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(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

Flowing rock, Enchanted Rock State Park, Texas

6/1/01-Fri.-A rather taxing week so far. Glad it is winding down. I did get a lot accomplished at work, where it is essential things be left in reasonably good shape by my last day there (for a little while), 6/6, after which I'll be off through 6/19. (As I do not have a lap-top and will be on vacation and out of town for much of that time, the regular reader of The Vintage Diarist or Phil's Place should not expect many, if any, updates to appear for awhile. I'll likely write the intervening entries and/or poetic submissions in longhand and get them online later.)

As of today, only seven full months remain of my current employment.

Up today about 5:45 A.M. Was on the job by 7:15. Left about 5:15. The same schedule yesterday as well. Working more than eight hours is strictly illegal at my best of all possible jobs, for some strange reason, and is sufficient to get the offending employee fired. But not being well enough caught up can have the same outcome; and the latter concern has greater priority for management.

Fran is off for the summer now. While she's been working very hard getting ready for the upcoming visit by her folks, due here about 6/6 or 6/7, I believe, she's also enjoying having time under her own control and the leisure to do with it as she pleases. Today, while I was heading off for the regular grind, she and Pepper drove over to a favorite hiking area where, as so often there, they spotted some deer.

For a little while I thought we had finally eradicated our flea problem for this year. However, though in fewer numbers than before, they are back. We're hoping that a combination of a prescription for the dog plus vacuuming and spraying will finally eliminate this health menace and nuisance.

Tonight, Fran is at another Baltic Buzzards rehearsal, the first she's been able to attend for several weeks, and the last she's likely to enjoy for at least a month, due to our own as well as other members' travel plans. I'm staying home. I mowed the front yard while a cooling, exciting thunderstorm blew through. Unfortunately, it brought us no more than a few sprinkles of actual precipitation.

I suppose some graduate dissertations may have already dealt with the following idea, and, indeed, it is not brilliant that it has only just now occurred to me, though the series has been around for at least three decades or so; but I suddenly realized that the whole "Star Trek" phenomenon (books, television, movies, games, etc.) is the modern equivalent of the Homeric storytelling tradition; and, even more specifically so, it is the modern Odyssey tale. In the "Voyager" episodes this is most pronounced as, week after week, and now year after year, the ship and her crew, as with the original Odyssey voyagers, are encountering interesting and very challenging adventures while far from their home and searching for the way back.

Speculative stretch: The appeal of this story, in all its many variations, goes beyond a simple yen for entertainment. Instead, for we who are now so bound by rules, civilization, relatively mundane daily tasks, and often rather meaningless lives, each just one among many billions of (cipher-like?) others going about their often hum-drum, terribly confined, and regimented existences, it offers the fantasy of being once more untamed, wild, spontaneous, impetuous, pitting our all against exciting forces, in competition with which we take on a seeming greater grandeur and relevance ourselves. We live out most of our lives as responsible "adults," while, just beneath the surface persona, our "child" selves yearn for passion in all its forms and dimensions.

There is in all of us, I suppose, and certainly in myself, despite my ironic or contradictory drive for security, a strong longing for that other world of true adventure, such as, in real life, I have not really known, except in nature, since my youth. My wife and other mature folks of my present acquaintance assume that I have gotten over such things. And perhaps I have. Yet, as with Benjamin Graham, ably expressed in John Train's excellent work, The Money Masters, the words of the Tennyson poem on Ulysses' epic journey ring true:

"For my purpose holds
 To set sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
 Of all the western stars, until I die.
 It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
 It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
 And see the great Achilles, whom we knew."

Tonight, on her return from The Baltic Buzzards' rehearsal, Fran asked if it would be OK with me for her to take Matt up on an offer to have her accompany him through Denver and on to Chicago, for about a week in August. Matt had said he'd already gotten his wife, Glenda's, permission, so mine was all that they still needed. He's going "on the road" for some stamp shows. Selling stamps is what he does for a living. He wants the company and a sharing of some expenses. Fran looks forward to it as a vacation, an opportunity to get "away from it all," take some neat, new pictures, etc. I agreed but was surprised at my emotional reaction. I am sure Matt and Fran would not have an affair, or at least that such is not their intention. Yet I was immediately saddened by the prospect of this coming trip of theirs, while I'll still be working on through the summer, etc.

Only after thinking about it for awhile do I understand better what is going on with me. Not only once but perhaps hundreds or even thousands of times, over the years, since I became a serious, level-headed guy, so unlike the creature of impulse I was through much of my twenties and into my thirties, I have ached to be off, foregoing everything, and setting forth to fight windmills, take uncharted journeys, slay phantom dragons, find sweet young or old lasses, father a dozen bastards, or whatever. I am sure this yearning of mine is mirrored in a thousand million or more other hearts throughout our pearly world, that mine is nothing special. Still, for all its insignificance, it is a great pull for me still, one just a bit more than balanced by the felt need to be a proper husband, to be the opposite of what I was in early adulthood. Yet, for all the senses of duty, the satisfactions, and the true affections that hold me here, there is much of that "other" life that calls with almost Sirens-song persuasion.

When I think of Fran and Matt, even in their circumscribed Denver to Chicago and back "tripping," having the opportunity to take a mini-"sail away," I find myself envious. I shall miss Fran while she's gone. And too, I shall miss the chance to cast off the ties that bind, to be myself heading off for unknown, new adventures.

