An Easy Choice

It’s that time again.  Our lease is up for renewal and, in the words of the 80’s rock band, Clash, Bonnie and I have to decide: “Should We Stay or Should We Go?”

Readers of this blog, of course, know how pleased we are with our living arrangement. That view has not changed and, in fact, it was solidified even more fully by a recent column titled “5 Reasons to Rent Versus Buy” by Kelsey Sheehy.  And while we did not need convincing, her article discussed many of the very same things we considered in deciding to sell our home and move into a 55+ Active Adult community. For example:

We want flexibility    One reason we selected our apartment was because we love the city in which it is located, and it is relatively close to family.  Those things could change though.  Any of our children could find themselves forced to move for career reasons, and there is always the possibility Bonnie and I could find ourselves irresistibly drawn to another part of the United States.  Whatever the case, if we decide to move we don’t have to worry about the enormous hassle of selling a home, and all the complications and time that process entails.

We want to be maintenance-free   For many years, I enjoyed doing maintenance, yard work and repairs around the house.  Today, though, the mere thought of having to put up a 40 foot extension ladder to clean the gutters is enough to make me swoon.  There were many good things about home ownership, but seemingly constant repairs, replacement and refurbishment … not to mention dealing with a Home Owners Association … were not among them.  Today, if something needs to be fixed, I dial a number and the repair is done quickly, professionally, at no cost and … here’s the best part … somebody else does the work.

We enjoy amenities   Having owned a house with a swimming pool, we swore we would never do that again … chemicals … vacuuming … repairs … safety concerns.  At our apartment, the pool is always sparkling, the water temperature is perfect, and if it ever needs cleaning … well, somebody else does it.  Apartment living gives us others things as well … access to a fitness center just down the hall … community games and social events … and the opportunity to join neighbors in travel to a variety of locations and attractions.  When we began searching for an apartment, we did not pay particular attention to amenities … now that we are here, though, these things make our experience even more enjoyable.

We like financial predictability   Though rents can fluctuate over time, we know that once we sign our lease our rate is fixed for the term of the rental agreement.  When we owned a home, we found that while our mortgage amount stayed constant, property tax rates always had an impact on our monthly payment.  And, as mentioned, maintenance costs in a home can be unpredictable.  For example, I remember standing in my backyard at 2:00am one August night in Texas (temperature was 95) … holding a flashlight for the air conditioner repairman (who I had called eight hours earlier) … while he tried to coax my AC unit back to life.  Needless to say, I do not miss either the experience or the expense of that sort of thing.

We have a good thing going   We love our apartment and the city where we live.  Nearby shopping and restaurants, along with a wealth of available entertainment options make this a great place to call home.  Our surroundings are quiet and comfortable, and we find ourselves in the midst of some truly amazing people we have come to call friends.  Put differently, we are in a very good place and, as the old saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

Though Sheehy wrote her column for folks trying to decide between buying their first house or continuing to rent, the issues she raises apply perfectly to Bonnie and me.  Full disclosure, we had already made up our minds about renewing our lease, but this article provided another layer of confirmation that we had made … and continue to make … the right choice.  When all is said and done, this is our “me” time, and living in a 55+ Active Adult community allows us to enjoy this period of our lives to the fullest.

In other words, when it comes to renewing our lease … where do we sign?

Calling All Dairy Farmers!

With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock just around the corner, officials at the Watkins Glen, NY, Raceway reversed their decision to host Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50 extravaganza; state and county permits remain unapproved; financial underwriters have bolted; partners are battling among themselves; and tickets have not yet been made available for sale.

In other words, planning for this shindig is right on schedule.

Thinking back to 1969, the task of finding a site for the festival was a major challenge as well.  Several communities had rejected Lang and his associates until, with less than a month to go, Max Yasgur stepped forward and offered the use of his dairy farm in Bethel, NY, as the venue … and the rest is history.  Similar to the current fiasco, ancillary issues like funding, ticket sales and security were in complete disarray in 1969 and, ultimately, Lang and his associates had no alternative except to make the original Woodstock a free event.

