05 October 2009

My Life (So Far; More or Less; the Short Version)

[I’ve realized that all of a sudden I’m reconnecting with old friends I haven’t had contact with in decades. I’ve also met some great new people recently (frequently on our travels), yet don’t want to bore anyone with my story. So here it is for those who care to read and know more. For a reader, that’s the great thing about writing – it’s an optional medium; no one has to read the words I write.]

I was born within 20 miles of New York City, on the Jersey (“Joisey”) side of the Hudson river. In 1955, at the age of five, I had no choice but to move to California with my parents. You’d think they would have given me a vote. Except for a year each (in the early 1960s) in Spokane, Washington; Tucson, Arizona; and Tokyo, Japan, I lived in SoCal until 1988.

After graduating high school in 1968 (“The Year That Changed Everything,” according to Newsweek in November 2007), I married (and divorced) a couple of times, never had any kids, and had jobs (in generally the same chronological sequence and level of interest) of newspaper printing/distribution center; industrial plumbing warehouse and then outside sales; advertising agency; magazine advertising sales; magazine editing. In the mid 1970s, I began technical rock climbing and mountaineering, a passion that stayed with me for a decade, and that led to my interest in other outdoor sports.

I went to Junior College (“high school with ash trays”) right after high school, but didn’t have the discipline to stay with it. Nonetheless, even without a student deferment, I avoided the Vietnam war. But in 1980 I had a bad climbing accident; I was in a dead-end job; and I’d just been dumped by my girlfriend (over the phone, no less). It was time for a big change, so I went back to college and graduated in 1984 (yes, “that” year) with a degree in Communications.

When I left California in 1988, I was doing quite a bit of freelance magazine writing and photography, and upon getting to Durango, Colorado, I was able to connect with the organizers of the first-ever Mountain Bike World Championships. I wrote nearly a dozen articles about the event, for local, regional, national, and even international magazines (Canada and the UK). I continued to make my living from freelance writing for several years.

Durango was an incredible mountain town. When I arrived it was a true community – with a vibe, an attitude (in a good sense), and an outdoor spirit that sucked me into downhill and backcountry skiing, trail running, whitewater paddling, mountain biking, hiking. I eventually even raced mountain bikes a bit – in the “slow-old-fat-guy’s division” – and did fairly well. I also became very involved with the local Search & Rescue team. I loved being in the mountains, and S&R was a way to give back to the community. I also regained my marketing roots, and spent most of my years in Durango as a marketing/advertising/branding/PR consultant.

But after 19 years, the greed and growth of Durango finally took its toll on me. In 2004, in my mid fifties, I finally met and married a mentally healthy woman (maybe it took that long for me to realize my part in the equation). We moved to north-central Washington state in 2007, looking for someplace small, quiet, and very rural. It took us about a year to realize that we had gone too much to the extreme, so now we’re trying to come back to center and relocate near a lively small town (there’s no town where we are now, and even the small town somewhat nearby has services but isn’t a community). So hopefully by Thanksgiving we’ll be living in Port Townsend, Washington, over on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a small community that reminds me of Durango 20 years ago, but with a much older demographic (which is good, as we’re older, too). We’ll initially be sampling the area as part-timers, as our house here on the east side of the Cascades hasn’t sold yet. It’s a beautiful, unique piece of property, but it will take the right buyer.

We’ve been trying to be semi-retired here on our 11 acres on the edge of the National Forest, and not really liking it (the retired part). We spent quite a bit of time attempting to create a web travel publishing enterprise, but it just never grew wings. Currently, I’m writing a couple of books: one is a thriller/mystery that’s about half finished, and the other is a food/cooking book tentatively called “The Cooking School of Life.” When we get relocated to Port Townsend we have plans to open a gourmet food/cheese store or an art gallery – too many diverse interests in life.

Along the course of my journey, I’ve traveled a bit, including everywhere in the U.S. (except for the South); skiing in the French alps; hiking in Scotland; the castle-museum-city-overload trips through London, Amsterdam, Prague, Paris, Vienna; hiking in Austria, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic; skiing in Canada; and seeing a few places in the Caribbean (including an incredible trip to Cuba for three weeks in 2002).

I’ve finally gotten to the point in my life where I don’t think I have any “regrets” – we make our choices and live with them. So while there aren’t many “things” on my bucket list, there are a couple of world destinations I refer to as “When-I’m-90-I’ll-wish-I’d-seen-them” places. Thus, my bucket list is about travel, and currently the specific places on that list are: 1) China – especially the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors. 2) Ancient Greece – the birthplace of Western civilization. 3) Africa. My wife, Francesca, was lucky enough to go on a three-week art safari (she’s an oil painter) two years ago. I’d love to see the Serengeti and the sands of Namibia, and meet the friends she made in Malawi. 4) The northern lights from Scandinavia. 5) The Swiss alps – both summer hiking and winter skiing.

This story will continue to change, as will I.