Friday, June 30, 2006

Sometimes I feel like a nut...
This blog has been pretty heavy lately, and I thought it was time to lighten up a bit. After all, all thinking and no play.... So, JB and I headed out to Lake Nemahbin, about 35 miles west of Milwaukee where the water is about bath-tub warm. What we did there was what all children, adults, instructors, neophytes and experts do to lighten up. We played. So, with no deep thinking or philosophy, I offer a few images, fresh off the press from yesterday.
We begin with JB who, without his glasses, must rely on his sense of touch to find the little opening where his butt is supposed to go.
He eventually did find it, and he dropped in. Blame this on his Derrick-wannabee syndrome (

Having found the cockpit, JB glows in the discovery that he has not lost his tennis ball (referrence same site). NO inventory of marbles was made.

Just after this pic was taken, and his feet had been dangling in the water for several minutes, dead fish started to float onto the surface.

In our third pictorial, it appears that your's truly is demonstrating an elegant scull brace. And, perhaps I am. But can you really trust your eyes in this day of Photoshop. How do you know it is me and not a stunt double? Or can you be sure I am not in 2 inches of water with the boat wedged into the silt? Ah, yea of little faith.

But the piece de la silliness, is our man and his boat in perfect harmony as they become one with the water. Where's Waldo?

Paddle safe...and always have fun.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Next Movie

In hollywood (so I hear) they say one is only as good as their last movie. The inferrence, of course, is that one cannot sit on the laurels of past success and must continuially reprove their abilities. Every now and then, I get a comment on these blogs from friends and folks I've never met. Some have come from around here, some from Florida and the east coast, and most have been very kind. (It makes me wonder: If my blog can get all the way to Florida, what hope is there of containing the Avian Flu? But, once again, I digress). Having told you this, you may wonder how I manage the pressure of having to make yet another "movie". Well, now I have to reveal parts of another of the secrets of life.

In a writing class, a long time ago, the instructor began by saying, "There a three secrets to being a successful writer." We all sat up and put pen to paper, none wanting to miss this jewel. He continued, "...and no body knows what they are." The only other gem I recall from that class is writers write. Thing is, I don't think of myself as a writer.

Having rummaged around the planet for a while and having made a pile of mistakes, I've developed some thoughts and opinions. I have no idea if any of them makes sense or if any are even general. I only know what works for me. And what works for me is the old song that says, "It's all right now, learned my lesson well. Can't please everyone, so I gotta' please myself."

In abnormal psychology (way, way back a ways), someone said they knew what every mental disease was and asked the prof what it meant to be normal. The prof pondered and paced, then looked and us and said (get your pen, this is another one of the secrets of life), "A normal person is one who can live life by trusting his guts."

Another famous man (some guy who won the Nobel Prize in physics. This came up in our men's group last evening. And, I digress...again) said (and, I paraphrase), Why should I be concerned with what other people think of me? That is a huge piece of the puzzle, folks. A biggy.

So many people spend their lives looking good, pleasing others and doing what is fashionable. They are politically and every other way correct and, after a while (like an actor in a long-running play), they forget who they are. They lose sight of where they left off and the rolls they play begin.

Once, when climbing a leadership ladder, I got to a point where the powers that be said, "Not now." When discussing this with Lady Linda, she said, "I knew you wouldn't get it?" I smiled at her (murder is against the law) and kidded, "Ah, the totally supportive wife."

Without a smile or a missed beat, she answered, "I knew you wouldn't get it because you didn't go there to get it?"

"Really, then why did I go?"

"You went to tell them what you think of the whole thing, to give them a piece of your mind...And, from the way you look, you did just that, and you're now satisfied." And I was. As I sat there, I realized that I felt great. I realized that I felt like myself, and not the character who played the roll of climbing that ladder.

Later, when my mentor in the entire project asked if I was going to try again, I said no, I didn't want it. He asked me what I did want, and I answered, "What I have." (I will spare you the lesson of not looking out there for solutions but quiting one's self to hear the answer which is within and which you already know).

Last evening, talking with the wonderful men in my group, this entire idea came up, and I was talking about how content, unafraid and happy I have become. Erich, the man there who knows me better than any human on earth, gave me that look of his and said, "Sounds like you're done auditioning." What he said.

So, there is no next movie...and screw the critics. I am busy being me, and I am willing to share that. My job (mission) in life is to help and teach others in what ever way might improve their lives and, in turn, the universe.

Finally (you have to be exhausted. I am surprised you're all still with me...but I digress...again), in a small book I once wrote with the late Ron Hering (The Hand Book of Peak Performance), we made the point that there can only be 2 reasons to do something: 1, It serves one's purpose or mission in life or 2, It is good restorative fun that, in turns, helps one do #1.