Unfortunately, Max Yasgur passed away in 1973, so organizers cannot call upon him for help this time around.  Somewhere in the bucolic reaches of upstate New York, though, must live a farmer willing to step into the breach.  The dairy industry has been in decline in New York State for several years so, at the very least, hosting an event like this might be a good way to scare up a few extra dollars.   On the other hand, Yasgur’s experiences in 1969, should provide fair warning that any farmer thinking of renting out pastureland for this event should have:

  1. An exceptionally high threshold for stress and aggravation;
  2. The ability to withstand scorn and ostracism from neighbors;
  3. A willingness to endure extensive damage to livestock and property.

Despite being anointed a cult hero, even Max Yasgur decided that one Woodstock Festival was more than enough … he turned down the opportunity to host a reunion in 1970.  In addition, he received a financial settlement that helped cover the costs associated with the near total destruction of his dairy farm.

While our initial plans had us in Bethel on the actual dates of the 50th Anniversary, my wife and I have decided, instead, to take a quieter and less chaotic trip down memory lane.  In early August we will visit the beautifully tended meadow where Woodstock was actually held … we will tour, once again, the spectacular Museum at Bethel Woods … and we will have our picture taken at the Tomb of the Unknown Hippie.

In 1969, a multitude of young folks descended on Woodstock to experience an amazing array of performers pushing the boundaries of a tumultuous time in American history  … Joan Baez … Richie Havens … Joe Cocker … Arlo Guthrie.  Few of those hardy stalwarts are around any more so, fifty years later, aging hippies with plans to sample the musical wares at Woodstock 50 should be prepared to shell out some $400 to hear Miley Cyrus … Soccer Mommy … and Amigo the Devil.

Yes, time is running short, but Michael Lang assures us there is nothing to worry about … he will pull something together.

After all, he did exactly that in 1969.

And we know how that turned out.

The Bus to Woodstock

When the clutch started burning, I knew we were in trouble.

Though I hadn’t volunteered to drive the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office “Command Post” bus to the 1969 Woodstock Festival, when my boss handed me the keys I tried to make the best of it.  In truth, it is a wonder that the tired, old relic ran at all, so when the clutch failed while stuck in traffic on one of the many hills along Route 17B between Monticello and Bethel, New York, we had only one choice … summon a tow truck.

“Command Post” bus (blue and white) at Woodstock in 1969

By the way, calling that antiquated rig a “Command Post” was a real stretch.  It carried no radios or emergency equipment meaning that, except for the modicum of shelter it provided from the incessant rain, it served no useful purpose at Woodstock.  Nevertheless, it definitely stood out … the hordes of young folks traversing Hurd Road could not miss its distinctive blue and white paint job, or the large, reflective Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office star on the rear exit door. 

Hog Farm bus at Woodstock in 1969

While being towed that day toward Bethel, I noticed a vehicle that was to become an iconic Woodstock image: the old bus – painted in psychedelic colors – belonging to a commune called The Hog Farm.  That vehicle was at least as old as ours but, whereas we could not proceed under our own power, their bus seemed to run just fine.  Taking note of this, two things occurred to me.  First, it was obvious that the person who painted the Hog Farm bus was far more imaginative than the one who painted ours and, second, there was no doubting that the hippies had better mechanics than we did. 

Thinking back, our arrival at Woodstock hooked to the back of a tow truck should have given us a “heads up” about what the next few days were going to be like … long hours, sodden fields, gridlocked roads and throngs of people.  With the passage of time, though, my mind gravitates, instead, toward the more pleasant … smiling faces … acts of kindness … expressions of appreciation … and the sense that we were al involved in something bigger than ourselves.

