I have lived nearly half my life just outside Boulder, Colorado, and have grown to love it here.
It’s only a short drive to the high country if you want some relief from the summer heat, and the winters are relatively mild. With 300 days of sunshine, when a storm hits, the roads are often clear of snow the following day.
Still, it’s nice to escape the chill of winter with a short respite to a tropical place.
At the beginning of January, hungry for palm trees and surf, my lovely wife, Doris, was combing the internet looking for warmer places. We were considering Cozumel, a destination we’d visited several times in the past.
Then I recalled that a dear friend had recently moved to the town of San Miguel de Allende, 7,000 feet in elevation and several hours northwest of Mexico City. Maybe we could include a short visit to her home in our travel plans.
I emailed my friend, who I referred to as Rosehips in my memoir, Groovin. She informed us that in January, she would be staying in the tiny fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta: Boca de Tomatian.
She also wanted to escape the winter cold!
Doris searched for lodging and found an Airbnb rental in Boca. After booking our apartment, we discovered to our delight that Rosehips would be staying directly above us.
What are the chances?
We also found another surprise in Boca. Look carefully at the photo above: the sign adapted from the rear panel of a boat reminded us of home.
It was refreshing to be among the easygoing, warmhearted Mexicans in a small town that had more chickens than people. This fact became apparent every morning at 4 a.m.
Fortunately we packed ear plugs after advance warning from our friend. But even those were no match one sleepless Saturday night when 12 hours of electronic ranchera music blasted from gargantuan speakers directly beneath our windows!
Along with the chickens, the area featured many large wild birds, including storks, herons, frigate birds, and pelicans. We never tired of watching the sea birds dive for fish.
Doris calls this kind of getaway “a change of tapestry.”
It was also a relief to spend time sheltered from the disgusting political scene north of the border. The only reminder we had was at one of the touristic souvenir stalls along Puerto Vallarta’s river walk.
The vendor displayed a bright blue T-shirt boasting “Safe on this side of the wall!”
PS. The abridged audio version of my memoir, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes is almost ready for release. Now you'll get to listen to my wacky horseback adventure through the Rocky Mountains. I'll keep you posted.
Heartache | Anger | Pride | Inspiration
Hope | Déjà Vu | Gratitude
These are some of the feelings I’ve experienced recently:
Heartache that another senseless mass shooting has taken place while our legislators continue to stand by and do nothing.
Anger that again and again we hear sympathies from our congressmen rather than action to curb the violence.
Pride for our brave, young survivors for rising from the ashes of tragedy and channeling their grief and anger into powerful and positive action.
Inspiration from our brilliant, courageous youth, who have so eloquently challenged our political leaders, proclaiming they will not be denied the safety they deserve. These kids are holding the legislators hands to the fire, making small dents in the fabric of today’s politics. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Hope that at last the large population of decent citizens is beginning to wake from their slumber and demand that change happen. And that gun violence is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues that desperately need to be addressed.
Déjà vu as today’s events mirror my own experiences from the ’60s, causing me to relive Vietnam era anger, hopes, fears, and doubts, all expressed in my writings. I’ve found myself again observing how exposure to ongoing injustice takes us as a people to a boiling point—forcing us to demand change.
During the ’60s, we marched to the battle cry of “Make love not war!” Today we find ourselves rallying behind the slogan “Enough is enough!”
Gratitude that never before has greed, narcissism, prejudice, pettiness, homophobia, and misogyny practiced by many of our top legislators been so transparent—not to mention a disturbing disregard for the environment. There has always been corruption at the upper levels of government, but I’m appalled at how shamelessly widespread it is with our current lawmakers.
This makes it all the more difficult for those of us who value honesty, integrity, freedom, and equality to ignore the daily affronts to these treasured attributes. After all, aren’t these the cornerstones of our democracy?
Here’s hoping that today's unrest is the kindling for positive change.
Like many of you, I was absorbed by the Winter Olympics.
I experienced ridiculous highs as athletes achieved their dreams, the result of years of focused hard work and determination. I also cringed in agony as hopes were dashed with every fall, wipeout, and miscalculation.