Hence, this Blog.
Paddle safe...but don't spend all your life in a boat.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New, yes
Improved? We'll see

You've read it a million times in ads. First the product comes out and is touted as new. As the hooplah settles, it comes out again as new and improved. This continues on until something comes along that is "better" and that is touted as "new"...and we all just have to have it. But, is new better? For that matter, is improved better? Seems to me that sometimes older is wine (and Sharon, my daughters mother in law).

Old is almost a dirty word in our society. We often can't even say it and substitue words like obsolete or passe' or yesterday's or out- dated. We can't say it because in our minds old means useless, broken and...worst of all...closer to death.

The gadgets we buy are outdated by the time we open the box. We feel ashamed and uncomfortable if we find outselves in a crowd and we are not dressed in the latest style or fad. We confuse our needs with our wants to have the latest of anything...whether we have any use for it or not. ("No one uses those any more." Why not, they work fine?). Planned obsolescence, that's what it all is, and we do it with one another. Who, after all, wants to get old?

Who wants stiff achy joints and an ass that sags? Well, not a lot of people I know. On the other hand, I rarely have met an older individual (among well adjusted older individuals) who would want to be younger again. Sure, they would take back their younger bodies if that were possible to do, but they would not wish to relive the learning processes they have gone through to attain the life experience they now treasure.

Older folks tend to have fewer needs (other than medical) and a whole lot fewer wants than when they were younger. They also are less materialistic and only concerned with taking care of their true needs (food, water, shelter, etc.). In addition, they generally have gotten their egos back in the cage, and think more of other people than themselves. That is why, throughout the ages and up until modern times, there have been circles of elders. That is why older age is the time for give back to the universe. That is why many societies (other than our's) venerate the aged and keep grandma and grandpa in their homes where three generations can live together and nurture one another.

Interestingly, because the elder are treated better in those "old fashioned" socieities, growing old is not as feared as it is in our society where we warehouse our aged and keep them out of sight (and, often, out of mind). It is a pity that so many of our children do not grow up exposed to the wisdom and lessons of their grandparents.

Enough, I made my point, at least in my mind. Everything, except arteries, gets better with age. Think about it, have you ever seen a new and improved sunset?

Come to think about it, the design of the kayak has barely changed in 7000 years.

Paddle safe.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

History in the making
I Was There
and You are too
(Disclaimer: What you will read and see here is of such excitement and historical importance that those with heart conditions and proclivities toward wide mood swings should consult a physician before proceeding)
First, let me set the scene. It was yesterday, a monday, an over cast day with a 6 knot north east wind that had the potential to increase to hurricaine force. The place, Lake Michigan, a body of water that has claimed lives and ships with impunity. Everything was in place that could evolve to disasterous conditions.
The young woman, in her mid twenties had never (that is correct, never) been in a kayak, yet she didn't hesitate to take part in what you will read here. It was my humble honor to have been present and to have assisted her only with words during her ordeal and triumph.
After dressing in borrowed clothes (thanks, JB, for the farmer Jane), and outfitting her with a heavy paddle and a boat (that is actually for sale), the hull was taken to the lake at the infamous and dreaded South Shore launch area where such greats as JB, Sherri M, Bob B, Greg F, Jennifer F, Jeff, Sue, Leslie, Joel and so many other greats have gone before (but, once again, I digress).
After the briefest of instructions, she was in the boat...just like that, as if she had done it a millioin times before. With relaxed determination on her face, she was pushed into the unforgiving (and sometimes highly polluted) waters, and the first picture was captured for the Historical Society's archieves:

As near as I can recall (you can imagine how excited I was at this point), I only gave her a few very basic tips, and she was off. I mean, she was paddling with the highly difficult and coveted forward stroke. Another picture saves the moment for history:

Well, dear reader, I will spare you all the exhausting excitement that followed, but know that in the next several moments this young person paddled (in, remember, those threatening conditions) that boat forward, then backward, then sideways. Before this historical event was over, she was doing sweep strokes. Yes, sweep strokes.

And now you, too, have shared in this historical, once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated event. If I have captured the true moment it probably seems as real to you as if you had been there. So, in a way, you have been part of this historical and mind-boggling event: The day my daughter, Tammy, took her first kayak lesson.

Tammy, you padle safe...and have the kayak home by nine.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Greg must be restless and bored this morning.

I've written about Greg before and how he is a can do guy. Well here he is in his basedment where he has taken some plans, some odd pieces of wood and fixings thrown out at his work place and some boards from a box store and about a gazillion hours of putzing until he made another boat. I envy his skills.

And not just a boat like the wooden ones and the skin on frames he's done before. This one is a strip boat with mixed woods and all sorts of details he thought up himself.

He tells me he dyed the deck lines to match the woods in his boat.

Every little fitting is done well.

And it floats and, much to Greg's delight, turns out to be fast.

But, as he paddled off yesterday to join the others at play, I knew he would wake to day and wonder, what can I build next.

