A Life Built on Service and Saving

If my ticket gets punched sometime soon, I’ll have lived a life filled to the brim. Almost disorientingly so. I’ve crouched in the final passageway of a West African slave fort, been drenched by Victoria Fall’s mist, walked on the Great Wall of China, ran around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, hiked in Chiapas, and cross country skied in Norway. I’ve lived in the Midwest, the West, the Southeast, and as one six year old here says, “the Specific Northwest”. I’ve interacted with thousands of young people, the vast majority who appreciated my efforts on their behalf. I’ve cycled up and down mountains in the Western United States. I’ve taught guest lessons in my daughters’ elementary classrooms. I’ve been blessed to know lots of people more selfless than me, some who will read this today. I’ve been loved by caring, generous parents, and been privileged to know my wife and daughters and their friends.

My life has been so full that I tend to think about whatever my future holds as extra credit. Everything from here on out is a bonus.

Maybe I don’t look forward to too much anymore because my cup has been overflowing for some time. Apart from a story well told and nature, not a lot moves me these days.

So getting choked up in church yesterday, during the announcements of all things, was totally unexpected. A guest was invited to the front to make a surprise announcement. A tall, dapper man in his late 30’s began describing his relationship with ChuckB, a member who had passed away a few months ago. He had been Chuck’s financial planner for eight years.

I didn’t know Chuck until I attended a celebration of his life that was planned nine months ago after the church community learned of his terminal illness. He worked as a forester for the Department of Ecology for a few decades and kept a low profile at church, driving the van, tutoring after school, doing whatever was needed behind the scenes. At his celebration I was struck by how everyone described him as one of the most humble, caring, and giving people they had ever known. He lived a simple life in a modest neighborhood that revolved around participating in church activities.

The financial planner announced that Chuck and his wife, who had passed away previously, were leaving the church $925,000, divided four ways, the largest portion for international aide, another for local charities, another for Lutheran World Relief specifically, and about $220,000 in the church’s unrestricted fund to use as the Council sees fit. A Council that has been seeking about $35,000 to fund a half-time position dedicated to strengthening our ties to local people in need.

There was an audible gasp. Two people stood and began applauding and soon everyone followed. My favorite part, and probably what moved me so much, was that Chuck wasn’t there for his standing ovation. Shortly before he died, he confided to one member that he was leaving “the bulk of his estate to the church,” but that person said she had “no idea it was anywhere near that much money.” No one did.

The most beautiful and moving part to me is that Chuck intentionally passed on his standing ovation. He didn’t need it. A life filled with service and saving was more than enough. Blessed be his memory.

 

 

Operation Pacific Northwest

The wife, dog, and I went on a nice hike east of Seattle Saturday morn. Afterwards, fired off pictures to the daughters, both of whom are ensconced in the upper Midwest. The images created a firestorm of ohhhs and ahhhs. When they admitted to being jealous, I replied, “Move to Seattle.”

Then I thought what about a media campaign designed to accentuate the PNW’s natural beauty. Here is next weekend’s salvo.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier, iPhone 6+, RSB Photography

US Open Postscript

Sunday’s 6-11a shift was my favorite. Left the house at 4:52a and walked onto the grounds at 5:51a. The sunrise was spectacular and it was nice watching the course slowly come to life under overcast skies and cool temps in the mid 50’s.

A lot of disabled spectators had either tired and turned to their televisions or simply slept in so I ate my annual donut, shot the breeze with fellow volunteers, walked a bit of the course, and made occasional runs around the course.

The Cowboy will be pleased to know there was a brief Holly Saunders sighting. She sped by in the passenger seat of another cart. On a related note, her post round interviews were goofy. Sane people know Fox isn’t fair or balanced, but we have to acknowledge that they are consistent when it comes to their television “talent”. Their coverage more generally was flawed relative to the much more experienced network teams. Norman’s bromance for Day was over the top, the lack of yardage, Pavin awkwardly overreacting to a Faxon dig, “What do we want to go here, best career?”, etc. However, the microphone in the hole was genius and almost compensated for all the other shortcomings.

The highlight of the day was my penultimate trip, from Central Meadows to the top of the 18th hole grandstand. A man flagged me down and said, “I had a hip replacement, and it hurts, and I need to get up to the 18th grandstand for a picture, can you take me?” I looked at his tournament pass everyone wears around their neck and it said, “Robert Trent Jones, Jr.” The course architect and his wife hopped on and we we’re off.