I’m the last person you’d call a winter sports enthusiast. Still, I found myself glued to the tube, squirming and rejoicing for hours.
Born and raised in the Sacramento Valley, I experienced snow for the first time as a teenager on an Explorer Scout skiing trip in the high Sierras. It didn’t end well. Someone cut me off, forcing my skis into a snowbank. The result—a twisted knee and ankle.
I tried the sport again in the early ’70s, managing a few mediocre runs on a small hill near my home in the Sierras.
Over a decade later, I met Doris, a Swiss woman and my future wife, who had been an avid skier since childhood. Our friends Misty and Steve, invited us to their place near Vail. (Yes, the same Misty from my book Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes.)
That’s when Doris talked me into accompanying her on the slopes.
I gripped a color-coded map showing the paths of multiple ski runs printed in green (easy), red (difficult), and black (wet-your-pants terrifying). I started out on the green-rated bunny hill, where my wife attempted to give me some much-needed pointers.
Even though I couldn’t get the hang of stopping, I found if I curved back and forth horizontally across the slope, I could keep my speed in check. Using this method, I was able to maneuver along without much trouble, kissing the snow on only a couple of occasions.
Knowing Doris was anxious to test her limits on the black diamond runs, I urged her to be on her way. After we agreed to meet in the bar of the lodge at the foot of the mountain, she disappeared down the slope. On my own now, I studied the map and found a wimpy green line that descended all the way to the lodge.
With visions of a steamy Irish coffee in my mind, I started following that green trail downhill. Despite a steepening incline, things were going well as I weaved back and forth across the slope, keeping my speed at levels that would make an old lady proud.
But then something unexpected happened—the trail narrowed. All of a sudden, there was no room for weaving, and I started to accelerate. I could see that the slope was going to be constricted for quite a distance, so I attempted the stopping technique as instructed.
When that failed, I did what I had to do—I dropped to the ground, nearly burying myself in the soft snow.
I stayed there for a few minutes formulating a plan. With resignation, I slipped off my skies and began the long walk down the mountain with my gear slung over my shoulder. With snow up to my hips, it turned out to be a forty-five-minute arduous trudge to the bottom.
Did I say “No sweat”? When I arrived at the parking lot, I was drenched in perspiration. I stripped down to my undershorts and sat in the car until I cooled down. Heart rate and body temp finally near normal, I put on my clothes and went in search of that well-deserved Irish coffee.
Since that day, my version of winter sports has been limited to channel surfing, a skill that came in handy during the televised Olympics. Fortunately, my distaste for skiing wasn’t a deal breaker as far as Doris was concerned!
Though I often wonder what drives some contenders to risk life and limb with death-defying aerial acrobatics, my hat remains off to all the impressive athletes for their inspiring performances.
Here are some of my favorite 2018 gold medal moments. What are yours?
Shaun White’s final half-pipe run
Women’s hockey: USA vs Canada
Russian women’s figure skating rivalry: Alina Zagitova vs Evgenia Medvedeva
Men’s curling: USA vs Sweden
Who would have thought curling could be so exciting?
If you want to enjoy every single day, it pays to develop a good sense of humor.
This is the advice I’ve been telling myself lately, and I’m offering it to you as well. Let’s face it: as beautiful as life can be, there’s no way to avoid a few bumps along the way. It’s not unusual for everyday problems to knock us around, but a “lightening up” strategy can work wonders.
When I'm not working on my sequel to Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, I like to play poker with my buddies. My favorite game is Texas Holdem—a game that requires you to master over 50 skills to become a great player. And even if you become proficient at the game, you still have to make good decisions and deal with that mischievous Lady Luck.
Sometimes I push a lot of chips in the middle with what I hope is the best hand, only to find out my opponent has a better one. Or worse yet, get called by a crap hand and the other player gets crazy lucky and outdraws me. This can be a bummer, but if I go “on tilt,” my judgment can be compromised.
I follow a poker rule called the "20-year rule." The basic premise is to ask yourself, "Will this matter in 20 years?"
Isn't that great advice? I find it also comes in handy when dealing with life. If I apply it, I can dismiss the emotional impact of most situations.