6/3/01-Sun.-Yesterday we went for our usual weekend morning walk and saw some rabbits. Had great meals at Trudy's and Jason's Deli restaurants. I did some essential shopping in preparation for our upcoming trip, like for a new battery for my camera, etc. I completed my latest Phil's Place entry. We both enjoyed naps in the afternoon. I called Carl Gold and invited he and his wife Harriet to join us today for brunch at Bombay Grill, our favorite Indian eatery. He declined, however, saying they would be busy picking someone up from the airport. Later, though, Harriet called and said the friend was not sufficient reason to give up delicious Indian food and good company and she'd meet us there. Carl could pick up the friend by himself! Alright.

We did, in fact, have a very good visit with Harriet today at that restaurant. As usual, the food was fine!

This morning, Fran mistook my turning over while dreaming for my being awake and began voicing soothing, intimate "endeerments" to me, suggesting, though it was still dark out and not yet 6:30, that we hurry and go walking in one of our favorite areas for spotting venison on the hoof. It had been a nice dream, but I grudgingly got up. While I was waiting for the water to boil for my style of coffee---instant, with twice the usual amount of powder and lots of chocolate flavoring, but no fat and no sugar, a rich, stimulating concoction that has a consistency just a little more liquid than hot mud, but tastes way better---Fran came running through the house, nude from the waist up, girlishly covering her breasts with her hands and mumbling something about getting another shirt. Along with the pleasant sleep images, it was enough to get the hoary ol' procreative juices flowing, tumescence looming.

But we continued on with our preparations to depart for deer country. Sure enough, we saw a couple small herds of the beasts, some relatively close and running across our path, which certainly thrilled Pepper and was not too bad for the humans either!

I took Pepper for another walk, around the supermarket---which adjoins another deer area---while Fran did our weekly shopping; but we saw no more exciting animals.

This afternoon, I completed the proofing of the latest uploaded chapter (XXXIII) of the original journal entries.

This evening, it was Fran's turn for a long massage.

For once, discretion seems better than detail of any actual coupling activity that may have transpired during and after subsequent hygienic, cooling, and sensuous showering.

6/8/01-Fri.-Fran's folks arrived at our place yesterday, after having actually come in the day before; but at that time they were still drying out. Their last night of camping, on their trip in from Florida, was spent at a site between Louisiana and Houston and had been marred by Tropical Storm Allison which had dumped over ten inches of rain on the area overnight.

As I think I've mentioned earlier, they have come, all the way from Florida, specifically to help out by looking after Pepper while we are gone for a little over a week to California, for my family's reunion and celebration, in her area, of my sister, Alice's, 50th birthday anniversary.

Linda and Mike adore our dog, almost as if they are doting grandparents and she their grandchild, and showed up, in good spirits, on Thursday, at 8:30 in the morning. Fran and I had already gotten up, gone for a walk with Pepper, and done some shopping, at Office Depot, where we'd picked up some covers for hardcopies of a long version of my tribute for Alice.

After some visiting and Fran showing her folks around the ponds and gardens, we all went over for brunch to Golden Corral. Everyone pigged out. Next, we stopped at a couple thrift shops, where, by coincidence, we ran into my brother, Ron, with his daughters, Esther and Jane, doing some last minute shopping before our trip.

Linda and Mike were feeling pretty tired by then, and, in mid-afternoon, retreated to their trailer at the latest campsite, at McKinney Falls State Park, on the outskirts of Austin.

Fran and I took a nap. Then she and Pepper went on over to visit for a couple hours with her folks in the evening, enjoying seeing deer and wild turkey at the park as well, while I stayed home and finished my packing.

During our walk yesterday morning, before Linda and Mike had arrived, Fran and I were both edgy and irritable, getting easily on each other's nerves, filling me with dismay that I would have to be spending my so-hard earned vacation time with this person. It seemed to me at the time that my so rare days off would be much more relaxed and pleasant if spent alone or perhaps in the company of my brother, Allen, at our family reunion. Together, on such occasions, my wife and I can too often seem to each other to be just royal and mutual pains in the ass!

In any case, we passed through and beyond that crisis. The rest of the time before our departure was fine.

Today we finished preparations and turned over most of our keys to Fran's folks, who drove us to the airport. It was raining lightly, with the edge of Tropical Storm Allison making itself gently felt over our area. There was a long, hot, crowded layover in the airport terminal at San Diego. Fran found some respite on her own, somewhat away from the huge and madding crowds, while waiting for time to line up for boarding passes. southwest Airlines, as a rule, does not issue reserved seating. At times this can be a real joy! The trip involved a whole series of such times for all of us enjoying their hospitality. Our trip thus involved a long, not very hassle-free several hours and a couple flights. We arrived at our reserved Motel 6 room, via Avis rental car, by about 4:30 P.M., CA time.

As it turned out, Ron, Esther, and Jane had been on the same southwest Airlines planes with us! So, in San Diego, I linked up, during the long layover wait, with Ron and his girls, who were busy getting a little snack and then preparing a special birthday card and message for Alice.

The highlights of the otherwise rather enervating and cramped air journeys were great views from our window seats. Fran took lots of pictures.

Tonight, several family members enjoyed a post-trip Mexican food snack near the motel, a mistake, since Ed had arranged for a huge feast and "surprise" party for Alice at their place, starting only about an hour or so later. (However, many of our party were glad of the pre-binge opportunity for still more good food and relaxed self-stuffing, after the meager fare provided on the flights out.)

We drove on over to my sister and brother-in-law's millionaire-mansion, helping Ed a little with the preparations, while Mom and Alice were off shopping (to get the guest of honor out of the house). Fran also did some photography of their gorgeous accommodations and landscaped grounds.

