Swish and spit

I got a call from my cousin, Leslie.

These days, whenever relatives call, there’s generally some sort of family emergency. This time, Leslie told me our Auntie Elsie died. She was 89 and after a fall breaking her ankle she was moved out of her house and into a rehab center in north Cheyenne.

I stopped in to visit her when I was in town before and noticed she had a banged up face. Cheyenne is a smallish town. Elsie’s roommate is the great aunt of some high school mates of mine. She said Elsie fell out of bed. What I wasn’t told, is that she was now in hospice care because of it.

I was planning another trip to visit her and get a couple bits of family history from her about the time she sprung my grandfather and her brother – my Uncle George – from a holding stall at the Santa Anita Racetrack when Executive Order 9066 was signed by FDR rounding up west coast Japanese – Americans.

Long story short, Japanese who lived in the interior like in Wyoming were viewed as being non-threatening and allowed to stay in their homes and Elsie was able to get them back to Wyoming.

After World War II Elsie chose to move to Boston where she attended dental hygienist school and upon graduation, returned to Cheyenne and worked for Dr. Carson, who ended up being our family dentist.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s going to the dentist was viewed, I think by everyone, as cruel and unusual punishment. Those belt-driven drills that moved the bits at the speed of a hamster spinning his cage were gruesome.

The classic diabolic dentist movie scene is when a Nazi war criminal played by Lawrence Olivier bores into Dustin Hoffman’s front teeth in “Marathon Man”.

I inherited my dad’s bad teeth. I don’t know if kids still get their baby teeth capped, but all my teeth were covered with stainless steel. If there were metal detectors back then, I never would have made it into a sporting event or through the airport.

My aunt the hygienist cleaned my teeth. She always made it fun for kids. This was during the days of cuspidors – those little round sinks with cold water swirling around. I’d get that gritty toothpaste which sort of tasted good squirted out by my aunt pulling the trigger on that high pressure water pistol that shot a straight stream from two feet away.

Then swish and spit.

I always liked the mist that splattered up on my face as the fast moving water sloshed up the ceramic sides of the bowl.

When it was Dr. Carson’s turn, he wasn’t the most personable guy, at least compared to Dr. Cohen, my pediatrician. After a few pleasantries, if I was in for a filling, he pulled out this Dr. Frankenstein contraption. It was a glass, graduated cylinder embraced in a stainless steel housing with a needle the size of a house nail. He would stick it in a bottle of Novocain, pull it out of the robber stopper with a squeak and squirt the air out before jabbing me various places in my mouth.

Elsie would come in and mix up the filling gunk, which consisted of mercury and silver. My mouth was so full of toxins by the time I was out of high school, it would make a tuna fish gag. I gave up my last old school filling when my root canal tooth finally gave way a couple years ago and replaced by a ceramic one. My dentist at the time talked me out of gold, because it would ‘show’.

I shouldn’t have listened.

There’s no wonder dentists are viewed as torturers.

I don’t have to tell anyone who’s experienced those low RPM drills how much more pleasant it is to go to the dentist now and have to submit to those water-cooled hydraulics ones.

When I have dental work done nowadays, I don’t bother with the anesthetic since the needle poke hurts more than the drilling and there’s no biting of the inner cheek because of the weird numbness.

At the end of the session, Auntie Elsie handed me a pencil and a toothbrush and I was on my way.

Dr. Carson’s office was right next to the Bunten Pharmacy on one side and a block away from Save More Drug and Thrifty Drug. While waiting for my ride, I killed time browsing the baseball cards and Beatle cards and waste my money one a pack or two of them.

Elsie was single and in those days, that was unique, but not unusual for my family with three of her brothers never marrying and a brother and sister marrying much later in life.

She lived in south Cheyenne with my grand parents and her brother, Richard. She eventually moved out to her own place. Rich stayed there until both grand parents died and eventually married. More on them later.

Elsie was quite the athlete – playing 2nd base in a competitive softball league and a 175 scratch bowler. When she quit playing, I think I have her glove in my baseball box. My dad gave me my first glove, which I still have. Not a good memory about it though. The neighbor kid, who was much older than any of us threw a ball at me that was catchable.

I was scrawny and my hand and arm weren’t strong enough to keep the ball from flying out of the webbing and into my eye. I think it knocked me out. I ended up going to the emergency room, but I was no worse for the wear.