So when serious problems come your way, take the edge off by tipping your perspective toward the comical side of things. This requires some practice, but I urge you to give it a try.
A hearty sense of humor can truly be uplifting.
Are you ready to lighten up with me today?
I’m proud (and excited) to announce my fun coming-of-age ’60s memoir, Groovin’, has won a Readers’ Favorite bronze medal!
Here's the Readers’ Favorite press release:
The Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.
Most people who participated in the original Summer of Love in 1967 would agree it was a profound, life-changing experience. Over the last few weeks, as many have celebrated the 50th anniversary of that iconic time, I’ve discovered a range of impressions and memories from those who were there.
For many, that remarkable summer was all about the music. The Monterey Pop Festival kicked it off with Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane, the Mamas & the Papas, the Who, the Grateful Dead, and dozens more. The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” flooded the airwaves as love-ins sprang up in the San Francisco Bay Area and other places across the nation.
For those who formed the hippie culture, pot and acid defined the transformation of thought that questioned society’s antiquated status quo. Seeing life through this revealing lens gave birth to a renewed women’s movement, accelerated the civil rights movement, and fueled the anti-war (peace) movement.
“Make love not war” became our battle cry and led to protests that rocked the country. The music of the time inspired and fueled our pursuit of freedom and justice for all.
Of course, the Vietnam War and the draft affected a wide swath of American youth. If you went to war, you didn’t come back the same. If your consciousness was jolted by drugs or the rebellion of thought around you, you struggled with the draft and your responsibility to weigh right versus wrong. Several chapters of my book Groovin’ describe my own emotional roller coaster with this issue.
If you were among the brave fighting in the jungles of Vietnam, there was no Summer of Love. Just so you know, those of us who opposed the conflict weren’t against you—we were against you dying in a senseless war. And we saw no reason to add our own lives to the carnage.
When I think of the Summer of Love, San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury district often comes to mind. As a wandering, rag-tag group of youngsters living on love, many of us stopped at “the Haight” for a short time, and we experienced a high-hearted, magical place. People embraced one another in a great experiment of tolerance and cooperative living. Scott McKenzie inadvertently became Haight’s pied piper with his song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”
Things were great in the Haight for a while—then that piece of real estate became too well known! That’s when the rascals and vermin moved in, lured by the promise of free love, food, and drugs. Too many came to take advantage of a gorgeous attempt at utopia. If you experienced the Haight at the arc of its rainbow, you probably walked away with a beautiful memory.
But if you were there through the whole evolution, you probably remember its decline, plagued by overcrowding, violence, bad drugs, and deprivation. As with all of nature, every flower has its season.
Many never comprehended what the essence of that unique occasion was all about—or worse, they have forgotten the magic or dismissed it as a youthful ideological whim. For me, the Summer of Love was never confined to music, or a place, or even a time in history. It was about the evolution of thought, freedom, and adventure.
And it was about discovering the wonder that surrounds us and the beauty that resides within us—a life-affirming mindset that is more important today than ever before.
Believe it or not, we’re getting close to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. If you were there, immersed in the magic as I was, you might be saying, “Fifty years? How can that be? What a trip!” It was a time when Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” was blasting from our AM radios, an era when thousands were lured to Haight-Ashbury, marching to the refrain “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
In 1967 I was 22 and thirsty for adventure. Wanting to spread my wings, I turned my back on the city by the bay and hitched east to the world's fair in Montreal, riding on the breeze of compassionate drivers, supported by an underground community of welcoming long-hairs. The feeling of family fueled a fearless strength that spread far and wide. We were brothers and sisters in love with life and hell-bent on fighting injustice and changing the world.
Along the way, I participated in an Aspen love-in and war protest, plunged naked into a steamy hot springs, ate the absolute best BBQ ribs ever in Kansas City, had a run-in with an ornery carnival boss, and nearly shook apart in a super-rattly semitruck ride.
The pinnacle of the trip was a steamy romance with a lovely maiden who studied in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together we toured the world’s fair, awestruck by the AT&T Picturephone, a futuristic device that would actually allow you to see the person you were talking to. Wow!