Alice, with Mom, finally showed up. Apparently our efforts at stealth had been less than completely successful. My sister, who had been lobbying hard for this event (to show off their house and success, etc.) since a surprise 50th party for me a little over seven years ago, and who also claims to be psychic, said she'd known over a year ago about our coming out here to celebrate her milestone, a significant accomplishment, as we'd not begun to plan her surprise until about five months ago. Oh well!

The evening went well, I think, with a fine selection of fattening, cholesterol-rich vittles and beverages, and several gifts or other tributes for Alice. We left, actually, only about midnight, which was 2 A.M., Austin (and for Fran's and my bodies') time. By then some of us were all but falling asleep.

All of the out-of-towners were staying at the Santa Clara Motel 6. Mary and Allen joined Fran and me for the drive back. They also wanted an earlier return than several others. This trip was somewhat hairy as I was exhausted and knew neither the route nor the car well. For the first few minutes, on windy roads, for instance, I could not figure out how to shut off the blinding ceiling light. I stopped and took care of that. We found our way the rest of the distance without too much difficulty.

6/9/01-Sat.-Fran woke up today about 5:50 A.M. (7:50 Texas time) and let me know she wanted us to go to the beach in Santa Cruz before I needed to do some shopping. We were also expected over at Alice and Ed's place again about 10:30. When I expressed lack of enthusiasm for this idea, she informed me that her freedom should not be curtailed, that she would take the rental car and go by herself. While I did not agree that hers was a very reasonable position, I reluctantly agreed to sharing this attempted adventure if she would cooperate with other activities through the day, including a nap, as I definitely needed more, not less, sleep. As it turned out, however, on further research, she found that the nearest ocean-side was probably about an hour's drive away and might not be one that could easily accommodate her intention to go beach combing.

Meanwhile, she'd run into Mary, also up and ready to do something, near the motel office, where Fran had gone in search of coffee to help get me jump-started. We all went for a walk, took care of my shopping needs, and then had breakfast. Allen joined us for the trip over to the millionaires' abode. Later it was settled that the four of us, tomorrow, would get up early, drive to Monterey, and enjoy the Aquarium and other attractions there. Today the family would continue to stay more or less together, doing things with Alice and Ed and/or of interest to most everyone.

On our drive over to the latter hostess/host/honored ones' (Ed, like Alice - as did Mary four months earlier - is celebrating his 50th this year) place, Fran and I, once more got into a bit of an altercation, all the worse because it was in front of Mary and Allen. Due to this latter circumstance, I felt I had to moderate my responses. However, I continued to be furious, thinking that perhaps Fran and I would each be better off if divorced. Certainly the prospect of a life spent in retirement, full-time, with this lady had little appeal this morning!

Later I was talking with Diane who said that her parents, Caroline and Ernie, often argue every hour. Despite the unpleasantness of our differences at times, Fran and I at least get along better than that.

At Alice and Ed's, we also had a great brunch Ed had fixed; and I went swimming at their place, and also enjoyed the Jacuzzi, along with Diane, Esther, Jane, Virginia, William, Charles, and Keith.

That afternoon, Fran went to Big Basin State Park, with several others, to see redwoods, while Leila, Horace, Tess, Charles, and Keith went hiking, joined by Ed and Gollum, his and Alice's golden retriever. I'd already been to that relatively dry, mostly thinned out, second growth, redwood park when out in CA in '94 and, having seen "real" redwood forests in the sixties, in northern CA, had not been too impressed.

I took a badly needed nap. Still later, Alice and I had a nice chat.

She led an interesting, detailed tour of their house. Ernie, Ron, Pete, and most all the kids did some more swimming. Fran showed Alice some examples of web pages and their possibilities. That evening, we had another of Ed's fantastic meals, with salmon teriyaki as the featured gourmet entree.

On their way back, Fran was riding with Pete (as the slightly frenetic driver) and Ron. They stopped along the way at an interesting-looking place and went hiking, seeing nice views, trees, meadows, and flowers.

After supper, we shared a bit of nostalgic storytelling about Alice; and then several did some further visiting while many played charades. Most all of the kids got in more swimming.

Fran and I took Allen and Mary back to the motel, again pretty late, though not as much so as the previous night.

6/10/01-Sun.-I left about 7 A.M., with Fran, Mary, and Allen, for Monterey, stopping for breakfast at a Denny's, about halfway through our trip. Also saw a hawk, a deer, and several huge ground squirrels on the way, as well as much interesting vegetation.

Had a nice visit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and fairly good seafood (and vegetarian, for Allen and Mary) meals afterward, on Cannery Row, before our return to the motel.

That evening, those of us still around - Charlotte, Alice, Ed, Mary, Allen, Pete, Caroline, Ernie, William, Esther, Jane, Fran, and I (Diane, Horace, Leila, Tess, Virginia, Charles, and Keith having by now left) - got together at Alice and Ed's and then went out to eat at an excellent pizza (etc.) place that Ed recommended, Willow Street Restaurant.

Fran and I brought Allen back and also took Mom over to get a key to Mary's room (which she had shared with Mary last night). Mary was chatting with Alice and would come later, in the last ride, with Pete.

6/11/01-Mon.-This morning we got up about 6:15 and were into bickering, big-time, by about 6:25. Not for the first time, I wondered if Fran and I should separate. So far, it seemed our vacation was just proving what I've often feared, that when we are thrown together for the majority of our waking hours, as we certainly shall be after we retire, we really bug each other too often for a positive relationship to be sustained. This (apparent) realization filled me anew with dismay.

