Familiarity breeds……………comfort.

So I got spanked last week on a mountain bike ride mainly because I am trying to get back into riding shape after a winter of skiing and hiking. The guys I ride with go all winter and are in good shape for the spring riding season. I will get there but not quite yet. But another factor for the spanking was the fact that we went on a familiar trail backwards. I hate to go that way because it is does not flow well and it is full of rutted, short nasty climbs. It is so much easier and flows better the way I usually go and going the way we did last week took me out of my comfort zone for a lot of reasons.
I tend to gravitate towards the familiar at times. Lines down ski slopes are also repeated until I feel totally comfortable. Now don’t get me wrong, I can handle the challenge of different routes on snow or on trails, but there are some routes that are comfortable, easy to ride, and allow me to relax and enjoy the ride and not be totally challenged with something with which I am not familiar.

So familiarity with the terrain breeds a relaxed approach and often I am comfortable with that. But other times I think to myself that at my age, I should challenge myself and not be complacent riding or skiing familiar lines. You don’t really learn much if you keep doing the same thing over and over. Riding mountain bikes should be challenging and skiing unfamiliar lines should be the same. By testing yourself, you can stretch your comfort zone and perhaps increase your technical ability.

There are times where I just want to cruise. But if you don’t challenge yourself, you can easily fall back into a rut where your pals are increasing in speed and ability and you are left behind. I don’t want that to happen so I force myself to ride and ski variable lines whenever the mood strikes me. I have to do it or I will be riding and skiing by myself. Young people challenge me. I tend to ride with younger folks and if I am able to hang on, I am a happy man. My ski group are my peers but they are fast and strong and if I don’t challenge myself, I won’t be able to hang with them either. So familiarity is not always a good thing.

Sport mirrors life don’t you think? As we age, if we tend to stay complacent, we don’t learn anything and are left behind. If you read fiction, try a biography. Try a new restaurant. Take a continuing education class. Go to a different venue for vacation. Meet new people. Have civil discussions with folks who are not of your political persuasion. Tough to do these days, but if we are to grow and survive, we need to listen and debate in a civil manner. Challenge yourself to listen to other opinions. Like a new trail, experiences in life can challenge you but when you come to the end, you have learned something. ” Hey, I found a new trail and it is great!!!” You perhaps have honed your skills and now you have advanced your repertoire.

People tend not to want to fail. I fall into the same category sometimes. But like skiing or riding, if you stop falling, you stop learning. I have reached a level of expertise where I don’t fall much, but when I do……it is a yard sale. But I pick myself up and learn from the experience. We are going to fail at things. But staying in the same familiar rut, doesn’t help anything. I struggle with this, but I know I have to expand the comfort zone. Where will I live someday? What does retirement look like? Keep moving forward, Pat. Here is to the unfamiliar!! Ride it for all it is worth. Thanks for reading.

The Great One

I always loved this time of the year when I was a kid. My dad would sign me up for baseball at the Berkeley Hills Fire Hall and I would wait for the notice to see what team I was on and when we started practice. The field was right across the street from where I grew up. As it turned out, I played catcher in minor league, little league, and pony league, and loved every minute. I even loved it when Mike Malone crashed into me on a crucial play in pony league. I tagged him, and I went ass over tin cups into the backstop and held on the the ball for the out. That happened to me a lot. Guys would love to come steaming into home plate and try to take out the catcher. The trick was to tag them and hang on to the ball. I couldn’t get enough baseball. A funny sideline was a number of years ago,I was helping coach my son’s baseball team and as I was telling my mom about my experience, she said,” What do you know about baseball? You never played baseball?” Just goes to show you she liked swimming meets better than baseball games. I made the all star teams and she never saw me play once with the ” tools of ignorance” behind the plate. We all got a good laugh out of that one. But playing catcher was wonderful and I tried to emulate Smokey Burgess behind the Pirates plate. He was stocky like me and could throw out a runner stealing second with little effort.
But the real hero in Pittsburgh was Roberto Clemente who played right field for the Bucs. My dad would take me to the games at Forbes Field and a special time was the Father and Son Baseball Nights at the University Club. I had to wear a sport coat and tie but got to meet all the players at the dinner before the game. They were all there signing autographs and I was in awe when I met the great Roberto. He was genuinely a nice guy and seemed to like meeting all the young kids and asking us about our baseball. My dad was not really a fan because Roberto had this habit of making basket catches below his belt instead of the standard method of catching a fly ball over your head and cupping the ball with your other hand. My dad called Roberto a hot dog but I knew better. He was……the Great One!!!