That summer was an intoxicating romp, full of freedom, enthusiasm, growth, and optimism, as were the several years that followed. It was an iconic cultural turning point that reshaped American history in profound ways. The sixties were so special to me I wrote a book to give readers a taste of what it was like to be a part of it. Unlike books outlining the history of the sixties, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes offers people the chance to experience what it was like to live during those transformative times. For those who were there, I also hoped to trigger a few treasured memories.
This golden anniversary is not going unnoticed. San Francisco is pulling out all the stops—over 60 different organizations (cultural, civic, arts, music, and social services) are celebrating the Summer of Love. A painted magic bus complete with music and projections is touring Haight-Ashbury, North Beach, Hippie Hill, and other attractions. The famous de Young Museum’s exhibition includes a psychedelic experience, and the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate park turns trippy at night with light projections seen from afar.
San Francisco isn’t the only city jumping on the band wagon. Museums, universities, libraries, county fairs, musical events, and even ballet groups in cities across the nation are themed to this flowered anniversary. There are even Summer of Love celebrations planned in the UK.
Unfortunately, the most authentic event might not take place. Efforts to stage a free Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park, like the one they did back in the day, were turned down twice by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission. Bummer, right? Not so fast. The city of San Francisco just announced they will host a smaller free event, the Surrealistic Solstice, on June 21.
It’s great that this iconic time is being recognized, recaptured, and celebrated, but let’s not forget what it was originally about. The summer of the flower children, along with its wacky happenings, was about promoting peace, embracing individual freedom, fostering harmony, caring for others, protecting the environment, and viewing all flavors of humanity as equals. Those were the elements that made that magical snapshot in history so unique and beautiful!
Were you there during the Summer of Love? I’m collecting stories from that time, and I’d love to hear yours. If you have a memory you’d like to share, please submit it here. Those with the best stories will receive a free copy of my memoir, Groovin'.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, FLOWER CHILDREN!
I recently watched the documentary Unbranded, which follows the course of four young cowpokes who tame and ride wild mustangs from Mexico to Canada—a notable feat. Their intent was to raise awareness of the plight of tens of thousands of wild horses held in pens awaiting adoption.
The film was recommended by a friend who knew of my own month-long trail ride through the Rocky Mountain wilderness in the sixties. Of course the four fellows traveling to Canada were seasoned horsemen, while my friend Mitch and I were total greenhorns—just a couple of hippies with a thirst for adventure and a love for the outdoors. We had to learn on the fly, leading to some runaway craziness and near disasters as our horses tried their damnedest to return home.
As the cowboys in Unbranded continued on their 3,000-mile journey, they developed a strong relationship with their horses. It reminded me that even though my horse, a buckskin roan I called Geronimo, was only with me for a little more than a month, we connected on a level I had never expected. Almost wild when we first met, he transformed into a half-ton puppy dog, tagging along without being tied.
Over the time Mitch and I rode together, the differences between my horse and his became more apparent. They say dogs take on the characteristics of their owners, but I hadn’t considered that it could also apply to horses. Geronimo even learned a few things from my dog, Charlie.
Here’s an excerpt from my book Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes to illustrate:
I saw a difference between Mitch’s animals and my own. Perhaps it had to do with our temperaments. My partner’s industrious nature lent itself to hasty, fast-moving mannerisms—at least compared to mine. Simply put, someone once paid me a compliment when he said, “If Rich was any mellower, he’d be dead.”
Unbranded reaffirmed my admiration of fine trail horses and their ability to traverse unforgiving terrain. Geronimo and Doña would dance through trees and forest debris that seemed impassable to us. But later, similar to a scene in the movie, Doña slipped on the loose dirt and shale leading up to Conundrum Pass and tumbled backward. By some miracle, she survived unharmed.
Check out Unbranded. The scenery is magnificent, and the cowboys will keep you entertained. It’s a must-see for all who love horses and the West.
And for someone who knows what it takes to ride a long distance through rough territory, the film offered renewed inspiration to set lofty goals and see them through to completion.