Eventually, I would be able to process what had taken place over those hectic but exhilarating three days but, as things lurched to an end on the final morning, the ill-fated bus demanded our attention once again.  Not only would it not start, we learned that it needed extensive (and expensive) repairs before it could be driven.  Deciding that it made no sense to fix this over-the-hill conveyance, my boss ordered that it be towed directly to a nearby auto salvage yard.

Given the degrading way our crippled vehicle arrived at – and later departed – Woodstock, it deserved a better fate than the one it met with at the junkyard.  Instead of a quiet out-of-the-way place where it could rust away in anonymity, that broken down rig – resplendent in its blue and white departmental livery – was dumped half way up a hill among numerous other junked cars, and in full view of drivers heading south on a major state highway.  There was one final indignity; when the sun hit the back of that discarded old bus at the correct angle, that reflective Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office star on the back door lit up like a Broadway marquee.

Woodstock West

With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock fast approaching, one can’t help but notice the proliferation of other events designed to attract both the “Original Woodstock Veteran” and the “Nouveau Hippie.”  Take, for instance, the proposal for a three-day Music Festival in May, 2020, at a ranch situated between the very small … and very remote … high desert communities of Marfa and Fort Davis, Texas.845962414aa6fc876e9ff22106308047

When local residents got wind of these plans, concerns were immediately raised about crowd size, availability of food and water, sanitation and public safety.  In the face of this opposition, the promoter postponed the 2020 event, promising to reschedule only after a study of the possible effects a gathering of this sort might have on both communities.

A music festival in this lovely but desolate area presents an additional concern that has, so far, been overlooked … hippies who attended the original Woodstock in Bethel, New York, and who might be expecting a similar experience in Marfa and Fort Davis.  For those intrepid souls, there are some important items to consider before loading up the VW minivan and heading out to deep west Texas:

Livestock   During that memorable sojourn at Woodstock, many young folks climbed fences to interact with Max Yasgur’s gentle dairy cows.  Deciding to do the same on a Texas ranch, though, is asking for trouble…. Longhorn cattle and Brahma bulls can be, well, unfriendly. 

Crowd Size   According to one estimate, 5,000 people were predicted to attend the west-Texas music festival.  While this number would overwhelm Marfa, folks at Woodstock saw that many hippies lined up to use the pay phone at Artie’s Texaco station in White Lake, New York.

Skinny Dipping   Swimming naked in farmers’ ponds was commonplace at Woodstock, but similar water sources do not exist on the high desert.  Jumping into a rancher’s stock tank is not a good idea and, though the natural pool at Balmorhea is a mere 60 miles away, Texas park officials frown on anyone skinny dipping at this historic and family oriented site.

Environment   Attendees at Woodstock walked barefoot in the grassy meadow, with trees nearby for shade.  Those without shoes in the desert, though, will encounter ferocious local critters called Fire Ants.  And when it comes to chilling under shade trees … forget it. 

Traffic   While traffic at Woodstock was gridlocked across the entire region, only a single two-lane highway connects Marfa and Fort Davis, and the closest commercial airports are either El Paso (190 miles) or Midland (180 miles).  On the “up” side, the drive to this part of Texas provides a spectacular sort of desolate beauty, but be sure to keep your gas tank topped off.

Shopping   While several small stores can be found in Marfa and Fort Davis, the nearest Walmart is in Fort Stockton (92 miles).  Yes, there is a Prada Shoe store in Valentine, and a Target store east of Alpine, but these are both art installations … nice to contemplate, but nothing for sale.

Drug Use   Pot smokers who enjoy gazing at the moon and stars are in luck … the McDonald Observatory is only a few miles away, where huge telescopes will enhance the experience.  And for those who see odd, flashing lights in the dark, this is not an apparition or the result of a “bad trip” … the Marfa mystery lights are a genuine local phenomenon. 

One last thought … Marfa is relatively close to the border between the US and Mexico and, as such, visitors driving in the area should not be surprised to encounter a Border Patrol check point.  If this happens, an officer may ask occupants of the vehicle to state their citizenship … word of caution … if asked, do not answer: “Woodstock Nation!”