Paddle safe


Sunday, June 25, 2006

There's Paddling
and then there's paddling
(and, you will meet the paddler)
A year or two again, after suffering through an unsuccessful day of "professional" rolling lessons, I approached Gary Simon and asked if he would teach me the fine art of the roll. Gary, a serious man, said yes, but I would have to agree to his terms (not surprising since the man had retired from a successful law practice). I agreed (not surprising since I really wanted to learn h0w to roll). In essence, we made a contract.
Among Gary's rules were a, short sessions (about 15 minues) and b, no practicing on my own between lessons so I would not develope bad habits. I agreed suspecting that he believed that no doctor would ever follow the rules dictated by some lawyer, and that no one who starts rolling lessons could ever keep from trying it out between meetings. But, hey, I am ex military, martial artist and (because I have a wife and 2 daughters) a man who follows instructions. Ater not very many short lessons, I rolled my Perception Shadow...not the easiest boat to roll.
Now, as you may recall, I was (prior to 8 years ago) a long distance runner with some marathons on my resume. It is an understatement to say that I loved running. How I discoveed kayaking and how I fell in love with it is another story for another day. What is germaine here is the fact that since givingup running (for reasons that will also have to wait for another day) I have gradually lost my aerobic conditioning. I have lost that feeling-fit feeling, and I don't like it one bit. I decided I needed to padddle harder and longer in order to get fit again. I tried, but some how it didn't happen. What to do? Time for another contract with Gary, if he would have me.
Now, you also need to know that in the past few years Gary has taken up racing. He rains hard and knows more about exercise physiology than most docotors I know. Hey, how many lawyers do you know who carry a meter to measure blood lactose?
Gary graciously said yes and mailed me his paper on the forward stroke (being a very literate man and clear thinker, he has written several items that lay out his methodical approaches to his ways of teaching).
Yesterday, I--in a romany with Euro paddle--met Gary--with a boat that looks like a sit-on-top-thong and a wing paddle)--met at Lake Nemahbin at 10 am. Using the same concise step-by-step way he had once explained rolling, Gary took me through the steps of the stroke he wanted to teach to me. He spent an hour with me patiently explaining, letting me try and specifically correcting.
Flash ahead to today. I haven't got it down perfectly and probably won't this year. But I have a new way to paddle (let go of the new tricks, old dog thing going through your mind), and I have that old feeling back.
I have come back from paddles, long ones, feeling tired, but I have never, until now, come back with that delicious (mild) soreness of having worked out and having used almost every muscle in my body. I sat around yesterday simply enjoying the feeling of having worked out and knowing that I again have tools to use on my own. Now, it is up to me to use what I remember about long distance training, createnine phoshpokinase, recovery and all that other scientific stuff to get back into shape. And, best of all, this is not a change in how I will kayak but, rather, an additional skill set to use throughout the sport.
Thank you, Gary.
Paddle Safe


Saturday, June 24, 2006


Integrity and


It started the other morning, the day I skipped writing because I had to be in Madison all day and needed to get an early start. And what better way to start the day than over coffee with JB? You see, JB is my mentor. He taught me how to kayak properly and he taught me how to teach kayaking to others. More over, he has been an endless source of ideas and, as this day, equipment. He had, as promised, brought along a patch of Gortex repair material with a self- adhesive backing. It wasn't very big (as you can see), but it would cover the 1/16th inch holes I was to drill in my bulk heads to allow pressure to equalize as the boat warmed and cooled. Anyway, this isn't about JB, or even Gortex. It is about me.

It started storming before I could leave the coffee shop, and I gathered up the back band (did I mention that JB had also brought along a back band for me to try) along with the almost weightless patch and made a dash to the car. The next hour found me focused on the intemittent and partly clear views between winshield whipper sweeps as I headed through the storm across I-94 toward Madison. As it turned out, the weather in Madison cleared so that I could teach an early morning and a late afternoon class. The day, which had started at 5:30 am, when I loaded my boat onto the car, eventually ended at 11:00 pm when I was home with everything stowed.

Jump ahead 4 days. I am sore from my physical therapy session and know I have no time to paddle. Aha, but I do have time to quickly drill those tiny holes through the 3 bulkheads (you do the math) and put on those nifty Gortex patches to keep water out. So, I go to the car, take out the back band (I know I already mentioned it) and reached for the patch I remember having tucked into the strap of the back band. It wasn't there.

No problem. I remembered (something my wife doesn't believe I can do) that I had, because of the storm, tossed the band onto the floor in front of the passenger's seat as I rushed to get into the car. So I searched the floor. Not there. Oh, oh. And it wasn't in any of the bags I used that day, nor was it jammed in the corner of the seat or in any of the mess (see last blog) in the back of my Blazer. I thought it through and decided that it must have blown away as I ran to the car. After all, it probably weighed .000001 grams and the wind was gusting into the forties.

But I had lost lost it, don't you see? And it had been a gift from a dear friend. How could I ever face him and tell him that?