Roberto was more than a great player. He was a generous and extremely philanthropic person, and as I learned in later years, he made numerous trips to aid his fellow citizens of Puerto Rico who were victims of disasters or just plain poverty, and tragically died in a plane crash while getting supplies and food to Nicaragua after an earth quake in 1972. All of Pittsburgh was devastated and something died in me that day too as a senior in high school. As a young kid, Roberto was a hero to me and his life ended way too soon. I always held him close in my heart. Hockey may call Gretzky the Great One, but in Pittsburgh, Roberto will always be…….The Great One. I can still see him running down a sharply hit ball in right field, spinning around and throwing out a runner sliding into home plate. Smokey would field the rocket ball from right field and tag the runner and the crowd went wild. I can see it in my mind to this day.
So as the spring flowers start to bloom, the grass gets green, the temps moderate and the sun shines in Pittsburgh( yes it does happen), I think about baseball. Our PNC Park is one of the nicest fields in the country with our Pittsburgh skyline as the backdrop. There is nothing like sitting at the park on a nice summer evening and watching the Bucs play. Our Andrew McCutchen was not happy this year when he was moved to right field. My immediate reaction was that he should be proud to play the same position as Roberto Clemente did for the Pirates. When I see him now in right field, my mind drifts back to #21 playing that same position. Just recently Cutch was moved again due to an unfortunate incident with Starling Marte, but that is another story. But whoever fills that right field position, will be standing in some pretty big shoes. Some advice to the young players out there, only Roberto could get away with the basket catch. Get that glove up over you head, watch the ball, catch it and cup it in the glove with your other hand. Play Ball!!! Thanks for reading.

Q.D.L. ( Quality Days Left)

My friend Jeff Chetlin( pictured here front and center in the orange shorts) said to me the other day on a MTB ride,” Paddy- I want you to get in your Jeep and think about what I am saying. I want you to think about quality days left.” He said, ” Today is a quality day. Sunshine, a long ride with friends, beers and lunch in the parking lot sitting around on soccer chairs, enjoying each other’s company after a great ride ” That is a quality day.” ” How many of these days do we have left?”
I thought about that on the way home and as Jeff also said, we really don’t know how many of these quality days we do have left. He is ten years younger than me but still, we don’t know. I asked the same question basically to my ski crowd a few weeks ago. ” How much longer do you think we will be able to ski the chutes, rip GS turns, and ski at a high level comparatively speaking?” The general consensus was if we kept ourselves in shape, didn’t get injured( longer recovery at an older age), and nothing catastrophic happened, we should be able to ski like this into our 70s. We saw a guy at Snowbasin one year making beautiful GS turns on the groomers at high speed…..at 75 years young. So back to Chetlin. He has ideas on how he wants to utilize his QDL.