The glove I used most of my Little League career I bought at a church rummage sale in November 1963. It’s a Rawlings Wally Moon model. It had a broken in pocket and I made many a good play with it. There were a couple fly balls I should have had but flinched when the fence came up on me. Those weren’t major league fences, they were chain link barely waist high with the barbed edges uncovered which aren’t allowed these days.

Elsie taught me how to bowl. Starting out, everyone uses the house balls. The problem was, finding the same or a similar one each time I went to the alley. I didn’t really get the hang of the game, even though my mom and dad were at one time avid bowlers. World War II put an end to that when they were both kicked out of the American Bowling Congress after Pearl Harbor.

Neither of them picked up the sport again after that. Besides, my dad had a bad back which kept him 4F and out of the war. I also inherited his back problems and was introduced to chiropractics and sat out my sophomore year of high school wrestling – a great sport for spindly guys like me.

I think chiropractors had the same macabre reputations as dentists – maybe they still do.

When I started working and had disposable income, Elsie talked me into buying my own ball and shoes. I wasn’t a great bowler because I didn’t spend enough time at it. I did bowl enough to win a bowling trophy while on a team in Lander, Wyoming.

That was a rite of passage.

About that same time “The Big Lebowski” came out. I related to the nerdy Steve Buscemi character, since I didn’t quite fit into the usual bowling crowd.

Bowling has changed. I got rid of my ball in an early purge, which I now regret. There’s no bowling alley in Boulder and the ones in Denver are these disco-like places with flashing lights and loud music.

The worst part is, the score keeping is automatic.

Keeping score with soft lead pencils projected overhead is a lost art form. It was a display of bowling knowledge. I was always lousy at math, but I could score a bowling game. I think I was good at it because it was very visual – marking those x’s and half x’s writing legible numbers. Some people were bad at it. Even if I wasn’t bowling, I liked to keep score.

After Elsie died there was no big to do, I come from a long line of low key die-ers. A few months earlier my cousin Alison called to report her mother – my Auntie Jeannie – had passed away. She had a stroke while sleeping and didn’t wake up. She had a small reception, nothing like some services I’ve attended.

Alan’s 50 things to do – and after an abrupt halt, hoping to finish in 2014 … 2015 at the latest

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Rolled down a dune at the Sand Dunes National Monument.

I turned 60 in May 2013 and have a bunch of things on a list of things to do. Here is the list of 50 things – some are things I’ve done in the past, others are new things, but I think are achievable. The list is dynamic and may change.Checking items off my list came to an abrupt halt beginning in June 2013.

Riding the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island was about the last thing that I finished before a topsy turvy ride began with a continuing bout with shingles, then an exhausting summer and fall fighting off various types of pneumonia that eventually landed me flat on my back in the hospital December 16th through January 13th; then in a rehab center until the end of the January.

I rehabbed at home for another month – watched the Super Bowl with a hose sticking out of my stomach. Rather than give more gory details here, check out the note about it, including my successful bout with Obamacare.

Here’s the link to my note “I tip my hat to the nurses who tended to my butt wound and Obamacare!”


I’ve been on my own without reliance on home care nurses and supplemental oxygen for a couple months. Here’s the list of 50 …

1. Get reacquainted with a long lost friend or relative – I’ve started to do this more intentionally, due to a death in the family will be meeting up with a bunch of cousins in SFO. I had lunch the other day with Mary – a friend / colleague I hadn’t talked to in maybe 10 years. Don’t be surprised to get an email or message from me one day!

2. Write a song – I went to a BMI event in Crested Butte and would like to have a famous person perform it.

3. Climb a mountain – My Gillette, WY climbing buddy, Charlie, wants to get back up Devil’s Tower. I think this may be “on” for the Donkey Creek Festival the last weekend of June.

4. Enter the Cheyenne Frontier Days Wild Horse Race – I made a documentary about it. My friend Bob participated – but he was a lot younger. I’ve wanted to at least get on a team.

5. Go to Ecuador / Peru – I have family in Peru. I wonder if they are still there? Ecuador is a haven for Americans. No tourist visa required and the currency is the US dollar. I stumbled upon a pretty good documentary story about Ecuadorans coming to the US seeking the American Dream and Americans going to Ecuador seeking the American Dream.

6. Fill out the application to be in The Amazing Race – May not make the cut but want to get in the mix.

7. Go fishing – I’ve been carrying around the tackle and need to get it out. What gave me the initial bug was going on an ice fishing jaunt on the Art of the Hunt project. A couple pals offered a fishing outing.

