of the band after, sharing congrats on a very fine sound as they made a kind of debut with some new members. Several had heard that I sang with The Lettermen 40 years ago and that that was my occasion for meeting Colleen, a great singer in her own right. And even though we take a little credit for these kids genes and some early karaoke experience, they are their own unique entertainers. We salute our next generation of Curran talent, whether on stage or on the basketball court, where some of my kids have also had some athletic prowess, much better than I ever had. They get it from their mother, like most good things they've inherited. Yeah, she was a lady jock among other things - but just enjoyed being the mother of her little singing darlings last night.

June 25, 2009

My Numberology...does it really add up?

My Days Are Numbered (My Counting Daze) – By Doug Curran

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like do we live by numbers? I bought a chicken salad sandwich and a drink the other day while browsing at a local bookstore. The total was $6.66. I immediately winced. So did the cashier. We both looked at each other and I looked at the sandwich as if it had cancer. I laughingly asked the girl if I she could charge me $6.67 instead for it and she laughingly told me to choke on it. We both knew what 666 meant, as does any good Bible reader of the Book of Revelations. Or maybe she just thought I was hitting on her.

But do we depend on numbers for some of our decisions? How many people are still playing the lottery with their lucky numbers - their birthdates, divorce dates, the first day they fell off their bike, the day they swallowed a fly, the tax refund that never came – it’s ridiculous! When are we going to stop living by numbers? I ate in a Chinese restaurant recently and the placemat was a Chinese Zodiac. My oldest son’s birth year is totally incompatible with his girlfriend’s. Should I tell him or just shut up and eat my Egg Too Young?

Why do we say “Your number’s up?” What does that mean? What number? Like “Take a number” when you walk into the DMV and hope they renew your driver’s license and don’t check your eyesight? Or isn’t it something more sinister, more final, more fateful, like biting the big enchilada? What number is up? And what if it’s off by one? Do we all have some secret number given to us when we are born into the world, the number of years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds we will live, and when we get there, that number is up? Someone is going to call our number and awaayyyy we go?

And if you live long enough or survive a disaster, isn’t it called beating the odds? What are the odds anyway? The un-evens? Nobody likes the odd numbers. What’s so good about 2-4-6 and not 1-3-5? Why do we say “The odds are if you keep on smoking, you will die of toenail cancer”? Why not “The evens are…”? Some people are really addicted to numbers in the old gambling halls too, when they do the roll of the dice or the spin of the wheel or just trust fate and chance more than choice. Bingo! You get all the right numbers in a row, you WIN! Win what? What do numbers have to do with winning? And why do they have to be in a row? And why is it called Bingo?

I hear sports guys talk about “the over and under”, betting on games. I don’t get it. There’s another arena for betting - game scores! Winning and losing by numbers again, or how many goals you can score. Whatever man can bet on, you can bet he will…bet. Numbers are a measure of winning and losing. And winning is everything, right? Or when you lose, we say, “Somebody’s got your number.” There it is again, that illusive number. What number? And how come they can get mine and I can’t get theirs?

It’s a numbers game. Go through enough numbers and someone will reward you. It’s the old sales job, right? Talk to enough people and someone will buy. Mail out enough letters and 3% will respond. I used to do that, but the secret is that you have to talk to enough people the same way, using the exact same pitch – and I couldn’t do it. I had to change the wording and the inflection or I’d go nuts. That must be why I’m not in tele-sales. Or if I ever do it again, I will just have someone else read my pitch so it never changes, and then maybe the numbers game will work for me. I’ll split the commission.

We live by numbers. We ARE numbers! We are our social security number, our birth date, our driver’s license number, our street address, our student ID, our registration number, all our myriad consumer account numbers and credit card numbers – and we are number- crunched throughout our lives till our number’s up, right? But what if our number doesn’t come up? How do we keep our number from coming up? But what’s our number??? Should that be my life quest, to find my number? Am I being counted by someone? We also want to know if we count - while trying to see if we can count.