Jeff seems to think that he needs to someday soon move to Bend, Oregon to pursue his dream of maximizing QDL. In many ways, his environment dictates and contributes to his QDL. He is questioning whether he wants to spend the rest of his active years in Pennsylvania or make the move to his favorite place out west. We all currently travel to ski trips and mountain bike trips but aside from those great days, our QDL are currently here in the Keystone State. But in my mind- that is ok. All of our friends are here with the exception of a few, and life is what you make of it, right? So I thought more about it and asked myself in my Jeep, what do I think is a quality day? Well, I have this positive way of viewing things and really, every day is a gift. When we wake up and are blessed with another healthy day, it is a quality day to me. I know that the epic mountain bike rides with friends and epic ski days with friends are quality days, but I think about every day being a quality day. No matter the weather, no matter what the circumstances, if you are blessed with friends, a good work environment, and a wonderful spouse, you have quality days. A great quality day is spent with my wife Janet. We need to value each and every day because we have each other currently in good health.
We will always value each other no matter what, but we need to maximize that time together. I am sure that Jeff feels that way about his wife Julie who is his partner in everything that he does.
So, I can dream about quality days left out west in some great location. But currently I live in Pittsburgh and must make the QDL alive and well right here. Again, the travel QDL are important and always will be memorable, but days like we had last Saturday with our MTB crew, riding in the spring sunshine, sitting around and telling stories in our soccer chairs, and sipping a cold brew, that is a quality day for sure. How many do we have left? Only the Lord knows that for sure. But my goal is to make every day a quality day, no matter what the day presents. I know what Jeff means about life in Bend. And, he may attain that goal soon. But for the time being, I am looking forward to the Coopers Gap Epic Ride in a few weeks at State College with the Chetlins and looking forward to more fun times with my Janet in whatever we do. Thanks for reading and maximize your QDL.

Security in an Unsure World.

A long time ago, I rode my road bike through the Netherlands. A wonderful trip which included a visit to the eclectic city of Amsterdam. Resplendent with its canals and cafes it had an interesting vibe and an integral part of my visit was to the Rijksmuseum and the van Gogh museum. Now the sad thing was that I knew nothing about art as I took in the Rembrandt paintings and the students of Rembrandt on display in the Rijksmuseum. Making my way to the van Gogh museum I also felt extremely inadequate when I took in the art there. Although I have heard that art appreciation is in the eye of the beholder, it would have been nice if I had some semblance of understanding of what I was viewing in two of the most famous art museums in the world. What a rube I was. I was determined from that point that I would learn more about art.

Fast forward light years, I found myself last weekend in Charleston,South Carolina in yet another famous art community for the wedding of my friend Nathan Durfee.

Now I have known Nathan most of his life and as a young guy, he always impressed me with his love for the arts. He played the guitar and the cello and was very musical at a young age. It was apparent early on that he was talented and when he matriculated at the Savannah College of Art and Design, we all knew that this could be the start of something big. Little did we know how big! Among his achievements are Best Local Visual Artist – four years in a row by Charleston City Paper, Charleston Portrait Slam winner, and The Teatrio Cultural Association book award for his children’s book entitled “Hello My Name is Bernard”. Nathan’s paintings are an expression of his personality in that his subjects are whimsical characters who are faced with tough, universal decisions, conveying a sense of security in an unsure world to the viewer. Again, I felt inadequate as I wandered the Robert Lange Studios http://www.robertlangestudios.com for Nathan’s rehearsal reception. Nathan is one of the featured artists for Robert Lange and I made it a point on the trip to investigate more about Nathan’s art.

Another interesting part of the wedding journey to Charleston for my wife and I was our stay at The Vendue http://www.thevendue.com which is touted as Charleston’s Art Hotel. Among the many galleries within the hotel, there is an artist in residence studio where you can visit and see the creation of oil paintings currently by Fred Jamar.

Now Fred was born in Belgium and had a very successful career in the financial world. He has since retired and has taken up residency in The Vendue and is a very engaging person who is more than willing to show you his works and let you view his artistic ability as he paints. Janet and I were in awe as we saw Fred touch up a beautiful Charleston scene on his easel. The colors were magnificent and along with our marvel at the art work of our pal Nathan Durfee, my education in the world of art took a more modern turn as we made our way through the art community of Charleston. We learned about collaboration where two artists share their strengths and combine their art into one painting. Typically Nathan either paints a central part of a work or finishes the work of another in these collaborations which are wildly popular and sell out even before the works are started. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know about the art world. But it sure is interesting when you take the time to appreciate the talent of others.