“I heard you interviewed on the radio a few days ago. It was a nice interview.” Phone call with someone involved with the picture and then, “The pros are really savaging the greens aren’t they?” What do you say to that? “Yeah, but everyone has to putt the same greens.” Weak I know, but I was working with 5 hours sleep. Then I said, “You should be proud of the fact that this is a spectacular event.” He shook my hand appreciatively. And told me he had an article in the Sunday Seattle Times about his dad for whom “I wouldn’t be here personally or professionally.”

The locals are too damn defensive about all the criticism of the greens, Jones’s design, noisy trains, and the spectators’ many challenges. I don’t understand why people take it so personally. Given the leaderboard and dramatic ending*, the early word from Tim Rosaforte is that all the greens will be completely redone (much less undulation, much more consistent grass) and the “footprint” will be altered to be more fan-friendly and the USGA will return in 10+ years.

How many majors will Spieth have by then?

After finishing work at 11a, I picked up a Thai Chicken Wrap, banana, and water**, and headed to the practice range. It was strange that more people weren’t there because it was the best place to see the most players up close putting, chipping, hitting balls. I watched Rose, Kopeka, Poults, HMarayauma, Mcllroy, Na, Senden, the Duf who wins the “best shoes” and “most weight lost since divorcing” competitions. At 11:45a, Spieth walked onto the practice range a few feet in front of me and headed to the putting green, exactly three hours before teeing off.

Having gotten too much sun, I headed home at noon, tired from a long week. I’m lucky my vagabond daughters are both home. The Girls Club was wanting to hike Mount Rainier sometime this week before the Eldest returns to the shadows of Wrigley Field. I suggested we take advantage of the Summer Solstice and head to Rainier and the fam proved spontaneous enough.

A glorious hike on the Deadhorse Creek trail was cappped with a picnic dinner a mile above the Paradise Visitor’s Center. After returning home, I watched the tournament which I had recorded.

A full and fun day. I’m appreciative of my health and my daughters who gave me cards with touching messages. I’m also grateful for nature, in particular the Sound that frames Chambers Bay and Mount Rainier which frames large swaths of Western Washington.

Postscript: To the golf averse, I have one more golf post in me and then it will be on to new subjects.

* One take-away from tournament week. America is seriously overweight. One culprit has to be beer. Everyone began drinking beer at around 10a and didn’t stop.

** Would have been even more dramatic if the tournament had been decided by a made putt.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

This is why they're better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

This is why they’re better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.

Eschew the South

According to conservative pundits, liberals like President Obama and myself don’t really like the United States. “Love it or leave it!” they ignorantly insist. They want everyone to believe they’re the true Americans because they mindlessly subscribe to American Exceptionalism. Nevermind that our independence resulted from intense dissent born of the freedom of speech the Constitution enshrines.

One of the things I like most about the U.S. is distinct regional differences compliments of its great expanse.

As viewed from the upper atmosphere, I live in the very uppermost left hand corner of the country. And sadly, moms lives in the very bottommost right hand corner. I’m writing this at 36,000′, halfway home on my most recent cross-country voyage. I’ve made this trans-continental trip probably 30+ times since my parents’ long ago move to the Peninsula (known to some as Florida). As a result, I’m declaring myself a Southeastern U.S. expert. Meaning I’m qualified to make extreme generalizations about it even if Southerners take offense.

For example, the conventional wisdom that Southerners are more hospitable is something they like to tell themselves probably to feel better about how inhospitable life can be “down South”. Take the Southerner in the Enterprise car rental office today on Kennedy Boulevard right next to the University of Tampa. “You KNOW you guys need some fuckin’ better help in here don’t you?!”

That warm Southern hospitality is also extended whenever you dare cross a busy street. As I stood at intersection after intersection this past week, speeding drivers shot me angry looks, upset that eventually I’d step foot onto their road. Sunday afternoon, at one intersection, loose wires peered out of the street light so there was no way to trigger the cross walk. After five minutes I moved to the middle of the block to eliminate turning cars from the total amount of sheet metal I had to dodge. Then I did my Usain Bolt impersonation, and now, the humble blog readers rejoice that I (barely) lived to write another day.

Have you heard the joke about the Southeastern city planner? That’s the joke. An oxymoron if there ever was one. Most egregious, there are more Cuba-loving liberal Democrats in Florida than there are bike lane miles. My advice, if you sometimes enjoy walking outdoors or riding a bike, eschew the South. In fact, I hereby announce an Eschew the South movement until pedestrians and cyclists are acknowledged to be fully human. Bumper stickers and t-shirts are now available.