Nonetheless, we set off awhile later, going to some local garden areas, and hiked a couple miles at an arboretum near Alice and Ed's place.

Returning, and after a brunch, we had a long nap and then a pleasant sexual romp. (Evidently, at least within certain parameters, getting on each others' nerves is not too hard on the sex life!)

This afternoon, we headed down to Santa Cruz where we enjoyed a late lunch and got some maps, etc., on the area.

We went to the world-acclaimed University of California at Santa Cruz Arboretum. While this was very interesting and, as Fran said, "Fantastic," we had only an hour there before it closed at 5:00. Besides an abundance of neat plants there, we saw many hummingbirds, butterflies, rabbits, and lizards, plus a huge CA quail family and a hawk. Fran was especially taken with the place and wants to go back tomorrow.

We then went in search of a good beach, fighting our way through rush-hour traffic. For me, our progress was made in growing fatigue, exasperation, desperation, and frustration. The directions coming endlessly and with such fruitless result - for we never could find a really beautiful beach area, as we had easily in Oregon, in '89 - I became extremely depressed, as if the search for a good meeting of land and sea had become a metaphor for the deeper quest for meaning in life.

We finally parked at New Brighten State Beach and stayed there for a couple hours. It turned out to be a rather plain recreational area on the Monterey Bay, with small waves, even less noteworthy than on the Texas coast. We did see some neat animals. Fran, for instance, noticed neat crabs and a western grebe. She was, in fact, quite taken with this experience and enjoyed walking in the shade of a cliff that stood just back a bit from the water and rocks. I saw many brown pelicans, terns, and seagulls.

But an overwhelmed sadness overcame me. As I sat on a huge driftwood tree facing the bay, more and more intense images of depression obsessed me. I thought of Vincent Van Gogh's shooting suicide, of the man in D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love, who deliberately walked off into the snow and froze to death. It occurred to me that, while Fran was far off at the end of the park, I might simply take off my outer clothes and swim out into the ocean until too tired and cold to continue, when drowning would be inevitable. It seemed, for awhile, a desirable outcome.

I tried to meditate then, though, and gradually, thereby, came to a more accepting view of things.

We drove back to the motel by 8:00 P.M., watched some TV, made notes on our vacation to this point, and eventually went for some tasty KFC fast-food take out.

Another day of vacation has come to an end.

6/12/01-Tues.-Up bright and early again, about 6:15 A.M. After ablutions and, as usual a Carrow's restaurant breakfast (convenient, reasonably priced, good food), we were heading down from Santa Clara to Santa Cruz again by 8:30. (No morning arguments, for a change. Yea!)

We drove back to the U.C.S.C. Arboretum once more, getting there about 9:30. The flora was still spectacular: pitcher plants; banksias; proteas; succulents; etc. As Fran said, "Wow!" But I was entertained by the animals, which, in the cool of the morning, were much more active than late yesterday afternoon. As I casually walked about, I had 42 rabbit sightings, saw several large ground squirrels, glimpsed a couple fence lizards, and noticed hundreds of birds, including three complete families of quail, scores of hummingbirds, as well as hawks, vultures, a roadrunner, and dozens of stellar jays. Fran was busy taking pictures right up to time to leave. Next, we drove toward some beaches north of Santa Cruz, hoping for better luck with access to salt water areas than we had yesterday.

Later. Beaches where we stopped: Lighthouse Point (tide pools, cliffs, guillemots); Natural Bridge State Beach (great tide pools on large rocks over which the surf would periodically splash with nice explosions of spray - Fran dropped her front camera lens, but fixed it, tightening some screws back at a picnic table where I'd been taking a break - in the shade of nice trees - from the sun); the International Hostel's Pigeon Point Light Station (spectacular surf on volcanic rock scenery, with the lighthouse in the background); Big Basin State Park's Waddell Beach (broad, mostly flat expanse of beach, very windy, with many wind surfers); and Pescadero State Beach (great overlooks, big waves). We took a very winding road back, through second growth redwood forested areas, to get across the hills, then finished most of the trip toward Santa Clara and our motel via a freeway, arriving at our abode for the night by 7 P.M.

This afternoon we had good success in our quest for nice beach experiences. Fran was superb as a map reader/navigator and directed us to a series of fine parks where the waves were dramatic and the scenes picturesque. We also found some great tide pools, with photogenic anemones, limpets, algae, sea grasses, chitons, barnacles, starfish, etc. There were neat shorebirds, crabs, and rock formations as well. We had fun dodging the waves that were splashing over rocks on which Fran was taking her tide pool snaps. At one beach we saw a seal in the waves close to shore.

The breezes off the ocean were pleasantly cool. However, the sun was much too intense, all afternoon, to suit me. But I used a straw hat, sunscreen, and a long-sleeved, high-necked windbreaker to reduce the damage from the rays. Finally, I would just go back to the car, or to sit in shady places, long before Fran was ready to leave each site.

By mid-afternoon, I was getting pretty hungry. We stopped, between beach stops, at Davenport, north of Santa Cruz, on Hwy. 1. We stopped at the first cafe we came to there, the Davenport Inn Restaurant. Service and food were both very good. We just ordered a snack of two a la carte items and coffee, but needed a take-home box!

After that coffee-break, we stopped at several beaches (the last three noted above). All were truly excellent. We were thrilled and took abundant pictures.