No time. Off to the hardware store...never heard of the stuff. Call another place...nope, don't carry it. Search the internet...not the right stuff, not sure I am Googling it right. Failure. Shame. Damn, I am losing it (up here, in addition to the patch), and...and...and no two ways about it. I have to tell JB. As hard as it would be, I would have to be honest about with him, bite the bullet, take the hit, throw myself on the grenade and face the consequences. Why? Because, it was the right thing to do. I might be going senile, I might misplace little things (like a Chevy blazer in a parking lot), but I own my mistakes, and I am honest with my friends. (What did the guy once say? Integrity is what I do when no one is watching)

Not ideal, but I felt a bit better knowing I had made the right decision and would make the best of a bad situation.

But first I had to take Ansel, my faithful wonder dog, to the park for a walk. so into the Blazer, down the drive way and up your street. Damn sun, right in my eyes. Pull down the visor, the one with the CD holder on it. There, much better. I can see better now. I can see the road. And I can see the Gortex patch safely tucked under the strap of the CD holder where I (apparently) had put it, (knowing it was a precious gift) for safe keeping. The Universe had been testing me, and I felt good I had made the right decision.

Now, I have a boat with self pressure adjusting compartments, and I can live with myself again.

Paddle safe


Friday, June 23, 2006

Wisconsin...a maratial property state,
Self Expression

In Wisconsin, half of everything you own belongs to your spouse and half of their stuff is yours. Anyway, that's the take of this non-lawyer. Perhaps one day, when I have lots more time or want to write a book, I will go into this further and point out the realities of some of the finer points of this law. For now, however, we need only address the issue of garages.
This all came up for me when I recalled that one of the photography journals I read had a photo (what a surpise) contest. This particular and unique competition was to see who could submit a photo of the messiest darkroom. (I didn't enter because I assumed it was for amateurs, and I am a pro at messyology). This may seem off the point (here is where I elegantly bring it back to the point at hand), but it came up for me yesterday as I walked into our conjugal garage and noticed the inane blandness of Lady Linda's half.

Neat, isn't it? Even the garbage cans near the bottom of the shot appear to be at attention (do I see a cover askew on the right one? tsk, tsk). All is in order and, I can assure you, this pattern can be seen in her half of our bedroom closet. Sweaters together, shoes in a row, summer stuff on these hangers, etc..

Now, as you might expect, this neatness neurosis extends throughout her half of the house. The problem is that by my calculations her half of the house takes up about 88% of our living space (she is younger and probably studied new math. not to be ignored is the fact that her brother is a divorce attorney...but I digress...again). This results in the oft repeated phrases...that doesn't belong there...close the the drawer...where would you like this put...are you just going to leave this here...etc..

I know you can appreciate how a free spirit, like me, is made to suffer under such harsh conditions. And how, I wondered, do I take my stand, show my stuff, get my way and show my creative individuality? Pondering this, I realized that I have spent years messing up my darkroom and that these efforts have gone uncelebrated and not to forwarding the cause. Why do I say that? Because the damn thing is in the basement, and all Lady Linda has to do is close its door. Door closes, and I lose my entire persona. But wait, creativeness need not be confined to the basement. Besides, the photographer in me need not carry this burden of self expression alone.

The kayaker to the rescue, and an entirely new arena of expression is born: MY HALF OF OUR GARAGE. AHA!

And, as serendipity would have it, the work had already been done and has been waiting to be discovered. (Just now I heard a vacumn cleaner go on...good karma...I am penetrating her defenses)

I ask you, does this not say aloud, here lives a kayaker? Does it not scream to the world here lives a man not shackled by the norms of the masses?

Here is a man who claims his space and fills it, a man too above it all to be concerned with appearances. And, what a brave soul he must be to go boldly where no married man has gone before.

So, there you have it. It's my house too. It's my garage, too. And I will do with it as I please. This is where I take my stand and plant my flag (read crap). And...yes, dear, I won't go over the line onto your side. Paddle safe


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Here's a book about something we can all do...die!
(with apologies to Oprah and her book club)
Having discovered a few bucks burning a hole in my pocket and having a few hours to look about for something I didn't know I needed, I came across this delightful book on, of all things, death. The author, Buck Tilton, M.S., points out that most of us will die from one of ten common causes and that finding a different way to check out will leave your grand kids with some interesting stories to tell in your memory. He indicates that nature provides many more unique opportunities to exit this life in some spectacular ways.
The format is great. Each page has a title, and they are in alphabetical order. Some examples are Butchered by a black bear...Lit by lightening...Quenched by get the idea. There is then a small amusing sketch along with a quote from some famous person. An example..."You will not die because you are ill, but because you are alive." Seneca, First Century AD

Then there is a page of delightful info on that particular and unique way of cashing in. At the bottom of each page is a moral. Some examples:

Unlike most humans, toads can take a licking and keep on kicking. Or, on the page about cannibals: You never know who is coming to dinner.