That’s one of the first things we learn, right, how to count? We use our fingers and little kids often show their age with their fingers because…they don’t want to say it. Why? “I am three” Maybe they’re not sure, because they don’t trust older people. Years mean nothing to little kids anyway, right? Until they’re older. Then they want to be 16 to drive, and 18 to vote and 21 to drink. We are our age! Why not our age in months, not years? Or some other measurement? And why don’t women want to reveal their age? Maybe if they just used decades, not years. We men are too stupid to figure that one out. There’s that number calculation phrase – figure things out. Math! Go figure. I hate math. And then we talk about things not adding up. What things?

I used to play a game I made up with my kids when they were younger. They’d all sit in front of me and pick a number I was holding invisibly in my head. And I’d pick a silent number. And if they got the number in my head, they got tickled, because I was THE TICKLE MONSTER! And yes, sometimes it was picking a number between 1 and 10 and sometimes it was 1 and 20 to make the game longer. But I could mess with the numbers so everyone got a chance to get tickled, although, they were never quite sure if that was a reward or penalty for guessing it right, depending on whether you like being tickled. I always hated getting tickled. But if they guessed it? “That’s the number!”

Manipulating the numbers? Do we try to do that with our money? We really need those numbers when we try to figure out our money and our income and expenses and taxes and investments. Watch the numbers and make them grow, and if you accumulate enough one’s, they will become millions. But only if you use them exponentially, not just collect them and stick them in a box. I just can’t remember which box I put them in.

I’m ok with numbers on a 5th grade level, like adding and subtracting and dividing and multiplying. But beyond that, who needs them? I almost flunked out of Algebra in the 9th grade – I got a gift D-. And my C- in high school Geometry saved me to play on the football team because my teacher was my football coach. I see my poor right-brained kids struggle through basic college math two or three times - and I thank my lucky starts I didn’t have to take math to pass college in my day. Stars? Now there's a counting nightmare.

So whether it’s 666 or lucky sevens - lucky why? And why is 666 the number of the beast anyway? What beast? As far as I’m concerned, numbers ARE the beast! Like Trig and Calculus? They are like foreign languages and totally useless to me. And I still don’t know how the Chinese and Arabs count with those funny other little hand things – the abacus? What’s up with that? Come on, stop showing off and just use your fingers like normal people! And toes if you need them. So far, I haven’t had to take my shoes off, but if I’m at the checkout counter and I need to, I will. I’m not proud.

And is zero a number? Or a non-number? Or a cipher? A big nothing, nada, zero? And you can’t use “O” as a number. It’s a letter, hello! So when you’re giving your phone number to some girl, guys, if there’s a “0”, say zero. Not “O”! Get it? Do you want to score points or not? See, we're counting numbers again. Now you got me going in circles. Wait a minute, is a circle an “O” or a “0”? At least we could ask out little kids..”Ok, do you have to do number one or number two?”

June 23, 2009

Sean's Sobriety...

Went to an AA lunch meeting with Colleen and Conn today, to support and celebrate Sean's five years of being clean and sober from pill addiction, something I mentioned in my recent post "Basketball Twists And Turns". Though pain killers were his downfall and he does attend NA, he likes this particular AA group. The recovery process is virtually the same 12-Step program though. These are sobering meetings too, no pun intended - lots of love expressed towards each other and hope to meet the everyday struggles against addiction. Sean shared first and was very emotional, as were we, realizing what he does to maintain his new life. Others shared from the depth and honesty of their hearts. It truly is a lot like attending an LDS testimony meeting we have at church once a month.

There was so much confirmation there of how powerless we all are against our addictions and compulsions and the need to turn it all over to a Higher Power if we are to overcome. And though we relapse at times, it's all part of the recovery and we all need support and acceptance, never judgment or rejection. For any addict, it's a lifelong project and whatever intervention is needed to get to the point where denial is overcome and total acceptance of the addiction is admitted, that's the most important start to a clean and sober life.

I admire Sean for his determination and perseverance, for the strength of his will - and though five to seven years is the most dangerous time for relapse, I feel Sean will stay strong. He has many admirers for his sobriety at his age - but he is always aware of pride and never being complacent, because it only takes one pill to put him right back where he left off. Kudos anyway Sean - we're all so happy for you!