Back at our motel, we relaxed a little while, then walked over for a few grocery items from SaveMart, which, along with the afternoon's doggy bag, served us well for supper.

We watched the last half of the American Film Institute's Top 100 Thrill Movies while I received a great massage from Fran.

6/13/01-Wed.-Up today about 6:30 A.M. As of twelve hours later - and hopefully the remains of the day will not add to this - this has been our worst experience yet on this already sometimes challenging vacation.

Breakfast was pleasant enough. However, from there things significantly deteriorated. The Caltrain, that supposedly ran every 15 minutes, did not show up for about half an hour. Because we expected to be traipsing around San Francisco with no place to stow our gear, we were travelling light and so had neither reading nor writing materials to help take up the time during unexpected delays. We had only about 35 miles to go on the train into San Francisco and so had assumed that, as indeed we'd been told, it would take only about 45-50 minutes each way and would be better than taking a vehicle and so having to worry about how to get around with it in a big, strange city, where to park the car, etc. I "knew" from my time there in the (ironically much simpler) sixties that, once in San Francisco, the public transportation was very user-friendly and convenient. (Right!) Not so today. It took from 8:30 A.M. - 12:45 P.M. to get from the motel to the Golden Gate Park's Strybing Gardens, and cost altogether about $33. That left only 2-3 hours at the destination before time to return. It was so frustrating we were close to tears or actually shedding them and so "pissed" we could hardly speak.

To compound things, Fran was having her period today and had cramps plus a terrible headache.

However, she did really appreciate her brief time at the arboretum/gardens, commenting that they were "wonderful." She took lots of great pictures of neat plants. Among other interesting amusements there, she saw a gopher cutely popping up in his little hole. She said he reminded her of the varmint in the movie "Caddie Shack," with Bill Murray.

While she was enjoying picture-taking and gopher watching among the exotic trees, ponds, and misc. plants, I had gone in search of a bathroom, first, and a snack, second, not having eaten since early in the morning. It was by now already after 1:00 P.M. (I was also all too aware that, as I walked around - seemingly for miles -in search of such relief, the intense midday sunlight was having its effects on my skin. I kept wondering if more cancer surgery could be far off. Only a few weeks after our last CO trip, in spite of wearing a hat and lots of sunscreen, I had to have a quarter-sized section of skin removed from my face when another basal cell carcinoma was found near one ear.)

We got back to the motel in time for just a few minutes' rest before we were off to Alice and Ed's and, from there, went with them, plus Mom, Ernie, Caroline, and William, to the expensive Kikusushi Japanese restaurant. Tonight's experience was much better than the better part of the day had been. The food was great! Several of us also appreciated generous portions of sake.

During our get-together this evening, Ernie told how, by coincidence, apparently only a few minutes after we were there and having just passed us, as we were going north and they south on Hwy. 1, yesterday they (Ernie, Caroline, William, Pete, Ron, Esther, and Jane) too had stopped at Pigeon Point Light Station and there had seen several whales, including one breaching almost completely out of the water, another showing its flukes before diving, etc. Ernie said they had been about half a mile away when first spotted but only about ¼ mile distant, and very clear, when last seen.

Caroline is an exceptionally large woman herself and Fran and I, thinking about the successful whale sighting later, realized the sea mammals had probably all been males and that seeing Caroline so close there on the bluff over the beach must have gotten them so excited they began leaping out of the water and drawing nearer in desperate attempts to win her heart, affection, and cetacean-like attentions. By contrast, Fran's thin form, seen only a little earlier, must have seemed unworthy to them of even a second glance, much less any enthusiastic cavorting. (Fortunately, at least in my case, human tastes differ from whales on the relative merits of thin vs. corpulent.)

To our credit, Fran and I managed, despite today's very trying emotional hurdles, to get through another 24-hour period without any verbal negativity between ourselves. "And that's a good thing."

6/14/01-Thurs.-We got up today about 6 A.M. Underway, after breakfast and ablutions, about 8:15. Before we had even left the motel parking lot in our rental car, we both saw a hawk catch, subdue, kill, and begin to eat a pigeon in a long-needle pine near the Santa Clara Motel 6 office. We arrived at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park about 9 A.M. No entry fee. We explored this area for nearly five hours. It was cool in the early morning but hot by afternoon. After our lousy experiences yesterday, I thought of our trying, despite how dry and hot it is in this region, to find a hiking place that has natural, running, and fresh water as well as more shade than we've found to be the case around here lately. As it turned out, Fran was quite successful in her map wizardry. She said this park is apparently the only one in easy driving distance that meets even these minimum requirements. All the trails were shaded. There were nice creeks, one of which was called a "river." Of course, in an otherwise barren desert, a small, putrid pond is an oasis.

We walked about 8-10 miles there and saw some really neat stuff: some huge, impressive, old growth redwoods, lots of 2nd growth redwoods, a coyote, several black-tailed deer (including twin fawns), a pileated woodpecker, several ducks, mergansers, and some beautiful squirrels, including one cutely taking a dust bath in the path just a little ahead of us.

We exhausted ourselves, though, with all the up-hill and down hiking plus wading a rocky creek a couple times, and so decided, by about 2 P.M. when we'd finished with the walks, to simply head back toward the motel, but to take in an Indian restaurant buffet if we found one available. We did, indeed, eventually, locate a good one, Mayuri Indian Cuisine, on El Camino Real, in Santa Clara. The food was delicious, the atmosphere at least as authentic as the Indian restaurant in Austin where we normally eat, and the price, to our surprise (for so far everything out in CA here had been more expensive than in TX), was significantly cheaper here than in The River City.

