Sunday, November 09, 2014

...And On The 7th Day...

(part II)

I lifted the lid slowly and, as the light hit the golden lacquer on the tubes, I imagined how an absent husband must feel when about to explain his absence. I lifted the flugel horn from the case and was delighted to find the valves unfrozen. I attached the mouth piece and let the horn have its revenge on me.

The chops weren't there. Like an athlete who hasn't trained in a long time, the muscles we horn players call our chops were not ready to take the field. A whiny, thin tone, lacking in overtones, dribbled out when I blew in. The range I was able to navigate was narrow and my fingers seemed to say, "Really, Dick? After all this time?"

I lasted only several minutes before my lips tingled and I had to put the horn back to bed. 

Jump ahead several days....


I had stuck with it and had finally built up the nerve to take out my true ax: the trumpet my parents had purchased for me about 60 years ago and which had survived 3 refinishes, a few dent repairs and travels with me to SE Asia. The horn I had used when I sat in with some of Jackie Gleason's musicians and other groups. Memories started to flood back into mind. By now the chops were amazingly agile. Muscle memory  and brain-muscle connections so often used in the past proved to be hard wired.  

My range increased as I worked through my collection of first smaller and then larger mouth pieces. Soon, I was using my Bach mouthpiece with the deep bowl that gives those rich overtones. Soon, my fingers did their job without thought. I had, as we say in kayaking, gone from conscious stumbling, to conscious capabilities that level of unconscious capability that allows one's thoughts to magically come out of an instrument as jazz.

The sound filled the house as I thought the thoughts that came out as scat out on the water. Now, as in the days of old, they emerged as sounds racing through unnamed chord changes. Thoughts became sound and, before very long, I was actually hearing the sidemen running along beside me in a satisfying catharsis of jazz. And I remembered. I remembered how some of us once had decided what the bible should have read. For we, the lovers of jazz, knew that...
(will be continued if I can find somewhere to jam or sit in).

Paddle safe...

Friday, November 07, 2014


(part one)

Thinking of it now, it had begun a few days ago when Jeff and I were heading in after riding waves along the wall and negotiating the slop in the outer harbor. He commented that I must have been enjoying the paddling as I had a huge smile on my face. It was news to me. 

In fact, for the proceeding several moments I hadn't even been in my kayak; at least not mentally. I had been in a revelry where I had been experiencing a jam session. I was on trumpet and could actually hear the throbbing of the upright bass (not electric, please) and the driving sound of the drummer. It's always been that way with me. I begin processing a tune in my head and before I know it I am taking rides and hearing the side men as if it were all actually happening. In fact, paddlers have told me that I am constantly singing scat while paddling, although I am generally not aware of my actions. So, on Wednesday evening, while at my men's group, I decided to talk about all this during my work round.

I apparently did more than talk as I described the above. Suddenly, I realized that these men (who knew me as well as any in the world) were looking at me as if a stranger had joined the discussion. "What?" I asked. As it turned out, they had no idea of my attachment and love of music happened again...I had apparently been scatting and making the sounds of the entire rhythm section as I "spoke" about it. It soon became apparent to them that I not only missed my music (read: Jazz) but loved it deeply. It was time (it somehow got determined) that I revisit that part of my life. So, I took a stretch. I promised (myself) that I would work with one of my instruments at least five out of seven days each be continued

Paddle safe...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Doug Winter

Still missed by friends

It seems as if it were just yesterday when we messed around in boats.

Doug (far left) was our friend, a kayaker, a fine teacher of children and...above all...a fine decent guy. 
After all this time he is carried in our hearts. His name is spoken often in our circles. 

Paddle safe...

Monday, September 08, 2014

And so it goes

And so it goes...

As usually happens in this latitude, the summer has gone by swiftly and the Big Lake (Michigan) is starting to cool down from the night temperatures. I am back to lecturing at the university (UWM) and find myself reflecting on the past 4-5 months.

I paddled a good deal and found someone (Jeff) who is both a colleague (ER Doc) and someone with a schedule that allows him to paddle during the weekdays.

I had a tough experience with some of my training goals and am still resolving medical issues around all that.

The two symposiums (DKSKS & GLSKS) were wonderful experiences. Teaching continues to be my passion and got to do that on my own and with Sherri and Danny and other wonderful instructors from whom I have carefully stolen some excellent teaching techniques.