Charleston is a wonderful town on the water. It’s history is well documented but little did I know what a vibrant art community it has. In my quest to be “Younger Next Year”, continuing education must be part of the plan. I have decided to know more about art. I also have decided to try to resurrect any talent I had in playing the piano. Janet had our piano tuned and I need to use my mind and start to play again. It is great to stay in shape, ski the steeps, ride the good trails, but in order to stay relevant, it is a must to continually educate ourselves. Nathan and his lovely bride Michelle have shown us a glimpse of what that entails. Thanks for welcoming us into your world.

Paintings displayed in this post are all by Nathan Durfee.  www.robertlangestudios.com/nathan-durfee/

The Kibbutz

Israel, Negev, Yotvata kibbutz

The Kibbutz( Hebrew word for communal settlement) is a unique rural community;a society dedicated to mutual aid and social justice;a socioeconomic system based on he principle of joint ownership or property, equality and cooperation of production, consumption and education;the fulfillment of the idea”from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”

So, people ask, “Pat, what is it like living with your mother in law?” I jokingly say,” It is like living in a Kibbutz.” But before I elaborate, let me take you back a bit. Jan’s mom Joan moved in with us a year ago originally into our house in Franklin Park. Circumstances dictated that this was the right thing to do and I didn’t want to move. I liked my house and I liked my fireplace.
But eventually I was prevailed upon to move because my mother in law wanted more room and a place like a mother in law suite for her own privacy. I got it, and the next thing I know, we are in a carriage home which basically is a townhouse on steroids. So here we are right around the corner from our old house in a community where they mow your lawn, shovel your walk, mulch your gardens and have a nice pool. My friends laugh and say,” Did you hear about McCloskey? He is in assisted living.” We all get a kick out of that but I call it…..the Kibbutz. We are a community joined together.

It is an interesting dynamic when you put people of different generations together. My mother in law is 86, and my son who commutes to college is 21. The dinner table is filled with conversations ranging from the political to the classes that my son is taking and questions are facilitated by Google or from the Google product Alexa who sometimes falls short in the answer department. I think we need to program her better. But the conversations are lively and my mother in law Joan says it is the highlight of her days.

You learn a lot about people when you live with them. Even Janet,who has not lived with her mom in years, is learning to adapt to someone other than Jack and I living with her. People have ways of operating that are sometimes different than your own. But that is part of a community right? We are all dedicated to living a life together and the balance deference should always be towards the other person without compromising much of your own way of doing things. For instance, my mother in law has a little bit of a hard time hearing. I talk loud. Good combination right? But my wife thinks I scream and my mother in law hears me perfectly. Sometimes I have to compete with Fox News at record decibel levels until I turn it down and talk normally. But the missed conversations, repetitions, the inevitable shouting can lead to some stressful moments.

My mother in law and I share dish washing duties. I wash and she dries. I sometimes have to give her the hip check to get her away from the sink so I can have space to wash. She has always been in control in the kitchen but the washing is my domain and we sometimes maneuver for position. But the good news is that most of the time we laugh about it. I will give her the hip check and say,” Hey Joan- get the hell out of the way?” We laugh because it is all good natured and allows us to work things out. But make no mistake- that sink is mine after dinner.

We all have our tasks. Setting the table, getting the drinks, taking out the trash. We eat like longshoremen around the house. Good thing Janet is a good cook because between Jack, me and my mother in law who has a healthy appetite for someone of her age, we are EATERS!! Food flies in and out of the Kibbutz.

So, I guess if you looked at it, we are a social experiment. We have a young perspective on looking at things, we have an experienced older person’s point of view, and we have my wife and I in the middle. But that is the way it should be right? We have no regrets. We all are in a good living situation and my mother in law is content in her old age to live a comfortable life in the Kibbutz. She has her own space yet feels part of our family community. The society is getting older folks, and soon we all will be there ourselves. I want to be “Younger Next Year” but I know that someday, hopefully, we will be in a Kibbutz having someone care about us and maybe enjoy living with us. Take care of your elders folks. They paid their price in life. Thanks for reading.