We took a nap and then went over to Alice and Ed's. Although Ed was away on business for the day, we had a nice visit with my mom and sister, with pleasant interactions, picture-taking, and another swimming experience, including both a cool pool and a hot Jacuzzi, before heading back to the motel.

Perhaps it was the relaxing time in the water, perhaps that we'd had a very good day today, perhaps the adult theme, late night entertainment on HBO; but we both were rather turned on at bedtime and so did what came naturally.

6/15/01-Fri.-Up today about 6 A.M. After breakfast, etc., we drove over and picked Mom up, since she was going with us for several activities. First we stopped once more at the U.C.S.C. Arboretum, arriving about 9:00, when they opened. It was Mom's first visit there. As usual for still relatively early in the morning, the animals were quite active. Just inside the gate to the New Zealand plants section, Mom spied a 3-4 foot long rat snake. Fran took several pictures of it. It went down a gopher hole. Fran had also seen and photographed another sleek, racy snake. There were families of quail and many other birds.

Once we'd left the arboretum, we drove up to Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station, took pictures, watched for whales, and enjoyed the fantastic views from the bluffs over rocks and surf. The waves today were very large.

Later, we went to Año Nuevo State Reserve, where we enjoyed three-mile hikes and excellent, close viewing and photography of northern elephant seals in their natural element, swimming, resting, molting, and interacting.

This took us up to a late lunch time. We drove down to Davenport and had fine dining again at the Davenport Cash Store Restaurant.

Headed back. Dropped Mom off at Alice and Ed's. We drove around awhile, looking for some thread for Mom, who needed it to help Alice with a small sewing project that's been put off due to the latter feeling overwhelmed after obstetrical surgery in '99 and a recent D. & C. Ed now must do virtually all the driving, shopping, meals fixing, cleanup, and bread-winning between them, as Alice feels she simply can no longer cope with such practical, essential activities of daily living. There appears to be nothing physically wrong with her.

After an hour or so of search efforts, we were not successful, though, in finding the needed thread.

Back at the motel, Fran took a nap and I had a shower and then tried to rest and meditate till time to get ready for our final get-together, out here in California, with Alice, Ed, and Mom. We got over to Alice and Ed's about 7:15, visited some out by their pool, took several more pictures, and finally were seated and beginning to be served, at the extremely expensive California Restaurant, by about 9 P.M. The bill for the five of us came to about $300. Afterward, we left Alice and Ed's a little after 11:00 P.M. Although they asked us to stay longer, everyone seemed very tired. There were no objections when we said we had better just go on.

6/16/01-Sat.-The vacation is now almost over. Our plane flies out at 12:30 P.M. I got these notes updated in the wee hours this morning, about 1:30 A.M., before going to bed. Fran had retired about an hour earlier.

Mom is due to fly out just a few minutes after we do, with a different airline. She elected, since her seat reservations were made in advance, to get to the airport later, Ed serving as her chauffeur.

I expect to return the rental vehicle about 11 A.M.

Yesterday, yet again, Fran and I got through the day without fighting. Alright!

Later. It has been an exhausting and expensive time. But we are safely home. Amazing to realize that, with air travel, vast distances may now be covered, and by millions, in a few hours that, only a few generations ago, could have taken several weeks and involved much greater risk and that, even on this much more limited basis, would have been available to only a much smaller number of folks.

Fran's folks picked us up from the airport about half past seven this evening and reported no significant difficulties with house-sitting our place or pet-sitting our dog while we were away. Pepper seemed very at home with her new attendants, but also to be glad to see us.

Tomorrow, Mike and Linda are planning to already be heading home.

6/18/01-Mon.-Arrived home Sat. evening and visited with Fran's folks that evening. They left early the next, yesterday, morning. Linda and Mike had reported having a great time with Pepper while we were away. Indeed, that last night they were here, she opted to sleep in a room with them rather than us. She does not worry about hurting our feelings. When they left, she acted like she wanted to go with them!

We spent most of Sun. completing the latest issue of The Wagnerian Express. Fran also was getting ready for her next trip, beginning today, this time to WI, to visit with her sister, brother-in-law, and our nephew, Jay, just over two years old.

Now our poor dog is left with me alone. Fran departed about 8:30 A.M. I spent the morning cleaning up our e-mails and getting the hardcopies of our newsletter printed and ready to mail to those who need or want it sent via regular post instead of the internet.

I enjoyed a Chinese buffet lunch, then returned home for shaving, shampoo, meditation, and a nap, interspersed with episodes of active play with Pepper.

During the vacation I had a tiny satori experience. I'll try to describe it, though the words seem flat and dull compared with the original insight: everything is part of this life, without exception, whether friendly or antagonistic, sublime or mundane, vulgar or beatific, clear or obscure, infinite or transient, repulsive or attractive, fearful of death or longing for it, brilliantly multi-dimensional or of some sub-state totally devoid of dimension, painful or pleasure-filled, closed or open, interesting or boring - or anything between - and everything else besides. We need waste no time and energy on concepts, hopes, fears, etc., based on other than this very life, or on whatever else does not exist. This would be akin to fretting away one's precious time worrying that he or she is not as wealthy, handsome, healthy, intelligent, worry-free, or lucky-in-love as someone else. So, what is left? Merely the living out of life as best we can. Yet that is no trifling matter! Since we cannot change our essential, existential state and even that will one day come to an end, perhaps this very instant, the only relevant choice left is how we shall focus on each moment. All our potential experience is already within us. The only limitation is our availability to it.