I am presently searching for something long and lighter to replace my Cetus MV as I most often paddle alone and have a short carry to the launch site. To fund this I would need to sell one of my Greenland boats (I have a SOF and one I built from a Mark Rodger's kit). I will hold on to my old Romany for teaching a lot of short paddles.
I need to hook up with some local traditional paddlers as I do not like to be on the water alone in boats that cannot be wet exited or in which it is difficult to do so. The weather (and water temps) is ideal for the Tulik.

I am grateful for the blessings that have allowed me to be active at my age and to do so with so many wonderful folks.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sunny Side Up

I Don't Give Medical Advise (anymore)

While in practice I tried to keep up with new discoveries in nutrition and diet and learned long ago that low vitamin D levels (common in northern latitudes) were associated with depression and may be part of the cause of SADs (seasonal affective disorder...treated with bright lights). I did blood levels on several patients who complained of depression and found low Vitamin D levels in their blood. On therapy their levels rose and so did their moods.

Now, a new study indicates that upping levels of Vitamin D helps treat (remove brain plaques) in Alzheimer's Disease. Perhaps that 5,000 units a day (which raised my levels to normal) is why my brain is so excellent at my age [(my wife (and others) would disagree].

Perhaps, too, it is the sun exposure and production of the vitamin that makes paddlers so happy. (BTW: Vit. D is fat soluble and requires some fat in the tummy to be absorbed well).

But you didn't hear it from me.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Healing Has Begun

After the experiences of the past few months I came up to the Door County Sea Kayak 
Symposium with my main man, JB. There I met up with Sherri, Jeff, Robin, Kelly and a whole bunch of kayaking colleagues from around the Midwest. My schedule turned out to be ideal. Nancy, (Da Boss) was kind to me.

Friday morning I taught a forward stroke class with master Danny Mongo...from Werner Paddles...and we danced...and the students improved before my eyes.

Friday after noon and Saturday am I taught a progressive boat control course and, again, I saw remarkable progress among the students.  Saturday afternoon I taught rolling. 2 of the 3 hit rolls in the first half hour.

Sunday morning was for surf which didn't occur, but Danny, Sherri and I put together a land and on water presentation with great results. In the afternoon I did a one on one rescue lesson that went well.

Being back in the game and among wonderful people (and no caffeine) has had a huge effect on my health, both physical and mental. I am grateful for that and for the kind support of those in my life. I am blessed.

Now, onto Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium and cold water.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

I recently thought the end was in sight...

I was experiencing mental illness....

A little while ago I had the opportunity to do some teaching at a kayak get together.Those of you who know me and my passion for teaching will understand how painful an experience it was when I tell you that I screwed up some of my stuff. It was worse than that. I screwed up things I knew how to teach and had taught (well) before. Even worse, I knew it was going badly and (worst of all) I had no idea what was wrong.
My fellow instructors were also aware of my plight and equally confused about my sloppy work. I, too, was confused, disappointed and (I must say it) a little ashamed. I could see the disappointment in the eyes of my colleagues, especially one who asked, "Where did that come from?" He appeared sad for me, and I could not answer. Mentally, I was out to sea.

As if that were not enough, while rehashing and agonizing over the event I began to develop other problems. I started to fall asleep every time I sat down to watch TV, even if it was the morning news. Then, I would wake several times during the night, finally be sound asleep at 1 or 2 am and then want to sleep in each morning. My thinking was slow and I felt a tad confused and depressed. What the hell, I wondered, was going on, In spite of doctoring myself and having a fool for a patient, I repeatedly reviewed the events of my teaching and the present symptoms but could not tie them together. I felt like hell, did not know why I had screwed up so badly and was concerned about my mental state. Then I asked myself a question I would have asked my patients in a similar situation, "So what changed before you went to teach?" I had not started any meds, inhaled gasses or done anything else except....whoa, wait a minute. 

The week prior to all of this I had seen a doctor who (for reasons not to be discussed here) recommended I cut out coffee or go to decaf. Well, I went cold turkey a day or two before the kayak gathering....and....I suddenly wondered if that might have anything to do with what was going on. So I Goggled " Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms". ...And a whole load of references came up including....