Not a Pine Knot!

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This winter is a weird one for sure here in the East. Some weeks are cold and snowy and others are really warm. We had the great opportunity to enjoy The Lodge At Glendorn this past weekend and got some good skiing in at Holimont and some nice snowshoeing before it all started to melt.fullsizerender The last day we started a new sport- mudshoeing because of the deteriorating conditions of the trails. However, any time spent at the Lodge at Glendorn is a good one and the weather was generally cooperative for a winter stay. http://www.glendorn.com dining-6more-gd-pics-039

One of the other activities that Mike Smith and I take part in when we are at Glendorn is learning a little bit about skeet and trap shooting. The Glendorn facility is second to none and the instructors are well versed along with the equipment that is available. The collection of shotguns is impressive and some of those pieces of equipment are over $12,000.00 each. It is harder than it looks folks, and I am here to tell you that as much as I enjoy it, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a bag of rice. Enter George.

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We were first introduced to George as we walked into the facility for our 3:00 appointment at the range. George is a retiree working at the resort with 43 years in at Kendall Refining behind him. A nice older gentleman who asked us what we knew about skeet shooting. When we feigned mostly ignorance, he thought we were sandbagging him, but I told him he will surely see we were rookies when we first hold the shotgun. We all laughed and George explained the finer points of skeet and trap before we stepped foot on the range. George is a good instructor. He is patient and kind and understanding. He said that he gets as much of a kick out of us breaking a clay pigeon as he would himself. I didn’t want him to be disappointed in my lack of skill but he guided us all the way through. The poignant conversation began when George stopped and said, ” You know fellas, you might think I am an old pine knot up here taking up space in the woods, but I was a 5 time Pa. State Champion at Skeet.” I was not surprised at all because of his knowledge and the way he handled the shot gun. But I was more taken by the fact that he was a little insecure because of his age and perhaps what we thought of him. Nothing could be further from our minds as we respected his knowledge and skill. It struck me that older gentlemen sometimes feel like they have outlived their usefulness and that life has somehow passed them by. It became my mission to make sure George felt comfortable even though I was the one intimidated by trying to perform in front of a 5 time State Champion.

I like older guys. I would bet that in fact, George was not all that much older than me, but all in all, probably had a few years on me. You could see the 43 years of hard work in his hands, the slight fatigue of an older gentleman, but the twinkle in his eyes still showed me a passion for his sport and the thrill of passing on his knowledge to others like Dr. Mike Smith and me. I do notice young people today sometimes do not respect the older generation. They sometimes dismiss them as old men who don’t know anything. I always have taught my son Jack to respect the older guys as he learned a lot over the years from his grandfather- another George, George Bope. These guys have seen a lot and in my zeal to make George feel comfortable, I truly wanted to show him that in my eyes, he was not a pine knot at all but someone who was truly interesting to me. I asked him about his years at Kendall Oil and he obliged me with stories from the refining days and his experiences in the back woods of Pennsylvania. His slight intimidation disappeared as we continued to shoot and BS, and he realized that Mike and I truly appreciated our time with him. I told him, ” George- it may be nothing to you, but just having the experience of handling a shot gun and knowing how to load and shoot it was a good experience for me.” Even though I kept shooting behind the target, I was hitting the mark with experience and a good time in the wilds of Pa. with my friend Mike and our new buddy George.

Returning to the cabin to meet our wives, we discussed our meager results. img_1391 But more importantly, we discussed how much we were impressed with George. I am looking forward to seeing him again when we return to Glendorn. He may think he is an old pine knot, but to me, he is wealth of experience. Respect the older guys, you will learn something. Thanks for reading.

Singing with the Ladies

Coming at you a little early this week. Things to do, places to see.