Settled In … and Loving It!

Reading through the morning newspaper, a headline in the real estate section caught my eye: Homebuilder Woos Apartment Tenants with 12-Month Rent Rebate Offer Toward a House.  The article went on to explain that a developer who builds both individual houses and multi-family complexes, has developed this innovative scheme in hopes of luring families away from apartments toward home ownership.  

Thinking about this unusual offer, my immediate reaction was … why would anyone do such a thing?  What would make someone leave an apartment to buy a house?

Just kidding, of course, for home ownership has, historically, been a major part of the “American Dream” with young families, in particular, seeking their own plot of land upon which to raise a family.  But, that said, my wife, Bonnie, and I are in a very different place when it comes to our choice of domicile and lifestyle; just over two years ago, we sold our home and moved into a superb 55+ Active Adult apartment community … and we love it.

Recently, while sorting through some old financial records, I came across a list of the recurring bills we paid when we owned our last house.  Frankly, I had forgotten how many there were and, when compared to those we now pay in our apartment, the remarkable difference is just one reminder of why we celebrate our decision to live where we do: 

What We Paid in Our House                           What We Pay in Our Apartment

Mortgage                                                                 Rent

TV/Internet/Phone                                               TV/Internet

Real Estate Taxes

City Services (water,sewer,trash)

Heat/AC Service Contract

Alarm System

Yard Maintenance

HOA Fees

Pest Control

In the midst of writing this blog post, the doorbell rang.  Stepping away from my desk, I went to the door where I found our maintenance man stopping by for routine BookCoverPreview.doreplacement of the air filter in the heating and AC unit in our apartment.  This was perfect timing, for it reminded me of one more very important reason why apartment living is exactly right at this stage of our lives … on the few occasions when we have had to submit a maintenance request, the work has been done quickly, professionally and at no cost to us.  And here’s the best part … it is always done by someone else!

It will be interesting to learn whether the new “Rent Rebate” idea works out for this builder, and we certainly wish him well.  And though I am sure we are outside the “target demographic” for this offer, we would not consider anyway … even for a moment … buying a house.  We owned homes for more than fifty years and, without question, doing so enabled us to raise our children in comfortable surroundings and good communities.  But now that it is just the two of us … well, this is our “me time,” and we are really making the most of it!

We just passed the two-year mark in our apartment home, which likely qualifies Bonnie and me as “settled in.”  Even so, barely a day goes by without one of us turning to the other and asking: “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” 

Woodstock Plans Up in “Smoke”

As the countdown continues toward the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock later this year, I am reminded of an old joke that still elicits chuckles and knowing smiles:

Q:  Why has it taken so long to legalize marijuana?

A:  The hippies kept forgetting where they left the petitions!

The point, of course, is that one well known side effect of marijuana use is forgetfulness … at least that is what they say.  If this is true, then impaired memory may be one of the reasons why the planning process for this shindig has been so disjointed … perhaps the organizers simply forgot.  After all, with only fifty years to pull the arrangements together, it is easy to lose track of time.

This is not to suggest that those putting together this gala are dabbling in weed, Mallomars and cheap wine, but this is starting to look a lot like the way plans were made for the original event in 1969 … and we all remember how that turned out!  With the recent departure of a major event organizer, the folks at Bethel Woods are now advertising a “scaled down” gathering which is probably just as well; few of the original bands are performing any more and, those that are, don’t seem up to taking part.  Roger Daltrey of The Who, for instance, let it be known that he won’t be performing in August because, well, it is just too darned hot.

So what are we veterans of “Woodstock Nation” to do?  Should we gather up our tie-dyed outfits and huarache sandals, fill our backpacks with yogurt and granola and head toward Bethel in our VW minibuses?  Or should we just stay home and listen to some classic 78s on the Victrola while sipping Boone’s Farm at room temperature?  Talk about a tough choice!