6/20/01-Wed.-Fran left Austin on Monday, 6/18, and arrived by mid-afternoon yesterday up in the small community in WI where her sister and brother-in-law, Trudy and Scott, live with their son, our nephew, Jay. The trip was tiring but went well, as I've learned both by e-mail and on the phone.

Surprisingly enough, Fran prefers driving, even long distances, to flying. She did at least stay in a motel Monday night, something she sometimes does not do, opting to go almost straight through, just taking short sleep breaks in well-lit rest stops. But this time, still with jet lag, etc., after our so recent return from CA, she found herself falling asleep at the wheel and so did the sensible thing.

We're keeping up a fast and furious e-mail communication, with the aid of her sister and brother-in-law's computer system. One reason is a little scary: Monday afternoon I got an urgent call from Fran's doctor's office, saying that, based on some lab results, she needed to get in touch right away. Even though I identified myself as her husband, they would not tell me more, asking only that I relay the message to her. At that point she was still on the road. We do not have cell phones. So, I sent an e-mail about this to her sister and also told the doctor's office the number where she could be reached later that day.

It turned out something was discovered in her recent gynecological exam. Fran said they were not very specific but advised her to see a specialist, to whom they were referring her, right after she gets back. In fact, they said they would arrange the appointment for her and send the info. about it by mail, to be here on her return to Austin. Chances are it is nothing major. Evidently minor abnormalities crop up fairly frequently in women's nether regions, need to be investigated, but usually do not amount to anything. Fran sounded just a little concerned on the phone, but mainly very enthusiastic about beginning her WI visit. She's also often quite bubbly, long-distance on the phone, with me anyway, as if she's really glad of our chances to chat when we're apart. At such times, she gives a good imitation of someone who cares a lot about her hubby, or at least enjoys communicating with him a lot.

Fran might be amused by the following. After a hiatus of about three weeks, I again was off for a walk over to Wendy's for a lunch snack today, in the company of Maria (Sweet Old Thing) and Sandy (married to Clark...and NOT related to the lady who owns the property the Barnes & Noble shopping center is on...but who often, like us, goes to Tien Jin Chinese restaurant, etc.). Somehow the matter of my wife now being in WI came up. When they heard she is working hard to help out with the garage sale there, they were impressed and said Fran must really like her sister and brother-in-law, to go all the way up and tough it out like that for them on that kind of project. I assured them that, while I expected that to be true, she also seems to get "into" projects in which she can get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time, accomplishing a great deal and with generous intent. I ventured to suggest that Fran would probably enjoy yourself up there. As they were even more impressed after this, I told them how she'd also gone up to Fort Worth and spent nearly a month helping Allen with his fixer-upper place, when he was too depressed, after his divorce, to do much at all on it himself, at least not on his own. Their "impressedness" knew no bounds. So, I told them about Fran's having the idea of going up to Waco to help Mom with her gardening/landscaping project, around Mother's Day one year, and how this had not only been of great assistance to her but also resulted in at least a tenuous bonding between the two of them, that had not been there before.

By now they were in such extreme admiration of Fran that I mentioned how, in August, she was going off and leaving me again, this time to spend a week or so with another man, Matt, just so he could have better company than he usually does on his road trips to trade shows and so she could have more time around Chicago and in CO, areas she loves. I explained that they planned to share the expenses, including a motel room.

Before I'd finished telling about her latest altruistic travel plans, though, they began interrupting me with unexpected concern, insisting that this did not sound good at all and that I may be quite naive if I just went along with it. They vehemently expressed their belief that, no matter what the prospective travelers' initial intentions, if Fran and Matt were going to spend that much time alone together, and even share a room each night, then "one thing was going to lead to another!"

They wanted to know what kind of person Glenda, Matt's wife, was and why she was not accompanying him, if he needed female company on his road trips. I explained that she was tied down by her work, just as I was, and that, besides, Fran would look on the whole thing as a lark, whereas Glenda might just see it mainly as a chore. Maria and Sandy's concerns grew into even greater alarm. No soap opera drama could have given them more foreboding. At least, they suggested, Fran and Matt must stay dressed in each other's company at all times, especially in the motel room. To tease them a bit, but also because it is true, I explained that Fran thinks that wearing just underwear and a nightgown is adequate attire and that she often closes the garage for me in the mornings dressed in that fashion. They were appalled and said that, no matter what I thought, if Fran had the same attitude about decorum on the upcoming trip, then I should not be at all surprised if our marriage is at an end in a few months. I said, well, actually, I believe that Fran really prefers sleeping in the nude, but that I trust her. They were both completely scandalized and said it was quite noble but probably misplaced sentiment that I would be calm about the upcoming trip.

I explained that this was probably just a one-time thing and that the two road-trippers would doubtless be on your best behavior, realizing that, if anything else developed, even just a mild crush or set of embraces, it could become very awkward and could complicate things extremely, might even lead to four households where there had been two. Still, my colleagues were not reassured and continued to stress that Glenda and I should not go along with the venture.

So, I asked, if each of them were going on such a trip with Matt, would their husband or boyfriend have reason to worry? Sweet Old Thing (who's about forty but looks like an attractive thirty year old and is still single, after an unfortunate three-year engagement to a fellow, whom she'd essentially lived with, had gone sour when she discovered he was having affairs on the side) said "It depends on Matt! If he's good-looking or fun to be with, then...I don't know!" Sandy, though, said an emphatic "No! Clark can trust me completely."