Results of the Johns Hopkins study should result in caffeine withdrawal being included in the next edition of the DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered the bible of mental disorders,

I could not my eyes as I read about the symptoms which included: problems sleeping, sleeping during the day, loss of mental sharpness, etc.

I was amazed, surprised and (for the first time in several weeks) hopeful. No excuses, but I had a plausible reason for what happened, and it something about which I can do something. I am presently working on a plan to reintroduce some caffeine and to gradually back off. I guess I am like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. I'm not crazy. Only, in my case, my mother didn't have me tested.

I wish to hell I had chosen another time to go off coffee.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Looked Into The Mirror Today...

I looked into the mirror today and I saw a kind man.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw an honest man with integrity.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a compassionate man.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a man with a work ethic.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a humble man.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw an unpretentious man.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a man who is always willing to lend a hand.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a man who cared about and for animals.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a man who put little value on appearance and wealth.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a man who knew his limitations.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw a man who has fathered as best he could.
I looked into the mirror today and I saw the man I have always aspired to become.
I looked into the mirror to day and I saw a man with eyes getting misty because...
I looked into the mirror today and I saw my Father.

Paddle safe...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Looking v. Seeing

Tuning Your Radio

When teaching young doctors to hear the very low-pitched S3 sound a failing heart makes I have to tell them to "tune" their ears the way they would a radio. The sound they want is like 620 AM (WTMJ in Milwaukee) and will be missed if their ears are "tuned to 1120 (WISN in Milwaukee). Something akin to this seems to happen with eye balls, the brain, looking and seeing. 

People will walk about a wooded area and look at something like this:
But if they "tune" their eyes , they will eventually "see" this:
One of the best ways to get someone to see this way is to hand them a camera. Suddenly, they slow down and look carefully at what is around them. Slowly and with practice new possibilities arise. Soon, a scene such as this
which, at first, appears chaotic and of no special interest...after closer examination becomes...
Folks often look at my 11 x 14 black and white fine art prints and ask if that is how a scene really looked. I answer, "No, that is what I saw." So, slow down and turn your looking into seeing. There is a magnificent world out there waiting for your attention. Don't have a camera? Have trouble slowing down? Try a kayak.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Meet the Paddler

Jeff Adler

Jeff is a Coastal ACA certified sea kayak instructor living in the Milwaukee area and paddling with the Milwaukee group. Married with two kids, he spends his nights as an Emergency Room Physician at one of our premier hospitals. I last saw him a few hours ago when a group of us went out onto Lake Michigan.He was in his clean, shiny Romany; but he sometimes shows up in a Nordkapp. 

Quiet and soft spoken, Jeff shows excellent judgment and, as one would expect of someone in his line of work, calm in the eye of a storm. He is observant, able to explain things well and constructive in his methods of teaching. I, for one, feel he has my back when we are out together. If you see him, introduce yourself and feel safe going out with him or taking instruction from him.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, May 01, 2014


Student centered learning

(Well,, duh)
I found this online (wish I could acknowledge the source): 

These methods include active learning, in which students solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during class

I am thinking that this is what I have thought of as the Socratic method, one that I have always used in the classroom and on the water. For me, it means engaging the student with questions and invitations to ask their own question and add their input. In fact, I usually state near the beginning of classes that "I expect to learn something from you all today". The give and take keeps them and me engaged and on task. 

Teaching someone to teach can be a difficult task.. A (would be) teacher needs to bring a desire, no a passion, to teach and take joy in seeing his/her students succeed. This, in turn, requires us to check our egos at the door as it isn't about us. 

I remind myself of this over and over again as I work to improve my teaching. While doing so, I need to be careful of the yard stick with which I measure success. While I wish to succeed at teaching I only do so when my students succeed.

I once took a writer's course where I learned the old adage, "Writers steal. Good writers steal a lot." So, when co teaching I often choose to be the assistant in order to observe and steal the other instructor's techniques. Heck, that's how I learned do cardiac catheterization. As with my  professional procedures, when teaching on the water I can see parts of what I learned from all my instructors and colleagues. In the end my hope is that those who learn with me benefit from that approach.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, April 06, 2014

I've Been Skewed...again!