Speaking just for us, we will be making the long trek back to Yasgur’s Farm in August and, much like wildebeest migrating across the Serengeti, we are not exactly sure why.  Along the way we expect to see other Bethel-bound vehicles with “Woodstock or Bust” signs in the rear window, as we all harbor hopes that an anniversary event will actually await us when we get there.

As plans for our journey come together, I am reminded of the movie “Vacation,” and the way the Griswold family’s torturous cross country trip to Wally World ended.  Having finally made it to their destination, the Griswold’s excitement was short-lived when they found that the place was closed for renovations … and things deteriorated quickly from that point.

Candidly, the “Wally World” scenario is the one I fear most … tired from our long drive … our car dusty from the road … laden with hippie paraphernalia … we make the right turn from Route 17B onto Hurd Road … and pulling up to the gate we see ………..

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Adirondack Mountain High

Regardless of what you think of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, he has an impeccable sense of timing.  Otherwise, how to explain his push to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in the Empire State this coming year which … coincidentally … is the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock.  

Cuomo’s effort to make marijuana legal in New York is part of a magical confluence of events leading up to August, 2019, when the Anniversary of Woodstock will be celebrated at not one … not two … but three separate venues in that larger region.  First, of course, is the “official” get together at the original site in Bethel, New York … second, is the Michael Lang salute to this iconic event to be held at Watkins Glen, New York … and, third, Ottawa, Ontario, will host a Canadian shindig called “Woodstock North” during that same period.

Imagine the possibilities … if the New York initiative is successful, one could have a “high” time at all three celebrations (the Ottawa event is several days earlier than the others, and marijuana is already legal for recreational purposes in Canada).  One note of caution: don’t transport any amount of weed across the border … possession of marijuana remains a federal offense in the United States, and handcuffs are a definite buzz kill. 

By the way, those visiting upstate New York for the first time should expect to  be overwhelmed by the gorgeous scenery of the region.   As the map below shows, connecting the locations of the three events just mentioned delineates a triangular swath of spectacular vistas including the majestically beautiful Adirondack Mountains.  One of John Denver’s biggest hits was “Rocky Mountain High,” and while the jury is still out on whether he was singing of the beauty of the Rockies or the potency of marijuana, the Adirondacks (I am told) have a similar effect.

The area within the “Adirondack Mountain High” region covers some 11,000 square miles (see map), and anyone in that geographical area during August of this year ought to take certain precautions.  For example, those with respiratory issues should heed long range predictions of elevated air pollution levels consisting of pollen, mountain cedar and pot.  And, hopefully, the FAA will remind pilots that the cloudy haze covering that part of the United States and Canada during that period is not fog … nope, that will be pot as well.

Those of us in attendance at the original Woodstock in 1969, have vivid memories of the weather … rain … turning to rain … followed by rain.  The downpours were, in fact, so pervasive, that conspiracy theorists speculated that the government might be seeding the clouds to make it rain on the hippies.

While event organizers keep their fingers crossed in hopes of good weather this time, the brilliant comedian George Carlin addressed this issue years ago.  In a classic sketch from the 1970s, one of Carlin’s characters, Al Sleet, the “Hippy Dippy Weatherman,” provided a memorable forecast with a Woodstock ring to it:  “… our weather is dominated by a large Canadian low … not to be confused with a Mexican high.”

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Woodstock Redux

Does the name Sri Swami Satchidananda ring a bell?  

On August 15, 1969, he was the Yogi who opened the Woodstock Festival with remarks about the “sacred art of music,” after which he led the assembled masses in several chants.  And while many factors combined to keep this event relatively calm, there are those who believe the Yogi’s words … “Hari OM” and “Rama” … were symbolic of the peaceful nature of this iconic gathering.

With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock just over the horizon, there is another well-known Yogi who comes to mind … Yogi Berra.  And though he has been gone since 2015, one of his immortal malapropisms seems an especially accurate capture of the chaotic planning for this event: “It’s like deja vu all over again.”  