So, of course, I told Sweet Old Thing that the next time she's going on vacation in South Texas, she might let me know; and if she felt like some company and thought I was OK companionship, then, since I'd enjoy some South Texas recreation too and would appreciate the opportunity to get better acquainted with that region's special charms, we might go together, especially as I may be retired soon and able to go where and when I want, just as Fran is now. I said I was certain my wife would be just as trusting of me as I of her. Maria thought that a good idea, adding "It's a date!"

I'm exhausted, as usual, after the first day back at work; but at least things are in pretty good shape there for a change. I need mainly now to keep the caseload at or below its present level the rest of my time there. The boss may grumble about this or that from my past statistics; but if I'm currently caught up, there's not much else he can ask me to do.

Pepper's getting daily, evening walks now, while Fran's away, to help her cope with much less stimulation than she'd been used to before my wife and her folks left. I also tease, cuddle, play with and/or bug the dog every few minutes, when I'm around, to keep her on her toes.

6/24/01-Sun-Had breakfast at Trudy's Southern Star and brought home leftovers. Then I mowed the backyard. We've gotten about 1½ inches of rain in the last few days. Things are rather moist out there, for a change.

Took time for morning ablutions. Next went for a haircut. Then a little shopping at Border's Books. Added a poetic entry to my journal. Cleaned up the kitchen, dishes, etc. Got caught up on the mail, except for some stuff that will require Fran's signature. Did other misc. chores, trying to get things orderly before Fran's return this week. She and her relatives in WI had an amazingly successful garage sale (taking in over $1200) and have also been enjoying a very good visit.

6/25/01-Mon.-After my chat with Maria and Sandy, the last time we'd gone to Wendy's together (6/20 entry above), I'd e-mailed the gist of our conversation to Fran. She soon replied that she had gotten a good laugh out of the comments of the "girls from work," but that she did not think I needed to worry about her and Matt, as he was not her type, but I was. Today, Sweet Old Thing, Sandy, and I were off again on a lunch break walk. They asked about Fran's visit in WI and how it was going. So I filled them in and also passed on her reaction to hearing of their earlier comments about the road-trip with Matt, etc. They said they could not believe I'd told Fran what they'd said. Nonetheless, they were all ears about my wife's response. When I told them, they "melted" and said she certainly had said the right thing and that she must really love me. They said we seem to have a mature and secure relationship. (I'm not sure I like the sound of that, making me seem a little too over the hill, safe, and unexciting.) Sweet Old Thing starts tomorrow on one of her South Texas vacations. Significantly, she did not invite me along, as she'd previously said she might, in her "It's a date" comment. Oh well!

Fran begins her journey back to Austin early tomorrow morning.

6/27/01-Wed.-Am most happy that Fran is back in town!

She arrived this morning and has already gotten pretty well organized and settled in from her long trip.

Pepper and I had somehow gotten by while she was away, but by the skin of our canines.

Fran took pity on the mutt and trimmed her hair pretty short today. She'll be panting (the dog, that is) a lot less now. It had gotten to the point I needed to hose her down before and after each of our daily walks. Ah, Texas weather! WI was mainly in the 50s to 60s at night and in the 80s (F) during the day. By comparison, in this period here in Austin, we endured high 70s at night and near 100 during the day. They went swimming and the lake was very cool, likely in the low 60s.

I was delighted, on return from the CA vacation, to discover that some useful backup work had been done on my desk in my absence, so that things are in better shape than at any time since before the mandatory move, and interruptions to productivity it entailed, last fall.

The latest journal entries will gradually be updated over the next several days. Two more entries have also been made to Phil's Place.

After Fran got a little caught up on her e-mails, we went for Chinese food tonight at our favorite location for such fare in South Austin, Tien Jin restaurant. Good, reasonably priced food and a pleasant atmosphere!

6/28/01-Thurs.-Yesterday was most noteworthy for Fran's return; but in the morning I also had an appointment with my dermatologist. As I'd feared during the CA vacation, in spite of extra precautions, there was a price to pay for added exposure to solar radiation. My doctor "burned" off four so-called "pre-cancerous lesions" from the top of my nose, using liquid nitrogen, so intensely cold it fools the senses and feels like the touch of a still flaming match. Now I have blisters where forming cancers had been. She is one of the first female doctors I've had for intimate examinations. And she is rather attractive. Since the nature of the visit is an inspection of all areas of my skin, and she is professionally thorough, even the area between my buttocks, not to forget the undersides of my penis and scrotum, must be viewed. I keep imagining what will happen if the situation no longer seems a bit intimidating, with the potential for finding a new neoplasm, and my fantasies get the better of my reserve. One thing is certain: there is no controlling the male member. It acts as if it has a will all its own. One can but restrain its impulses after they have made themselves known. I wonder how she deals with that kind of situation. Hopefully she would not simply laugh! Hehe.

Fran and I exchanged anniversary gifts tonight. We've been married just over sixteen years. Although I sometimes make (too?) much of temporary disagreements between us, overall we have a good relationship. Here's to another two or three times sixteen years together!

I was sad to hear that Jack Lemmon has just died. What a marvelous actor and person he was! His portrayal of "Tuesdays with Morrie," one of his last performances, for which he won an Emmy, is particularly meaningful to me for how eloquently it expressed, I think, the wisdom that the actor himself would wish to have imparted, as he too was dying (of cancer).

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