So, After waiting over a year, I received my new NDK seat and installed it (thanks for the help, Leslie) into the boat. I rolled a bunch of times in the pool, and the "glue" didn't hold. A week ago, in spite of low temperatures, I redid the seat. The garage was cold, and I did not expect it to hold. Today, I had a nice paddle and, sorry to say, it held. Sorry to say because it appears the seat is a bit angled to starboard.

Displaying IMG_20140406_124944776.jpg

The boat is lighter than my Cetus MV (easier for these old bones for carrying) and quicker on the turns (great for teaching). So, do I wait for it to fall out, break it out and start over or trade it in? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I lost my eye!

I may Have Lost My Eye
No, this isn't one of my April fool's day things.
It was a very long time ago that I fell in love with photography. I loved both the science and the art (explained decades later when I had certain brain evaluations; but I digress). I bought a little camera from a local pharmacy while in grade school and evolved from there.

At my peak I was into 4x5 fine-art B&W work and was studying with the likes of John Sexton (he's the one who prints Ansel Adam's negatives). He took some of us to meet Ansel's widow and see Ansel's darkroom. (But I digress...again). I would lug a 45 lb. pack along with a heavy wooden tripod. I loaded my own sheet film for the view camera. Most times, I never took out the camera; I just looked. It was all about seeing or, as Ansel called it, pre-visualization. I would stop once in a while, set up the tripod and put my chin where the camera would go. That let me see what the camera would see and decide if I had a viable image.

I would move that tripod around endlessly and often end up deciding it wasn't a worthwhile image. Most days, I never clicked the shutter. I never even took out the camera.This was all part of the art or the right-brain process. Finally, and not very often, I would see the image and find the spot for the tripod. Only then would the camera come out and, from then on, it was left-brain science (calculate exposure, zone development times, swing movements on camera, lens length, etc.). But back to the art.

As a photographer I learned to look. More importantly, I learned to see. I saw the world around me as never before. I noticed the epic and I noticed the details and, when everything was just right, I photographed them and then struggled for hours in the darkroom to produce a worthy image. Once in a great while I succeeded, even entered some jury art shows. Then the digital age descended like a cloud over photography.

I got PhotoShop and did some pretty stuff; but it was never the same again. After all, I could click away without wasting film and depend on the "even a blind chicken gets a kernel now and then if it keeps pecking" principal. Everyone was suddenly putting up "pretty" pictures with too much saturation and too much contrast (in my judgment). HD, something that was magical chemistry in the darkroom was being done right in the camera, even when the clicker in charge had no idea what that meant.

Pretty soon I was a megabyte-clicker, the back pack with the view camera began collecting dust and my wife gradually turned my huge darkroom into a storage area. That's when I realized that I had stopped looking at the world with the eye of a photographer. I no longer saw things I used to see, and I realized that I had lost something. I had lost my eye.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Time to Leave My Mistress?

I suspect it is all too common a story that always ends with the same painful question: When do you cut her lose? (Warning, this post also contains references to polygamy).

It started in the usual way. I saw her, fell head over heals and instantly knew I had to have her. We started out with all the excitement of any new relationship and gradual grew together becoming as one. We learned one another's habits and limits and found ways to react in a good way thus avoiding (most) uncomfortable situations. When things did go awry, we sought expert advice and learned from the experience. After a while we settled into that comfort of knowing one another and anticipating each other's moves. Things were good/stable for a while.

Then I saw Her and it was love at first sight. don't get me wrong, I still remained committed to my vows but had to have another. I guess, although it was an "unofficial" relationship, I became a polygamist. In any event, that triangular group worked out amazingly well (and still does) as I divided my time between them and treated them both with respect. They, in turn, seemed fine living together, even though our quarters were small and close. Things were again back to baseline guessed it, I saw another HER!!

To make a long story excruciating, I got another her (and another) to join my growing family. I need to mention that the last few were different from the others. They did not speak English and, well, they looked different. So different that even a casual observer would notice. Still, things got back to a new baseline and life went on... until recently.

The "trouble" is with the two newest "mistresses". I am getting on in years and they seem to have stayed young, at least younger than me. They, of course, want to get out more and, when we do, they require more from me. I'm not ready for the rocking chair by any means, but I can't keep up with these younger ones like I used to...even though I still love them dearly. So, I am faced with the inevitable question: "Is it time to let my mistresses go?"