Thinking back to the woefully inept preparations for the original Woodstock, a number of memorable fits and starts come to mind … several communities rejected the festival before Max Yasgur stepped in at the very last minute … food and water supplies ran out almost immediately … medical care was inadequate … police were vastly outnumbered … and traffic control was non-existent.  

Considering the near-catastrophe in 1969, one might have expected a cooperative and competent planning effort this time around.  Recent reports, though, indicate otherwise … in one press release, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts emphasized that their planned anniversary is not affiliated with the organizers of the 1969 Festival, going on to underscore that they are not associated in any way with Michael Lang (the key promoter of the 1969 festival).

Meanwhile, Michael Lang has announced that he has plans for the anniversary as well, though details of who will be performing, and when and where the show will be held are not yet available.  Lang says further information will be coming soon.

In other words … when it comes to planning Woodstock Festivals, it is business as usual.

Although I have been retired from policing for a number of years, I always celebrated my good fortune at having been assigned as a young officer to work at Woodstock.  I learned much from that experience, but there is no denying that those days and nights in August, 1969, were long and busy.  All of us … cops and hippies alike … were wet, tired, and hungry, but when it was over, we knew we had been part of something remarkable.

My wife, Bonnie, and I will be heading to New York for the 50th Anniversary, but this trip will be different in a number of ways.  First and foremost, I will not be working, so the  miles-long traffic jams on Route 17-B (now known as “The Woodstock Way”) will be somebody else’s problem.  Instead, during this visit we will be engaging in some of the activities I witnessed but could not participate in last time.

No, we will not be sleeping in pup tents, using illegal drugs, or eating brown rice from a hand-thrown pottery jar.  Instead, as we set out for Bethel, New York, this summer, we will be guided by the words of Don McLean in his 70’s anthem American Pie: “We all got up to dance.  Oh, but we never got the chance!”

In 1969, we did not have the chance … but this time we will ……….

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Hippie Holidays 2018

Following is an updated blog post from one year ago.  With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock less than one year away, this seemed timely!

So anyway, I’m sitting here trying to come up with some Christmas gift ideas for my bride, when my eyes fall upon an ad for something called “Instant Pot.”  Whoa!  Can this really be what the name suggests?  Has some genius finally designed a system for creating weed without having to go through the whole planting, cultivating, and harvesting thing?

Alas, upon reading further, the full details of the “Instant Pot” became clear … it is nothing more than a new kitchen appliance that can be used to cook a wide range of foods in a variety of ways.  Sigh … well, I guess that is a pretty good idea as well.

In my defense, I am sure my initial thoughts about this product were driven by fond reminisces of my time working as a police officer at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, and the fact that the 50th Anniversary of that singular event is just over the horizon.  But come to think of it, perhaps there is more to it than just that … maybe there is, as some have suggested, some sort of a magical connection between Hippies, marijuana and Christmas.  

For example, what should we make of the fact that the words C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S and W-O-O-D-S-T-O-C-K have the same number of letters?  Or that S-A-I-N-T-N-I-C-K and W-A-V-Y-G-R-A-V-Y are identical in length?  What about M-I-S-T-L-E-T-O-E and M-A-X-Y-A-S-G-U-R?  Are these all mere coincidences?  You be the judge.

There is even some speculation that Santa, himself, may be an occasional toker.  Those who take that position cite, as evidence, several of his well known behaviors that are common to regular users of marijuana.  For example:

Munchies   It is a well known fact that smoking marijuana creates an appetite for copious amounts of tasty and binge-worthy food.  Santa loves cookies … think of how many he eats in just one night!

Forgetfulness   One notable side of effect of marijuana use is the way it is said to affect memory.  Santa needs to keep a list for everything and, as we know, he has to check it twice.  The guy can’t even remember who’s naughty and who’s nice!

Paranoia   Like many marijuana users, Santa goes to great lengths to conceal his location and even his very existence!