I have to tell on him in one regard, though. He recently got another car, probably his third this year already, and each time he gets a better deal and a better car by trading up. But I couldn't help reminding him the other day that this is starting to look a lot like the sports shoe addiction he had when working in many different shoe stores as a younger man in the local mall. I think he had over fifty pairs of basketball shoes in his closet at one time. Later that same day as he left the house after doing some recording in his studio he has set up in our house, he said laughingly, "By the way, Dad - thanks for calling me on my crap." That's what addicts do in meetings if they feel someone isn't sharing honestly and really owning up to their addictions and the problems they cause. I guess we could all be called on our crap in some way or another.

Sean is an amazing musician too. He has learned how to write music and beats with a computer, a keyboard and a Garage Band program, as a way of supporting his recovery, something that is therapy for him, a way of writing down his experiences and thoughts about his struggles. But he also knows how to record all of this, has already released two cds and is continually writing and teaming up with other guys. He performs locally at times with his brothers and other musicians, not the least of which is his supportive younger brother Conn, also an amazing talent, a singer in the Sinatra/Connick/Bubles mode, but willing to do a little hip-hop with Sean so they can still hang out and stay close. Just put their names out there on YouTube and see what comes up!

June 22, 2009

Father's Day...

Had our annual family gathering Sunday around this old father and one father/son, Shane. I appreciated the gifts and cards of kind remembrance. I could say it was one more exercise in guilt for all the fathering I didn't do out of bumbling trial and error and ignorance, but got better at with my grandkids than with my own kids perhaps. I could say fatherhood is a gift I didn't deserve, though I always wanted to be one - and got lucky when a beautiful woman who married me also wanted to have kids with me and be a mother many times over. I could say that having kids is not the same as fathering kids, that it's not as instinctive as mothering, but equally as rewarding when given a chance. I could talk about the encroaching fatherless in today's sick society where over a third of all kids are being raised without a father - and it's getting worse. I could talk about my own father who worked two jobs to support us and who I should have honored more. I could talk about a successful man who said that his greatest title in life was father and that his work titles and degrees were insignificant when compared with being called "Dad". I'm just glad I've had the experience and probably will never stop fathering my kids, though not in the same way. Thanks to Colleen for the amazing c0operative effort and to our mortally clothed eternal spirits, made blessedly more in her image than mine - Quinn, Megan, Shane, Erin, Shannon, Caitilin, Sean and Conn, who have taught me more about fathering than any book ever could.

June 18, 2009

Basketball Twists And Turns...

Watched my second grandson Kai, 8, play his last game of a week long summer basketball camp this morning. After many drills, his group of ten scrimmaged each other. He's a great little dribbler and outside shooter and is following in his older brother's footsteps in natural ability and desire. Kalin is 14 and 6'2" - and has already been recruited by several local high schools.

Kai's coach this week was the camp's director and ironically had been the coach of my youngest sons, Sean and Conn, when they were trying out for high school ball at this same school almost 10 years ago. It was also this same coach who had these guys doing deep knee max weight squats for training - something we thought unorthodox - and which eventually resulted in both of them blowing out their knees. Sean has had three knee operations since because of it and eventually got into pain pill addiction for several years before getting clean and sober, celebrating five years this Saturday. He has to attend 12-step programs almost every night to maintain his sobriety. Conn just recovered from his second knee operation a few weeks ago.

I've never said anything to that coach. Not sure what it would have achieved. But there he was teaching basketball to a second generation of Currans, my daughter Megan's son, Kai. Kalin made his decision to go with another high school largely because this man was coming back to coach at the high school where all my kids attended and where Kalin always thought he would play. Not anymore, sadly. The tradition is broken. But he needs those knees.

June 16, 2009

Laura Benson...

I had only met Laura a few times. She was the wife of my childhood friend, Jan Benson, and easy to know. I spent some time with her and Jan recently, also his brother Serge and sister Margie and spouses too. It was last September at my sister's home in St George, UT - a reunion of Currans and Bensons, old friends from our early teen years, church friends too and as close as family. My brother Dick had even come from the East to be with us. We had had a fun first evening of eating and laughing and taxing our memories for past treasured times together.