I remember my first interest in music on the radio, stereo, etc. was when I first drove my mom’s old 1964 Buick Special convertible to high school and I had KQV AM Radio blasting, along with WAMO and Porky Chedwick, the platter pushing Papa. The Pork played a lot of Motown and Atlantic Record hits and I was hooked on driving to music.

Fast forward and I was in college and first became enamored with the female folk and rock singers of the time. Joni Mitchell was interesting to me with my deeply buried rebel side. ” They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot” and ” Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now”, appealed to me as did her haunting voice and chords that no one else could possibly re-create on a guitar. Joni and the LA Express were cool and I played her records along with Linda Ronstadt – ” when will I be loved?” That one went rocking out the window with the KLH speakers. Grace Slick, Janis and Big Brother, were other female rockers who held my attention. joni-mitchelllinda-ronstadt-580

Moving along with my life, I found myself in Cambridge, Mass. post college graduation, visiting my future brother in law. He was a student at B.U and we went to a little venue that specialized in local talent on stage. Sitting there drinking a beer, a cool looking lady comes out with her cowboy boots and silver cockroach killers on the boot tips. She wore jeans and a neat blouse and when she bent over her Fender Stratocaster and slipped on the little glass bottle on her left finger, I knew we were in for something special. Her flaming shock of red hair swayed to the blues riffs and I knew I had found my new female singer attraction. Bonnie Raitt played a lot of venues in Boston and Philly at the time and she was taking off in the music world and I was a fan. I bought all of her tapes and subsequent CDs. bonnieraittnickoftime

Love had not found me yet, and I had a period of time driving my car to work and to ski areas where I felt sorry for myself and comforted myself in the melancholy tunes of Karla Bonoff. Driving along dark lonely roads, I felt like she was singing directly to me, the poor soul- no girlfriend and nothing in sight. A cactus in the desert, as I referred to myself. The old tune” The Water is Wide” left me shattered along with ” Someone to lay down beside me.” But things started to pick up and eventually I found the love of my life with my Janet. 012_karlabonoff

I spent a lot of time in the car and still do. My percussion skills on the steering wheel, aka timbalis, go well with my bass drum gas pedal. Now mind you, I don’t endanger myself but the truck drivers laugh when they look down on me and see me rockin’ with the ladies on the radio in my Jeep.

Janet and I found a new female recording artist when we went to an outdoor concert at Hartwood Acres here in Pittsburgh, and first saw bluegrass sensation Allison Krauss and Union Station. I had always liked bluegrass although the genre was lost on my bride. But sitting up front in the cool evening of late summer, she was enthralled with Allison’s voice and song selection and soon we had all the CDs and I played them relentlessly on the road tapping the steering wheel and swinging and swaying my way down the turnpike. alisonjpg-8733181b71368ffa

So why the fascination with female singers? I can tell you it is not anything sexual, but rather somehow, a woman singing is really beautiful to me. It had been that way since I was a little child and when I first heard stereo recordings of some of the world’s best female singers, I was hooked. Opera singers, folk singers, rock singers, they all had that quality of voice that appealed to me and although I rock out in the car to The Dead, The New Riders, The Eagles, The Stones, and on and on at ear splitting decibels, I find that most of the time, I am listening to the soothing sounds of female folk singers and soft rockers.

I am open to new artists and listening to Pandora the other day, I was taken by a singer who passed away in 1996. Eva Cassidy had a wonderful voice and her renditions of blues favorites are really well done. Imagine that I had not heard of her until now?maxresdefault She actually only gained notoriety after her death and it is a shame that she is gone. Her rendition of ” What a Wonderful World” and ” Over the Rainbow” left me speechless when I first heard them. Please take the time and listen to her and see if you are taken the same way that I was. Really….listen to this. https://youtu.be/2rd8VktT8xY

I have listened to a lot of music over the years, and when you put as much time in the car as I have, you gain an appreciation for music and lyrics. I am constantly searching for new artists but still play the old tunes. I sing with the ladies on the road, in the shower, and anywhere my travels take me. The truckers till laugh. Thanks for reading.