Always Happy   Stoners readily admit that, when high, it is difficult to suppress their giggles.  Santa is always smiling, laughing and generally jolly.  What does that tell you?

As the big day approaches, the classic poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas” comes to mind.  In that magical piece from 1823, Santa comes down the chimney with the smoke of his pipe encircling his head like a wreath.  Today, with recreational marijuana legal in ten states, the fellow using the chimney rather than a door likely opened his Christmas stash a bit early and then, while outside marveling at the moon and stars, locked himself out of the house.  And the smoke around his head … well, you get it.

Hippie Holidays!

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The Guys at Breakfast

In Fort Worth, Texas, the “go to” place for good food and great service is the West Side Cafe.  If you stop there on a Tuesday morning, don’t be surprised at the mob of guys sitting in the back room talking, laughing and enjoying breakfast together.  The restaurant knows to expect this crew and, though doctor’s appointments and other alibis can cause the numbers to fluctuate, a solid ten to twenty guys make it a point to show up every week.

I am proud to count myself a member of this merry band.  All of us are neighbors at Overture Ridgmar, a 55+ Active Retirement Community where, on Tuesday mornings, we form up and car pool to our weekly gathering.  

A casual diner walking into the West Side Cafe and seeing this crew, might be inclined to write us off as simply a rag tag collection of “old guys” with grey hair (or, in some cases, no hair).  But that would be a mistake.  Having had the good fortune to spend time with these fellows and get to know a little bit about them, I can testify to the fact that the experiences, depth of knowledge and record of accomplishments around that table are, in a word, remarkable.

Many of my breakfast colleagues have founded and managed businesses, others have performed design work in aeronautics, there are medical professionals, men with legal backgrounds, advanced teaching credentials, two preachers, a musician, and a banker.  A common theme among most of the fellows around the table, though, is military service.  You would never know it, however, from listening to the Tuesday conversations … nobody aggrandizes their time in the armed forces.  You have to ask … and ask again … to learn what they have done in service to our country.

As a police officer, I learned early in my career that, from time to time, people would decide to resist arrest.  Occasionally, somebody would raise their fists and declare loudly: “I’m going to kick your *** … I’m not going to jail!”  Caution was always important, of course, but in most cases I found those bold declarations to be little more than bombast.  On the other hand, the people who always impressed me were those who quietly assumed a bladed and balanced stance, kept their hands free, made direct eye contact and didn’t say a word.  It was clear that those folks knew how to handle a physical confrontation … they didn’t have to broadcast how tough they believed themselves to be.

In my experience, what I just described is much the same with military veterans.  Maybe it is just me, but when someone repeatedly (and unsolicited) tells everyone around him of the heroic things he did while in the military, I tend to be suspicious of their declared credentials.  It is the quiet one, though … the one who has to be prodded to talk about his experiences … he is the one that usually has the most impressive story.  

For example, among the men at Tuesday breakfast are a number of retired Viet Nam veterans including a KC-135 pilot, a member of a B-52 crew, a Helicopter pilot, a Swift Boat crewman, a West Point graduate who commanded an artillery battalion, and a number of enlisted “ground pounders.”  Our group also includes a veteran of the Korean conflict who, at age 19, parachuted into North Korea.  None of the men around our table talk about their military experiences unless prompted, but each is rightly proud of what he has done in service to our country.

When someone walks into the West Side Cafe on a Tuesday morning, he may find himself seated near a large group of older guys who seem to be talking about things like the Texas Rangers current losing streak or a new medication for aches and pains.  In truth, though, there is a lot more going on at that table, and I have been privileged to sit, listen and learn from some really remarkable men.

Having sold our home and moved to Overture Ridgmar less than two years ago, my wife and I remind ourselves, on a daily basis, how much we enjoy our new living arrangement.  There is much to celebrate in our new digs but, for me, one of the most rewarding benefits of our move has been the opportunity to meet and interact with this remarkable group of guys with whom I go to breakfast each Tuesday.