Then there’s the stuff I can’t pin on Neolithic Age city planning–hellish heat and humidity. One of the best things about the upper lefthand corner is our built in air conditioning. Our politics are liberal, but our temps wonderfully moderate. Even on the rare warm summer day, temps plummet at dusk. We also get to run and cycle up and down hilly, even mountainous trails and roads.

I’m going to skip the planned paragraph about the preponderance of fatty and fried Southern food at the risk of being mistaken for a self-absorbed foodie.

This began innocently enough as an appreciation of regional differences, but somehow morphed into an unprovoked regional rant. Fair enough if Southerners hold it against the PNW.

Long story short, I could easily live without the SE, but not Mother Dear. So the diagonal pilgrimages will continue despite their deleterious effect on my life expectancy.

Lighting Candles

Sometimes, when the early morning running conversation turns too negative too long, one member of the posse reminds everyone else it’s “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

People tilt towards pessimism, which spreads upon contact. Pessimism is a special challenge in the Pacific Northwest in late October because daylight, and Vitamin D, dwindles.

Ancient Stoics knew gratitude didn’t come naturally, so they practiced negative visualization and voluntary deprivation. Negative visualization is taking time to imagine worse case scenarios—no longer having enough healthy food, having one’s bicycle or car stolen, losing one’s home to a natural disaster, losing one’s job or savings, or the unexpected death of a loved one—to better appreciate the impermanence of everything and everyone.

Voluntary deprivation is practicing living without those things we tend to take for granted for the purpose of appreciating them more. Examples include fasting, bike commuting for a month, or traveling solo. Absence always makes the Good Wife and me even fonder of one another.

Since others’ attitudes influence our own, another strategy is to purposely seek out hopeful, creative, funny, positive people, while simultaneously steering clear of permanent pessimists.

Staying active throughout the winter helps keep the candle light burning bright. Invest in the necessary clothing and lighting to stay comfortable and safe. Spend more time outdoors than in the gym. Saturday morning’s run was incredible. It didn’t matter that everything was soaking wet because of dense overnight and early morning fog. The streets, sidewalks, and trails were lined with colorful leaves. God’s carpeting.

The photographer I’m currently shacking up with captured one especially beautiful thread of that carpeting.

P1000522

Sayonara Ichiro

On Monday afternoon Ichiro switched lockerrooms and traded his Mariners uni for pinstripes. Wins for losses. Unless you’re a Pacific Northwesterner or serious baseball fan, you probably don’t know that veteran Mariners don’t fade away, they just sign with the Damn Yankees.

I’ll never forget one of Ichiro’s first Mariner games when he threw a guy out at third from deep right. The “laser beam”. The best throw I’ve ever seen (at 3:52).

Despite having played 11.5 years in Seattle and being a future Hall of Famer, most Mariner fans have an “it’s about time, don’t let the door hit you on the way out” attitude towards the trade. When Griffey was traded to the Reds in 2000, M fans were crestfallen. Why the dramatic difference?

Here’s the alleged rap against Ichiro:

• he’s selfish as evidenced by his singleminded pursuit of a record number of hits at the expense of working counts, getting walked, and creating even more havoc on the bases

• he’s selfish as evidenced by his keeping to himself and providing zero clubhouse leadership despite being the team’s best player throughout most of his M career

• he was a diva—as his salary skyrocketed and his skills declined in recent years, coaches couldn’t move him in the batting order, rest him, or (until Monday) trade him because over the years, the team’s Japanese owners, his agent, and him yielded more power than the team’s shorter-tenure GM and coach

• he was duplicitous, speaking English in private while using a Japanese interpreter in public

To muddy the water even more, reporters that covered the team in the 90’s describe Griffey as difficult, surly, impersonal. Maybe the dramatic difference is the result of one, or a mix, of three possibilities.

Theory One. Griffey’s passionate style of play, his prodigious homeruns and willingness to run full speed into the centerfield wall to make a catch, more than compensated for his own interpersonal limitations. Also add into the mix the way he came up, starring immediately, with his dad in the lineup. The Kid.

Theory Two. Griffey was beloved in part because at least half the time his M’s won. The M’s lost for eleven of Ichiro’s twelve years. His popularity suffered as a result of management that wasn’t willing to spend enough to build a team that could compete. Just as Griffey benefited from positive winning vibes, Ichiro paid the price of mounting fan frustration.

Theory Three. Admittedly, far less flattering. Instead of seeing Ichiro as one, especially introverted person, many M fans didn’t understand or appreciate the cultural differences he had to deal with daily, and ultimately ended up resenting his foreignness. Given the stark contrast, I can’t help but wonder if the Grif-Ichi public sentiment chasm is at least partially explained by xenophobia.

Any of these resonate? Have another theory?

Before

After