Hey, people. It's a must read. The book is published by The Globe Pequot Press in Guilford, CT, and is available at Rutabaga in Madison, Wisconsin.

Now let's get out there and see what new ways we can come up with.

Paddle safe...the rules don't allow you to die in a boat (goes on your permanent record).


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

There will be no blog June 21 as I am away teaching.

Deal with it...and paddle safe...DS

Those Who Can...Do,
Those who Can't...Teach

The saying above is one we used throughout med school, internship, residency and fellowship. It was aimed at our professors who were, in our view, often pontifical and arrogant. You see, medicine has had, for decades, one traditional and didactic way of teaching. Unlike other graduate students who were treated as junior colleagues, med students enjoyed the rights of pond scum. During classes or on hospital rounds, profs often used a method of teaching we referred to as pimping (not the kind you see on COPS).

This method went something like this: The prof (in his long, flowing white clinic coat) would lead a bunch of us lepers onto the wards where one of us would present a patient's case to the group. The prof would then ask that poor bastard (the student or intern, not the patient) a question Einstien couldn't have answered. After saying we didn't know, the question would be endlessly repeated in different forms until the presentor was properly...and traditionally...devestated. This was tried on me during the first week of my residency.

I was asked, by the chief of renal (kidney) services a question about one of my patients. It was a good question, and I said I didn't know. He asked me another way, and I thought that it was a good teaching technique since it made me think. But, I still didn't know and said as much. He then began to ask again with a smirk on his face that alerted me to the start of a pimping session.

What I haven't told you so far is that I, unlike the other residents, had not just come out of my internship. I had, in fact, been away to Aerospace Medical School and then to Thailand where I did a year as a combat flight surgeon in F 105 fighters. Those were my people you may have heard about on the news ("captured...Hanoi Hilton"). Point is, I had been out in the world, was 2 years older than the other junior residents and had seen a slice of life I don't want to see again. The fear of being kicked out of a residency program seemed hardly threatening after scraping bodies off runways.

So, in my diplomatic way, I told the prof that I appreciated him making teaching rounds with us and that he could ask me that question until the cows came home. "Or," as I explained, "you could teach me the answer." (Which is why I was there in the first place).

The 2 students and the intern (under me) held their collective breaths, certain they were about to witness my summary execution. Instead, the prof, after staring at me for a while and seeing no fear in my eyes, launched into an excellent lecture for which I thanked him. No prof ever messed with me for the rest of my training.

Interesting, you say, but how does all this fit into the magic aura of this blog? I will tell you how.

In the sports I have done and do...kayaking, judo..., those who teach do so because they can do. And, there are no generals or "pimps". Students and teachers are colleagues and, other than certifications, no one "ranks" above another. There is no pimping, just collaborative teaching and sharing of knowledge.

When new students would come to our dojo to learn judo it was made clear that everyone, teachers and students, would show respect for one another. The Senseis (teachers), it was explained, wore black belts to indicate only that we were students just a little farther along because we had been at it longer. What a great atmosphere in which to nurture learning.

Before leaving you, I realize that today's ramblings may have infused you with fear over the competency and intent of doctors who have suffered such a learning experience and who, now in a position of power, might take it out on you. Well, in addition to the quote at the top of this piece, there is another saying you might want to know about.

The next time, as you are being rolled into the operating room and wondering if your surgeon is capapble, you will want to know how he learned to do the operation he is about to do all over you. The secret to learning an operation?

See one. Do one. Teach one.

Paddle safe...and sleep with one eye open.


Monday, June 19, 2006

CoSAS Syndrome
(A story of one man's shame)

This is a picture of my 3 children (pop quiz: Quickly now, which one do you think is adopted?). They appear to get along nicely, don't they? They even seem to be bonding well, although I am not sure if this is the shot where two of them got their braces caught in their brother's coat. But I digress.

These otherwise normal appearing children (2 of them, any way) have inherited CoSAS syndrome, transmitted by a sex-linked dominate gene. In other words, they got it from me.

For you non-geneticists, the full name is Cogenital Smart Ass Sarcasm Syndrome. It is surprisingly common, often goes undiagnosed and, therefor, untreated. It should be suspected to be present in children who exhibit smart talk, an ability to laugh at themselves and everyone else and the tendency to give shirts such as these on Father's Day.

CASE STUDY: Or how my wife, Linda, developed the original cure for this syndrome.

Go back about 16 years (before we adopted Ansel, the normal child). Back then, there was just Carri and her little sister Tammy. We were, we thought, a normal family...just like Ozzie and Harriet. Then it began, subtle at first, developing gradually until Linda and I had to face the reality that we (read I) had passed on the CoSAS gene. We should have seen it sooner, but at least we caught it early. Unfortunately, there was (at the time) no known cure.