Next morning, Laura and Jan were up early, enjoying the warm desert dawn and checking out the arrid landscape, even shooting a few putts on Steve's putting green by the pool. I noticed her rubbing her lower back and seeming to try to get a kink worked out. Jan said she had been complaining of a pain there for a little while, thought she had pulled it dancing. I suggested Celebrex, an anti-inflamatory, which he hadn't heard of but which I had found some relief with for tendonitis.

The warm day had been full of activities and swimming, good food and catch-up conversation. It had been many years since all of us had been all together and we were savoring the time. That evening, we played scrabble on a giant board built into my brother-in-law's upper patio off their enormous country kitchen. Laura and I were teamed up as partners. She was quick witted, sharp with the game, had a teenage giggle. Wish I could have seen her dance and hear her sing. She and Jan had been quite a performing pair at Utah State University, she around eight years his junior, with a fit, petite dancer's physique and youthful beauty which belied her 57 years.

A few months ago, my sister called me and told me that Laura had cancer. Those back pains she was having back in September had been tumors and had now gotten into her pancreas. The prognosis wasn't good but she and Jan were positive and welcomed our faith and prayers in her behalf. We have since been waiting for good news of recovery and a hope that they would be able to enjoy that house they were building for their retirement, which would be a place of welcome for their kids - and where she would play with her grandkids.

Laura died today - and a great sadness is in my heart for her family. She was brave and wanted to live. We knew from the life she had lived that she was in the hands of Heavenly Father and it would all be up to Him whether a miracle was in order or she had finished her mission here below. Our hearts go out to Jan and his loved ones for their loss of Laura today and we pray for the healing, comforting influence of the Holy Ghost to bear them up and give them peace.

Jan is a wonderful performer, has a real cowboy sense of humor, having lived in Logan, Utah most of his life. He has ventured into old west kinds of businesses on the side and done well for himself. I couldn't help but think he might be reminiscing on some of the lyrics of an old western tune we all used to sing an arrangement of by Norman Luboff - The Colorado Trail..."Eyes like the morning sun, cheeks like a rose; Laura was a pretty girl, God Almighty knows. Weep all ye little rains, wail winds wail..." Laura, we'll miss you. I'd like to dedicate something to her here, something that typifies her life and how she lived it and that gives us something to think about...


Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built;

not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,

but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.

What will matter is not your memories,

but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

June 15, 2009

Fireworks...do they work for me anymore?

Had our first fireworks of the season the other night, during the rain at the end of the annual Orem Summerfest Parade in our hometown. We were actually listening to the big booms from inside the house, debating whether or not to even go out and watch, remembering our deceased Ginger dog who would run and hide under the beds at the first rumble. Seen one, seen them all? I mean what's the point anymore?

I did feel a little guilty about all the hard work these guys were going through to paint the black sky in multi-colored splats. Maybe that's why I left my comfortable family room to venture out into the June drizzle and sneak a little cuddle with my wife while skywatching. That was good. There will be more of these fireworks of course throughout the Summer in our little Utah Valley, what with Strawberry Days, Steel Days, Onion Days, Pioneer Day and more celebrations coming up. The real test for us us will be whether or not we'll attend any July 4th celebrations. It's not that we're unpatiotic. But might as well face the question now. How much allegiance do we owe to fireworks? Do they really work for me anymore?

Ok, is it the ka-booms we are supposed to react to? Or do we continue to look for some starry formation never seen before and at which we can add a new ooooh or ahhhhh? I know I sound cynical and I'm not trying to make fun of someone else's fun. But there we all were, neighbors out in our yards, sharing a joint transfixation on the sky as if ET was coming back, huddled in quiet awe or respect for the power of the powder, maybe just a common assent to it, admitting it's part of our life - but how important a part? Important enough to go outside and indulge the presenters? Would they ever know if we were watching or not? Were they hoping to give us some new memorable thrill that would bind us more together as humans?

Was this what Francis Scott Key had in mind for our future when he wrote about the "rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air"? We were getting pounded by the enemy but our "flag was still there". So we celebrate a good thrashing from those ornery Brits. Or are we giving more homage to some ancient Chinese inventors, another "Made In China" reminder from the land of a billion rice makers? Isn't it just another quick fix, another mindless entertainment we have too much of already, trying to be bigger and better than last year - and yes, there were some new explosions I haven't seen before. Should I be grateful and giddy and feel that all is right with the world? Boy, I really am cynical.