8. Play the violin again – Last time I played was a Mozart piece accompanied by my friend Barbara many, many years ago.

9. Learn Photoshop – I’ve been threatening to do this and use Final Cut Pro as a crutch.

10. Take the train cross country – I’ve been one way or the other, but not at the same time. There’s a 15 day Amtrak USA pass that can be had for $439. This may be the way to go and looking for travel companions to join me for all or part of the trek. Next week, I’ll be taking the train from Denver to Penn Station. This comes pretty close to a cross country train ride.

11. Sort through all my junk and get rid of some stuff – I plan to get to this by 2014… 2016 at the latest! I took a bunch of Franciscan-ware to the 2nd hand store the other day.

12. Organize my photos – They are all over my computer hard drive and in boxes. I’ve been finding them in various boxes and using some for Throw Back Thursday pix on the facebook.

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Rain Delay Rox v Yanks

13. Get to a baseball game – Haven’t been to a game in a couple years, any game  – Little League, MLB. The Yankees were in town. I was able to get tickets to each game. It was raining like crazy that week. Rockies won the opener. The Yankees won the final two – when they get a one run lead, Mariano Rivera is amazing. He’s supposedly retiring this this. I’ll be in New York for a few days after Memorial Day and will catch the Yankees in Yankee Stadium against the dreaded Red Sox.

14. Eat a big steak in a contest – Watched ‘The Great Outdoors” with Ackroyd and Candy – got a hankering. I doubt I can finish one, but will be fun to at least try. I also saw that the Acme Oyster House in New Orleans has an oyster eating marathon, which sounds more appealing.

15. Crash an Oscar party in Hollywood – Could be there this weekend, but will be in SFO instead.

16. Light a fire with no matches – I have flint, no steel and no technique.

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Flying a kite, which is still in the car.

17. Fly a kite – I recall sending one out of sight as a kid and would like to do that again. It’s March and I picked up a $20 kite from Into the Wind kite store. I was skeptical that an expensive kite would be better than a plastic one. Diana and Mason were the witnesses to this activity up in Commerce City where there is a constant breeze. I’ve flown some kites in my day, but this one went up effortlessly in little wind.

18. Climb a tree – Hopefully, I won’t be evading any wild critters.

19. Navigate a kayak – I saw a documentary about extreme kayaking in Uganda at the headwaters of the Nile. This one may evolve into something else, since I’m not much of a water person.

20. Ski again – I skied last in Vail three years ago at the film festival filming a shot on the mountain with Michael C. Tom suggested skiing a sand dune – now I’d forgotten about that option, which would be different. I know there are places in the U.S. to do that.

21. Skip stones on a still lake – The trick is finding the right stones at the perfect lake.

22. Go to Sturgis on a motorcycle – Was invited by Egija to ZZ Top there this summer. Turns out I didn’t make it to Sturgis this year. Egija had a baby and decided she could either be a mom or be a vagabond videographer. She opted to stay home. Another item that rolls over to next year!

23. Fly in a hot air balloon – Not much of a challenge these days, but would like to film from above.

24. Eat a truffle rooted up by a pig – What’s a truffle, anyway?

25. Go bowling – I like to bowl, but nobody else I know does. I really like to keep score. I did bowl the other day. A young friend Alex had her birthday party at the Punch Bowl in Denver on Broadway. It’s one of those places with a bar, games, and eight lanes. The festivities were cluttered with eating, drinking with some bowling strewn into the mix. There were five bowlers and we didn’t get a complete game finished in an hour. It costs $13 for an hour of bowling, $3.50 for shoes. Nobody in the surrounding lanes knew anything about bowling etiquette. Plus the computer keeps score, which takes most of the fun out of it. There are no pin racks these days. the pins are suspended from wires. The knocked down pins are lifted up and the remaining ones remain suspended on the lane. I did manage to make a couple strikes and pick up a spare or two.

26. Learn to scuba dive – Duzer snorkled in the Downtown Aquarium in Denver. He also suggested the urban wind tunnel skydiving place by Englewood, which may end up on this list. I filmed Barbara swimming with sharks there for a possible urban adventure show.  I’ve always been more of a land lover and it’s time to get out of my comfort zone. A trip to Mazatlan may be in order for this one and a stay in my El Cid time share condo.

27. Hunt for fossils – Used to do this all the time when I was a kid, thought I was a young Dr. Leakey.

28. Spend an entire 24 hour day with a total stranger – Who will it be? The closest I’ve come on this one is when Pope John Paul II was in Denver. I happened upon a guy from Iowa who made the trip out. He was lugging around a watermelon to share and I had a knife. We hung around together from 6am to around 9pm.