I was wracked with shame. After all, I was the gene pool for this terrible affliction. More over, I was a doctor and should have known what to do. But alas, we sat, evening after evening, at the supper table while our daughters called each other Ass Holes. There, now you know. And, yes, it was the worst form of CoSAS...type III AH. What to do? Linda to the rescue.

She had her brother, a lawyer, draw up actual papers that were signed by a real judge (imagine what syndrome he had) officially renaming my precious offsprings AssHole #1 and AssHole #2. Armed and ready, we sat down to dinner. It didn't take long before the two potty-mouths started in.

It was at that historic moment that Linda whipped out the afore-mentioned papers and told those two that if we heard those words one more time the papers would be filed at the courthouse. From then on, she told them, they would carry those names like a scarlet letter and be called by those names by us, teachers and friends. We never heard them use those names again.

They continue to do well, although there are some minor clinical expressions of the genetic burden they carry. Now, Linda and I are off for gentic consultation. We can no longer live with the fear of not knowing the odds the gene being passed onto grandchildren.

Paddle safe...reproduce even safer.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It's Father's Day...
and It's Raining

There is something special, almost spiritual, about rain. We depend on its waters of life to sustain us, to nurture our plants and to fill our rivers and lakes. The talking heads on TV (they call themselves meteorologists, as if it were a science) spend as much time mis-predicting the occurence of rain as they do world news (Hey, this isn't rocket science. Rain is caused by washing your car). And we all react diferently to it.

Rain is the quintessential spoiler of picnics...for some. For others, it is that crappy wet stuff they have to run through in order to catch a bus or bring in the morning paper. It gets your good suit or dress messy just before you get to that imortant business meeting. And not let's get into what it does to our perfectly combed hair.

But, bitch and moan as some might, there are those of us who relish the precipitated moister that falls from the sky. Count me among them.

As a photographer, I can tell you that nothing diffuses light better than a steady rain, and the color saturation right after it stops is wonderful. And what could be finer than to be out paddling on a warm day and be showered with a refreshing rain fall?

Besides, rain is cheaper than antidepressants. It slows us down. It causes us to sit on front porches to...well, to just sit and watch. Like watching the waves crashing ashore or the licks of flames from a bonfire, there is something about rain that speaks to the soul...if you will just slow down and take the time to watch it.

Interesting, isn't it, how such low-tech stuff rivets our attention and imagination? It's hard wired into our brains. Not the neo cortex part that produces computers and digital cameras, but a "lower" more primitive brain. The one that connects us to earth, wind, water and fire. The part that connects us to the rest of what populates the planet, like the animals that forever seek the next water hole. How do I know all this?

I remember a time, in high school english, when we studied a poem. I do not remember its name or the details, and that doesn't matter. I remember its lesson. It was when I learned that rain can cleanse and wash away things I would like to be rid of.

The poem told of a horrible time during which bad things happened and people suffered. Just when it seemed things couldn't get worse, the bad things stopped, and the poem ended by saying, "...and then it rained."

I miss you Dad.
Paddle safe.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Different Strokes...

I taught a class in recreational kayaking yesterday.
It was simply wonderful to be back in a boat and on the water, and it didn't take long to forget about the back (which is 90+%). Pure joy.

I worked with Tom, a fine guy, who happens to be a white water paddler and was, as one might expect, in one of those little turn-on-a-dime rockets those guys use.

Interesting was the fact that white water people never use an out of the water recovery draw stroke. Makes sense. If you are shooting down a river, chances are you can' spare the time to lift the paddle clear of the water and ritually replace it out to the side.

And they don't do "emergency" stops the way sea kayakers do. If they do, the boat spins like mad with the first placement of the blade. Hey, that's what they're made to do. I guess they like to avoid those annoying big boulders lying midstream along the way.

I've been asked, isn't it boring to teach a group recreational kayaking. The inference is that it isn't real kayaking unless you are rolling, bracing in 5 foot waves or hurling your bod down a torrent of white water while wearing a brain bucket.

Truth be known, it is all kayaking...and all great fun for certain dudes. Yes, I like to take out my sking on frame and play Inuit with a stick paddle (it is 90 degrees and JB is out at Peewaukee Lake, so I have to rap this up. Think I am going to sit here and type all day?). But I also enjoy laying the Romany down on a side brace into a breaking wave on Lake Michigan or just paddling my wooden Arctic Tern at sunrise on an inland lake. I love it all, and the variety keeps the sport fresh for me.

So, no, it is not boring to teach recreational kayakers. Not when I see them enjoying it and wondering which ones will return for the sea kayak classes.

So, why are you still sitting there and reading this? Grab something that floats and get out there.
Paddle safe.

Friday, June 16, 2006

In The Arms of Morpheus

I forget the exact mythology and who Morpheus was, but I do remember the name made its way into modern nomenclature as the drug morphine. The expression, the arms of Morpheus, refers to being asleep.