And so I go back into my house after it's over. Will I talk about this at dinner? Will any of this stay with me or should it even be a subject of conversation? Yes, it was pretty for a fleeting few minutes - too fleeting, nothing lasting, even those flaring formations coming and going so fast you can't enjoy one for more than a second till it's gone and another takes its place. Why can't they be frozen up there for a little longer so you can enjoy them, that phenomenal starburst, that amazing fanfare of light and sound, going from one to the other with such speed - and maybe that's supposed to be the intent, to leave me dizzy, reeling, lost in the kaleidoscope, the pounding, the frenzy, till I'm exhausted. Everyone cheers at the end. For me, it's always over too fast - like life. Whoa, Dude, get a grip! We're only talking a few firecrackers here, right?

June 12, 2009

A Kiwi Burger? Beet's the heck outta me...

I had my first life experience cooking beets the other day. It was so easy - just cut off the greens and drop those purplish orbs in the boiling water and stand back! After 30 minutes or so, I took them out and peeled them, cut them into nice warm chunks and was downing my first ever self-cooked, blood-red beets! No kidding, I felt a little like Dracula, it was such a bloody feast. I was still bragging about my beet feat when my oldest son and his Maori girlfriend from New Zealand came over for a visit. These guys have been dating so long, they should at least be considered engaged by common law by now. So we were making Reubens for all of us to eat and I offered her some fresh cooked beets as a side dish.

She graciously accepted my simple offering and then told me an astounding thing. In New Zealand, they make a Kiwi Burger(Kiwi is the national bird and a nickname for people from NZ) with a fried egg and a slice of beet on top! Huh??? You could have knocked me over with a boulder! I'd never heard of such a thing. I was stunned, got that glazed look in my eyes and wondered how I had lived so long without knowing about that one. Even this traveling son of mine had eaten one down under and had never told me! Fie on him! I thought I had eaten burgers every way possible in this old life. But the idea of a burger with beets just breathed new life into the burger portion of my brain. Having a fried egg on it was a new enough twist - but a slice of beet??? Outrageously delectable!

So I started ruminating and considering all the other healthy possibilities...a watermelon burger, a shredded coconut burger, a celery and carrot burger, a banana burger(nice alliteration too), a ramin noodle burger(we called it saimin in Hawaii), a calamari burger(very chewy), or any kind of fish or seafood on top, like oysters maybe... a peanut butter burger, two patties acting like the bun with french fries in the middle...man, I am so hungry just thinking about it, I'm going to boil some artichokes and see if I can get that heart smeared all over the top of a patty, Now, if I only had some patties...

June 10, 2009

Getting my fruits and veggies...

Since I'm a carb addict, it's hard to think of getting my daily dose of fruits and veggies, though I do love them all. I'd rather drink juice than soda, also addictive, and I always remember my fellow men starving wherever when I'm about to eat a big piece of pie - and scrounge around the fridge for an old carrot just to assuage my guilt. But I never think of Fs & Vs when I'm hungry - maybe only when I'm doing my Weight Watchers tracking or watching some kiddie show with my grandkids when they teach some five-a-day program.

So I'm getting more fruits and veggies, where else, through my shampoos and shower soaps! Yes, I am getting coconut, kiwi/strawberry, mango/pomegranate, apple, peach, tangerine and any number of other fruits - even cucumber and watermelon are in the mix. And I come out of the shower smelling like a fruit salad! The only one I miss in the whole group is pumpkin, and I'll go into that more around Halloween. But I'm still waiting for that my first deluxe pumpkin shampoo if anyone out there knows where I can find one!

With the economy in shambles, more and more folks are turning to gardening - which we would do more of if we had the backs and knees for it. But last weekend, we did in get a few tomato and squash seedlings, and because of Colleen's fast green thumbs, they are now growing where all the world can see, in out flower planters in front of the house, subject to jealous eyes and thieving hands if things go bad. We hope we'll get to those big beefsteaks before anyone else does. I'm being moderately melodramatic here, because we have really good neighbors - it's just the passersby I'm suspicious of.