I suspect it is and I feel obligated to know that they will be taken care of when they leave. They have only known my touch and kindness, and I don't want anyone to hurt them. They must, I know, be with someone who understands them and knows how unforgiving they can be when treated unkindly. To be honest, they can be dangerous and, when they are, difficult(if not impossible) to escape. So I have an obligation here to screen and even warn any suitors before severing these relationships. I never expected this moment to really come or realize how hard it would be to part with my Eastern and Western Greenland kayaks, one of which I built myself from a kit.

Paddle safe...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hi...My name is Silbs
My name is Dick.
I am a paddler.
Specifically, I am a kayaker.
I am writing this because I am addicted to paddling.
I hope that this might help someone with a similar problem.

It wasn't always like this. Long distance running, sailing a 42 foot cutter and Judo filled my physical needs for over 50 years before a fractured disc cut a nerve and I lost a good deal of the quadricep muscle in my left thigh. I was suddenly robbed of all the activities I so loved (and didn't realize to which I was addicted) and began sitting in a chair. That's when depression started creeping into my head. I turned to every exercise machine I could find until/ One day, I found myself on a rowing machine...indoors. As I tried to get into the zone(I couldn't) I realized that I could be outdoors doing this.

How about sculling? There is a club here in Milwaukee and they have a boat house on the river. But that is only part of the year and, well, I don't want to go backwards. To make a long story short, I ended up taking a intro to sea kayaking course (which I now teach) at Rutabaga (that den of evil and tantalizing distractions). They say you can be an alcoholic and not know it until you take that first drink. Turns out, I am genetically a kayakholic (my DNA test show I have 4 of the 5 genes).

Within weeks I had bought a boat and went out with my smattering of skills (typical behavior for someone with this disease) and was treated kindly by my Higher Power and paddlers who gradually took mercy on me and became friends. Soon my garage was filling with paddles, kits to build boats, smelly neoprene and other things that began endangering my marriage. Alas, I ignored all the warning signs. I did not seek help. I did not tell anyone that I was hooked. I just paddled and paddled.

I was able to conceal my problem until recently when unusually cold weather and lots of ice conspired to keep me off the lake.

My name is Silbs and I am a kayaker It has been several weeks since my last paddle. At night, when my wife is asleep, I scan the internet for kayak sites, especially ones with pictures...especially close up pictures. I recently have begun noticing that I like sites with boat kits and pictorial videos. I sit hypnotized as pieces of naked wood take on the sensuous form of a kayak and then...OMG, forgive me...this is the best part...a brush of lacquer is s l o w l y drawn across the deck which responds with a deep luscious tint that causes me to stare with lust. 

I know I would be better if I could just go out on the lake. I cannot. I cannot make the ice go away...only my Higher Power can do that. So I sit at my computer, look at pictures, imagine owning all those slender sea-going vessels and write drivel like this. Please don't hate me.

Paddle safe...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Old v. Elderly
There are too many cliches regarding getting old ("don't complain, it is not a privilege everyone gets..."). It happens to us all every second and we have clocks and calendars to keep track of the unrecoverable moments of our lives as they slip by. Okay, no complaints there. After all, there is nothing to do about it. We all get older and eventually meet some vague criteria that says we are old. Some folks are old at 85 and others at 50, all depending on how they live and how their health holds up.

Recently, I injured a tendon in my left leg and have had a limp and pain ever since (yes, I have seen a real doctor and am going back in a few days for follow up). This malady has kept me in pain and, worst of all, sitting long after day. It even makes sleep difficult as there does not seem to be a position in which the pain does not occur. So what?

Well, to some I have been old for a long time; but not to me. I am out there kicking butt, showing up and being marked present. Now, however, sidelined by this injury, I feel old; and I sure as hell do not like it. I know, I am feeling sorry for myself, sitting around, looking out the window at dreary days and medicating with sugary foods. Terrific.

What to do? Well, firstly, I am doing as the doctor orders, hoping for relief soon and continuing to plan future activities...including kayaking and teaching kayaking. Matter a fact, I will begin teaching 2 lectures at UWM next week, even if I have to be carried into class. Finally, I am writing this piece to hold myself accountable to doing everything to stay in the game so I can help those young and old folks learn. After all, teaching is my passion and pain in 1 of 4 extremities is not an excuse to not show up.

Paddle safe...