Why we sleep and why we need to sleep is not something science fully understands. I remember how in escape and evasion school (in the Air Force, before going over to SE Asia) we were told that if captured we might not be tortured in the usual way (now, there's a cause of optimism). Instead, we were told, we would probably be awakened every time we fell asleep and that within a day or two we would tell them anything we knew. I had mixed reactions to this. As a doctor, I was used to being roused at any and all hours. My fear, however, was that (again, being a doctor) I had no state secrets to spill. But, I digress again. The important point here is the importance of sleep.

My personal theory is that at night, when we sleep, the left brain conks out (see previous blog on creative thinking). This frees the creative right brain from the bossy left brain and allows the right brain to play. Free of logical constraints, the right brain puts bits and pieces of our thoughts into all sorts of combinations we know as dreams. When this happens, our eyes actually move to follow the action. This phenomena, called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, can be detected by someone watching the sleeping person and knowing they are dreaming. Deprived of this REM sleep, we go nuts...and spill the state secrets we know.

That brings us to insomnia. Not the chronic type, but those once-in-a-while times when I spring awake for no reason and cannot get back to sleep. How frustrating to look at the clock and out the window and realize I don't need or want to be awake for another 3-4 hours. What is one to do at such a time?

I could read...don't feel like it. Watch an all news's yesterday's news. Movie? Nuts. Wait, I have it.

Misery loves company. I want someone to talk to or at. They don't have to answer...I prefer that they didn't. I just want someone upon whom I can dump my stream of consciousness while I wait for the morning paper and the eastern sky to lighten.

And, dear reader, if I had it to do all over, I would do it all over you.

Paddle safe...and sleep well.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

(Psychiatry 101)

What a beautiful day. What a great day for paddling. What a nice day to be outside. Too bad we can't paddle today, it's beautiful out there.

I hear this drivel all the time, and it makes me think, "That's what you think." Where is it written that sun and fluffy clouds and warm air = a nice day? No where, that's where. And, if you are like me, all that stuff is actually the antithises of a "nice" day.

There is a psychiatric condition called SADS or Seasonal Affective Depressive Syndrome. In brief, folks with this problem get sad or depressed during the winter when the days are brief and sunlight is hard to find. The idea is that this causes a drop in the "good feeling" hormones in the brain. Fact is, because of brief sun exposure and our skin being covered with coats, we produce less vitamin D...and that is also associated with depression. But to hell with all that, because there are also a group of us who don't quite fit the mold. We groove on cloudy weather.

I don't like the glare of bright light. I don't like to squint, it's too much work. And, I don't like the feeling of being in a furnace with the back of my neck on fire. Now, truth be told, we photographers (at least we black and white fine art photographers) hate sunny days. The brightness range of the light (range of difference between the whites and blacks) is too wide for the film to capture. Nice cloudy days, on the other hand, compress the brightness, eliminate squinting and leave one's neck feeling refreshed. Besides, I can always put on another layer when it's cool, but there is just so much the law allows me to remove when it is hot outside.

Still, I fight an uphill battle here. All you left brain, just-like-everyone-else folks like those pretty, brightly lit sunny days. It's so beautiful, I can hear you saying it now. And I say, looks are decieving. For example, would you like to paddle in the pretty "lake" shown below? Isn't the sunset beautiful? And inviting?

Fine, go for it. BUT KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE DEAD SEA WITH A SALINITY THAT WILL DISOLVE YOUR SHORTS. And, by the way, the folks over there in Jordan on the other side just might not have open camp spots. Trust me. Stick with the cloudy days.

Paddle safe


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Too much of a good thing is wonderful" Mae West
Power boaters and sail boaters claim that the two happiest days of their lives were when they bought their boats and when they sold them. This, generally, is a result of the bigger-is-better mentality of many boaters who end up with a craft that owns them as much as they own it. Something akin to this happens to me.
I got hooked on the sport quickly and set out to get a boat. I purchased a Kevlar Perception Shadow (no longer made in kevlar) with rudder and smart pedals...a happy day. I loved it. I even took it on a day trip to Port Washington in 3 -4 foot following seas. It was a great outing.

Now that I was real kayaker, I realized that I "needed" a more traditional boat. All it took was a check and a postage stamp, and boxes arrived at my home. I stitched and glued and assembled and produced an Arctic Tern...another happy day. Now I needed a rack for the garage so I could store my little fleet.

Things went well until Leslie coaxed me into trying her boat. It was shorter and had lots of rocker and turned on a dime. What fun. This was when I was starting to be interested in rolling and knew I "needed" a boat like hers. So off to the boat store to test paddle those fiber glass Greenland-look-alikes with hard chines. I was disappointed in them. Then, JB pointed out an old Romany for sale. What the hell, I tried it...and immediately fell in love with the way it handled. Another happy day. I added a hoist to my garage.