Our good friend Ron from Hawaii daze brought us our first seedlings a few weeks ago, which we gave to daughter Megan who already had a planter box and who has two great kids to help till and plant and fertilize. Ron is a gardening wonder - in Hawaii, he had his whole front yard dug up and producing taro and yams and any number of amazing yummy indigenous veggies, in addition to huge banana and papaya trees. It may get to that for us here in Utah - no, not growing banana trees. But people who treasure their precious lawns may be recycling the turf for edibles instead, which would sure solve my lawn mowing headaches.

Well, I hope I'm going to be juicing soon and reducing my fruits and veggies to pure fresh juice, more easily digestible and immediately absorbed. So come on carrot and apple and broccoli and beet and cabbage juice...so I can stop drinking my shampoo!

June 8, 2009

Taking a vacation? Here's one for the books...

The 24-hour Vacation(My Seattle Daze) – By Doug Curran

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, is it possible to take a vacation in 24 hours? And feel like it was a week long? When our oldest daughter Megan worked for both Marriott and Morris Air(now Southwest) one year, and a four-day weekend was coming up for my school teacher wife, we got the crazy idea to fly to Seattle for a day with our four youngest– and do it on about $100 and Megan’s benefits, which gave us free flight and discounted hotel. Yes, we didn’t think it was possible either. But it took some careful planning and rising early Thursday morning to fly standby – always stressful and potentially strand-ful. It was October and we were up for it.

So off we went, sitting in separate seats because of our standby status, but while soaring over Oregon, indulging our jocular pilot while he passed over still-smoking Mount St Helens, promising not to dip a wing into the bubbling cauldron. I just wanted him to keep it going down the road between the lines and not get off on the shoulders. I don’t fly that much and am not all that comfortable doing it, but with my wife Colleen and Shannon 14, Caitilin 12, Sean 10 and Conn 8, I felt a little safer. Funny how a grown man needs his wife and kids for a security blanket. Within an hour or two, we were angling for the Seattle airport, looking down on a city that was half enveloped in a big dark rain cloud and half drenched in blinding sunlight. We wondered which weather we would experience.

After a slap happy landing, we took a cab to our Marriott in Tukwila, then ditched our light luggage in the lobby so we wouldn’t have to check in till later and not spend money for an extra day. Then we hit the streets and caught our first-ever electric accordian bus, the kind with the bend in the middle, separating two whole buses. The kids were restless and didn’t know they were actually supposed to sit down on the bus, so we tried not to act like we were their parents as they ran restlessly back and forth, looking for different seats, never staying in them very long, fighting for windows, playing hide and seek, getting thrilled by standing in the “bend” – all while commuters patiently tried to read their papers and listen to their Walkmen...uh Walkmans...uh Walkthings (I’m talking pre-Ipods here).

We didn’t see the electric arm go up and hit the wires until we were ready to go under the city – and then we were “electrified” by the new world we discovered underground. It was only about 10am now and we were ready for the big city. And that meant a lot of walking. We started from the city center after we eventually found it right above our heads. We went for the Space Needle first, one of Seattle’s best known markers, invigorated by the fast pace and smell of sea in the air. But alas, climbing the Needle was a little beyond our meager budget, and no one would throw down ladders, so all we could do was look up and drool at the folks in the revolving restaurant. The kids were ready to eat.

So we headed for the wharf, me with the vision of unending seafood to consume, all this without a plan or purpose, just meandering, but now with more panic as the kids’ tummies rumbled out loud. As we approached the street where the open fish market was, everyone suddenly lost their appetites, seeing the fish catch out on display and smelling strange stinky aromas wafting across their noses. Nobody wanted to eat fish, while I could have gone into any number of places opening for lunch and devoured a big halibut whole. But looming on the near horizon right next to the wharf was the ferry port. There were ferries everywhere and we had finally found something to divert the kids' attention with and get them to get on board – literally.