29. Go sledding – Had a chance over the holidays in Estes Park but chickened out.

30. Finish a screenplay – I have a couple that need some work, “When the Emperor Was Divine” and “Columbine”. I did go through both screen plays and sent one off to friend who was soliciting screenplays.

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I read this book cover to cover.

31. Read a book from cover to cover – I’m obviously not much of a reader. I would have become a better reader had I not been forced to read about fictional characters like Dick, Jane and Sally. I finished reading “So You’re a Creative Genius … Now What?” by fellow introvert Carl King. It was to the point and lots of lists with bullet points, so it fit in with my learning comprehension style.

32. Eat healthier and lose a few pounds – This has been ongoing since January. I’m on the 16 hour fast schedule. So far so good. I’ve lost 1.5 inches of belly fat and holding steady. I’m pretty lean as it is and that has translated to three pounds.

33. Be an extra in a movie or TV show – I was in Catch and Release, but like being around the action. Turned out that I’m co-producing a couple movies this summer. I was contacted by BCDF Pictures about co-producing “Mahjong and the West” which is in production now in Jackson, Wyoming. BCDF has been successful getting films into the Sundance Film Festival, so I’m hopeful this will lead to #49 on this list.

34. Experience weightlessness (zero gravity) – I don’t know if there are any consumer options for this. I am told that it is pricey. I may get on a trapeze with some aerial dancers and experience zero gravity at the height of the swing.

35. Shake hands with President Obama – We probably won’t see him again in CO now that he won.

36. Eat onion rings at Holsten’s in Bloomfield, New Jersey – The last scene in the final Soprano’s episode.

37. Play the piano again – I plunk around from time to time. My music is amongst the junk set for purge.

38. Learn how to cook something new – I have to get out my rut! I did make a noodle kugel in the microwave, which turned out pretty well. I tried my hand at baking and made a couple sweet potato pies.

39. Try lutefisk again – I want to see if it is still as bad as I originally remember it. I found out from a Minnesotan that it can be had by mail order around Christmas time.

40. Organize a party and invite people not in my usual social circles – Who wants to attend? This will likely be a Cole Addition reunion of my Fairview Elementary School friends at the Cole Pool probably during Cheyenne Frontier Days.

41. Make amends for something that’s been bugging me for a long time – There’s one instance in particular…

42. Drop what I’m doing, buy a cheap airplane ticket to where ever and go – This will be ‘go with the flow’

43. Get back to writing thank you notes and not thank you emails – My mom would be proud of me.

44. Grow a plant from seed – Anyone have any good heirloom tomatoes?

45. Learn another language – I should just learn Spanish and Japanese better. My progress so far? When in San Francisco, I picked up a pack of hiragana and katakana flash cards. I read a newspaper from Ecuador to see how much I can figure out before google translating. I’d rather be more intentional about the Spanish, but I learned from immersion, so I’ll brush up by immersion.

46. Stay analog for a week – Easier said than done – how did I ever get along with internet? I accomplished this last week. It amounted to listening the the radio instead of television, facebook, mindless internet surfing; I made a reservation after finding a number in the phone book and called on the land line. Read a book made out of paper referenced above in number 31. I took hard copy directions trying to find Daniel’s new digs near Taos and compared them to the iPhone gps. Out in the middle of nowhere, the written directions were more detailed and the gps missed one of the turns. I’d say my work flow has changed. I was unable to abandon business email and cell phone calls; a few personal texts and a game or two of Words With Friends but other than these analog departures, it was a quiet week.

47. Walk more – I sit in front of this monitor too much. I went on a short hike the other day, which got my blood flowing at altitude. I walked the 2014 Bolder Boulder 10K. I was not sure how far I would make, but after the first mile, I knew I would finish the entire route.

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I rode the Cyclone in Coney Island.

48. Go to the amusement park – I’ve been wanting to get to Lakeside in Denver and ride the Cyclone. I rode the Cyclone at Coney Island. The problem with the modern amusement parks, is it costs too much to enter, like the Elitches in Denver.

49. Get to the Sundance Film Festival – The weather is always so bad and I have a place to stay.

50. Roll down a steep sand dune – coming back from Taos, a stop at the Great Sand Dunes National Park was made. After a short hike, I rolled down for about 40 seconds. Even being on the ground, my equilibrium was messed up and I lost orientation and had to self-arrest midway. Abby and Diana indulged me on this stop. Not knowing what to expect, I’m happy I chose the front side “blue” run, rather than the backside “black diamond”.