The Romany rolled so well that I got into Greenland style rolling using a stick. It soon became obvious that I "needed" a more traditional boat. So, off to Mark Rogers at Superior Kayaks in Two Rivers. A week later I arrived home with a slick new skin on frame boat...another happy day.

It was about that time that Lady Linda announced the code of the garage which proclaimed an imaginary line over which no boat, paddle, pump or anything else of mine was to cross. Mean while, my Blazer sat on the driveway exposed to the elements.

So I meditated, prayed, considered, debated and wondered what to do. Then I thought about what my wife had said, and fear won out. I needed one more happy day.

Know anyone else who could use a happy day? Perhaps the purchase of a Perception Shadow would do it. I know it made me happy.

Paddle safe.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

(Just shouting into the wind?)

This blogger rarely wonders who, if anyone ever reads this drivel, wisdom and data I put out most days. I suspect the same is true of newspaper people and authors in general. Hey, throw in radio people (although they do have ratings week). The point is, all this stuff gets done with no knowledge (and little expectation) that it will ever be seen by another human being. Why, then, bother to do it?

I remember an instructor in a writing class passing on to us the mantra of all writers:

Writers write.
I write because I am a writer. Same with photography. I studied with Ansel Adam's students and have boxes and boxes of mounted 11 x 14 fine art black and white silver prints stashed around the house. I have shown some in juried art shows, but most have only passed before my eyes and a few have been shown at workshops attended by like minded people.
I understand that some will view these acts as rather futile, dare I say artistic masturbation? (I dare and I did). Why write, paint, photograph or what ever if no one will ever see it?
The answer is simple and as above. Writers write. Photographers make photographs. Painters paint.
I remember a poster that proclaimed, "Doing a good job around here is like urinating while wearing a dark suit: it feels warm and no one notices." Maybe that's not the best analogy.
More simply and to the point, we write, photograph and paint because we have to. Most of us who do such things are right brained. That is, we think conceptually and cannot keep ideas from just popping into our minds, often at the oddest times. You see a young boy learning something from an instructor, and you see nothing more. I, in turn, see the reenactment of the mythology of an elder mentoring a boy to get him ready for initiation into manhood. What? you ask. Well, don't ask. It cannot be explained to you if it is not obvious because, chances are you are (like the majority of people) left brained.
You think step wise, logically, like a computer; and, when you get your conclusions, you can explain them step-wise and a computer.
I see the entire concept at once, in its entirety, like an artist; and, if you ask me to explain it to you, I often can't. I just see it and know it as it an artist. Then, I either take its picture, write about it or both. And, I let it go. It is done. It has been expressed, and I am on to the next thing.
The left-brainers will look at photos and analyze them and talk about composition and croping and contrast and the like. I can do that, hell I made the picture. Or, I will look at it, relive the joy of what I felt when I made the image and be satisfied.
When soemone looks at one of my photographs, they often ask, "Is that what it really looked like?" I, like all photographers, will respond, "No, that's what I saw."
Now, I feel satisfied. I have gotten down what formed in my mind this morning. I will hit the publish button, and this will go to the elctronic cosmos, just as my photos have gone to the boxes. Will anyone ever read this?
The real question is: will anyone else every read this? Fact is, the most important person just did.
Paddle safe.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bottom Line
Real Assets

The hours of enjoyment we get from our sports are precious. Something about it--be it kayaking, running, judo or climbing--calls us back, over and over, and leaves us with a satisfaction to be found no where else. What that something is that we get from our sport varies amongst individuals.

For some, it is the exercise, plain and simple. Others cherish the risk of hanging it all out and walking away whole. For another, it is a head game. For you...well, only you can say.

I have had the good fortune to experience many activities during my lifetime, and I have derived something from each of them. All that aside, what I've come to realize is that they all have had a common denominator, something that always left me feeling good to be a part of that particular activity. Even more, it made me proud to be among those in that activity. That common element is people.

Take kayaking (just because it is my present passion) for instance. There hasn't been anyone I have met in the sport that I have not enjoyed being with. There has not been a one who hasn't had something to teach me and, with rare exception, they have all been people with whom I am happy to associate and/or invite into my home.

I can't say why this is so. Perhaps crappy people don't like water, or sports in general. More likely (and this is only a guess), people interested in doing something for a challenge, people willing to learn and share experiences, people who find pleasure in simple things (things that don't bring fame and fortunate)...all these type of folks, in my judgment, tend to be of the what-you-see-is-what-you-get type. They enjoy what they are doing and have a certain level of self esteem and self image that frees them of the need to win or beat up someone else.

Still, they all bring their own personality, their own special interests and their unique ways to the game. Whether it is Jeff helping someone with technique, or JB teaching sea kayaking, or Gary teaching racing or fitness or Alan promoting environmental issues or even me running off at the cerebral cortex...the guys and gals in our sports are our best assets.

Paddle safe.