Although we had lived in Hawaii for ten years, we had never gone out to sea. We were always sitting right in the middle of it. Now here we were, sitting on the edge of Puget Sound and ready to ride the water. And we were tired of walking too. Well this turned out to be an amazing experience we’d never forget. The day was beautiful, the storm clouds had dissipated, and the kids were making friends with seagulls which flew along side of us.  They were also transfixed by the waves and wake made by this very large floating thing. My wife was a little squeamish at first, never feeling secure on the open water. But it was only a half hour ride to and from the nearby island we were charted toward, so we had time to lose ourselves in the fantasy and even finally indulge in a little light lunch at the snack bar.

The ride was over too fast and so memorable for all of us. How we’d love to go back and take longer rides and see how the other half lives on those beautiful islands. But the kids were already getting tired and we had a lot of walking to do to get back to the underground and find that electric bus again that would take us back to Tukwila. Back to Tukwila - sounds like a song title. The kids didn’t run around the bus either – still hadn’t lost their sea legs and the bus was rocking and rolling. But no barf bags needed. It was only three o’clock and we felt we had had a magical vacation already.

Once back at the Marriott though, the kids got renewed energy and wanted to hit the pool, which we were happy to encourage, while Colleen and I just lounged poolside in relaxed reverie and rested out tuckered feet - more walking than we had done in a long time. Water soaked and hungry,  these now-famished little travelers didn't take much time to settle for some tv and pizza in our double suite room and everyone was ready for bed by 8pm – done! No I mean they so were exhausted, it took nothing for us to get them to sleep – no, they fell asleep without us even mentioning it – no, they were falling asleep with unchewed pizza sticking out of their mouths. And it didn’t take much for us to follow very soon after.

The next morning, we were up early for the first Morris Air out of town, enjoyed more unique captain banter and sightseeing talk as we flew back over the sights of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada before finally landing in Salt Lake City Friday morning. We got to our house in Orem before noon, worn-out but seasoned travelers and vacationers with a memory together we’d never forget and haven’t enjoyed the likes of since. Not a bad little 24-hour out-of-towner. Cheap too - but priceless..

June 6, 2009

Summer's coming and I'm already cooked...

Can’t Take The Heat (My Snow Daze)

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like why do people literally run after the sun, worship the sun, bathe in the sun, or can’t live without the sun in their face? I do not chase the sun! You know, like some seniors are always going where it’s hot and trying to get out of the cold? I’ve been suspected of howling at the moon a few times and I do have a problem with too much facial hair and longer than normal eye teeth. But the sun? I can’t take the heat. And why do a lot of people think it’s so romantic to be all salty and surf-beaten with sand in their shorts on a hot, humid beach? Where do they come up with this stuff? It's all ad hype. Most people don’t tan well anyway, especially us northern European types with our white skin and freckles. Cancer alert!

Some time ago, I went with some friends to the Scottsdale Arizona area and stayed with them in their resort, the Marriott Camelback. It was March and a little cool for the season. The tourist season is March and April when it’s supposed to be in the 70’s. It went right from the 50’s to the high 80’s within a week and that did it for me! I am not a sun bunny. But some people chase the sun in their old age, while I will chase snow. I will look at the local or national weather maps and find the snow and go, whenever and wherever it takes me, like tornado watchers but the white stuff instead. My wife Colleen is all over that and has the same cold blood as I do, so that will help us weather the storms of old age. No, I don’t snow ski or snow board or snow jump or snow skate or snow slide or snow blow. I just don’t like to be hot!

I am just a wacky, wintry kind of guy. I love cold and cloudy and snowy days in the winter. When it’s Winter, I want it to act like Winter. Don’t even tell me it’s going to be warm, Mr Meterologist, and apologize for the snow! That’s traitorous and an affront to your profession. It drives me crazy when I hear these guys say on the radio or tv that it’s going to be bad weather for awhile when they forecast a storm - even in Spring! They’re always assuming that everyone wants warm, sunny days. Not me, weather dorks! I hate it when they call these days dismal and they can’t wait for a sunny forecast. I say fire the whole lot of them for presuming that I personally can’t wait for the sun. I like it to be Winter in the Spring. I have no problem with it being Winter in the Fall. And I know I could handle Winter in the Summer. Bring it on! Apologies to all the SADD’s out there of course.

See, when I create my own world, my ideal year would be a cool September right after Labor Day, assuming we have such a holiday. I do love to see the leaves turn. And what makes that happen is cool wet weather. I like living in Utah because I can see the leaves turn on the mountains and snow happen on the peaks while it’s starting slower in the valley. I would like snow right after Halloween so the kids can have a cool but dry trick or treat time. But by November, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow – and do it right through Thanksgiving so we can go over the river and through the woods , and of course, it has to snow on Christmas Eve, on top of existing snow, and on New Year’s Eve and all the way through January, February, March, with a little tapering in April with more cool showers into May and June.

By July 4th, if there is one, it can warm up a little for variety and food growing of course - but nothing over 70, which should feel pretty warm after a long winter. Heck, I might even go outside for a parade or two, with my head well-covered of course. I can allow for a little sun in July and August, but clouds and warm rain would be best. Middle August should start to cool down. So where can I chase snow and get me some cloud? I can always put on enough clothes to get warm or warm myself by a nice cozy fire. But when I’m hot, I can never take off enough clothes or find a nice cozy block of ice to cuddle up to. Sorry, folks, while you are chasing sunny days, I will be looking for a snow bank to burrow into, an igloo to hibernate in, or at least a cool storm in the forecast.

Did I tell you my Hawaii Christmas stories of trying to close the windows and curtains on Christmas Day and gather the kids around the fake fireplace while everyone else was at the beach? The beach on Christmas Day? That’s sacrilege!! I was grateful for the breezes in Hawaii that made that year-round 75-80 degrees tolerable. But when August rolled around into September and Kona weather set in with nary a wisp of wind, I’m sorry, but that was sticky and soggy. I remember one night playing ball at a camp out on the beach with my kids. I had been swimming first, then played wet and sweaty in my jeans, then went in and fell asleep in the tent with my clothes on. When I woke up the next morning, I had a red rash from my waist to my thighs in a bathing suit distribution. The dermatologist called it some unknown name and gave me some water pills and other stuff. But to this day, I have a heat itch that pops up at all the wrong times and places.

But even Hawaii wasn’t as bad as my summers growing up in Maryland, when the temps and the humidity both reached the high 90’s! My only form of air conditioning in those days was to strip down at night, put a wet towel on, turn on the fan, and pray for sleep. I’ve seen the red and raw lobster skin of the bathers on Waikiki, the cracked leather skin of the golfers on the Arizona links – and I’ve felt the tight burn of the Atlantic and Pacific, that cruel mix of sea, salt and sun and have even gotten over baked under the high desert sun of Utah. I even fell asleep under a sun lamp once in my dorm room at BYU! Woke up with a big red circle on my chest. Ouch! - a lot! It doesn't work for me, sorry. I'm not a human barbecue anymore.

No, I’m a converted mountain man, folks. Give me the high mountains, the snow-covered Pines, the clear salt-free lakes, and a cabin in the deep woods with a fireplace on constant burn. I must have the cold blood of Irish Viking Bear ancestors in me that tells me the sun is to be feared, not worshipped, before my lilly white skin picks up some melanoma or carcinoma or some other kind of "noma". I do not need a perpetual tan, my sun block is in the hundreds, and excuse me while I hitch up the dogsled or one-horse open sleigh for the winter or any of those other wintry pastimes, because I am old man Winter, who likes his hot shower and hot tub and hot chocolate and hot sweetheart by his hot side in front of a hot fireplace – but only when it’s cold outside.

Thank you Colleen for feeling the same way! You are the snowstorm of my life! Let’s start picking out our retirement cabin in Maine or Montana or Minnesota, as close to the northern border as we can – or better yet Alaska, even if it doesn’t start with an “M”. Aurora Borealis, here we come, because I like it dark too, even in the daytime, so my fireplace can keep me lit. I don’t drink, so can’t get lit that way. And while all those wimpy seniors are heading south for the winter, we’ll be seeking refuge from the sun. “Snowbirds” they call themselves! That’s an insult to the word “snow”! But the opposite would be sunbirds and I don’t even want to be called anything but a snowman! And if they find us as two frozen skinny lovers in the snow someday, well, what a way to lose weight! And if there is any last breath in me left before I pass, I hope the kids are there to say, “Dad, Dad, go to the snow, go to the snow.”