Note: One more thing. Some people believe that wild horses shouldn’t be removed from the wilds, that breaking a horse for riding is cruel, and that this film is a BLM propaganda piece. I respect their opinions and salute their efforts to protect animal rights. At the same time, having experienced the bond a man and a horse can share, I know that a horse can be broken, ridden, and cared for with both a firm and kind hand. When I watched this film, I didn’t witness any cruelty.
Today, I listened to some soothing music, which I often do. My old body has gotten, in the words of a friend, “a bit rickety” as I age, so I like to put on a beat and move to it. I typically run or dance on a mini-trampoline to work out the kinks.
As I exercised, I started thinking about the ideas people hold on to.
It’s difficult not to have opinions about almost everything around us, based on both our life history and what we’ve been taught. At the same time, we need to be careful because those beliefs can limit us, keeping us from enjoying new experiences and meeting new people. I’m sure we’ve all felt the pain of being misjudged when someone makes an off-base assumption about our intentions or about the type of person we are.
That applies to many of the opinions people have had about hippies. If you’ve read my book Groovin’ or some of my blogs, you know I was immersed in that scene back in the sixties. The conventional thinking then was that hippies never worked or bathed, were unpatriotic and always stoned, and had perpetual sex.
That’s still the common perception.
Some hippies might have been like that, but not the ones I hung out with. My friends were hard-working free thinkers who appreciated good hygiene, got stoned occasionally or not at all, loved their country enough to protest injustice, and, even with the sexual revolution, were discerning about who they jumped into bed with.
The hippie movement had much more diversity than most people realize.
For example, I listen to a variety of music, but you’d probably be surprised to learn which type I preferred in the sixties and still do today. Acid rock was the favored music among my peers, and I liked rock and roll just fine. But what I really grooved on was country music. I was attracted to its simplicity, even though I was a city boy who rarely heard country tunes when I was young—except for maybe in Western movies.
My appreciation for country began in my early twenties as I drove long distances listening to the AM radio in “Evergreen,” my old pickup truck. I’m not talking about country rock but rather the original sappy storytelling type of tune, filled with raw emotion and plain, understandable lyrics.
I even know the exact moment it happened. In 1970, on a very cold, drizzly Thanksgiving Day in the high Sierras, my friends Sam and Lil got five of us ripped on acid, stuffed us into their VW bus, and drove off into the woods on a dirt logging road. One of my friends spent the afternoon trying in vain to get soggy wood to burn. Sam opened the door to his bus and put a cassette into the tape deck. I slipped inside to warm up and found myself listening to Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By Your Man” in her velvety voice—and I fell in love.
I know what you’re thinking. Sexist pig! Yeah, the lyrics of that song are sort of rank, but that wasn’t what grabbed me. I fell in love with the music, the voice, and, most of all, the singer’s love blasting out of those primitive speakers. True, the lyrics of many old-time country songs can be comical but most contain some truth.
I even delighted in Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee,” which seriously trashed my hippie-hood. The first time I heard it, I laughed out loud. The music was good and the lyrics were clever. What was there not to like?
Music evokes feelings that touch us, just as the beat moves us. This is true whether we like rock and roll, classical, blues, jazz, hip-hop, rap, or other sounds.
I tend to listen to country when I need to be introspective—it’s everybody’s love and heartache, everybody’s loss and longing, but it’s also everybody’s joy and pride. The feelings of a human being whittled down to their bare essence. That’s why they were hit songs.
The emotions haven’t changed. We still long for a carefree world filled with down-home, friendly folks enjoying being alive. Hopefully we can learn to embrace that dream without focusing on differences—without excluding anyone.
I’m definitely not trying to sell you on country music. I realize it’s an acquired taste. But I am attempting to illustrate how we don’t have to be limited by the opinions of others. Even an old hippie weaned on rock and roll and civil rights protests can become a country freak.
If we resist putting people in a box, we might be pleasantly surprised.
As I sway to a country song, I remember who I was at a simpler time in my life, and it helps me get in touch with my authentic self. We all have a rhythm, and there’s music to match it. I urge you to take time from your busy life to indulge in your favorite tunes—the ones that help you forget the world’s problems and connect with your heart.
A while back I wrote about the importance of turning work into play. Of course, all work and no play can lead to a very dull life, but it can also lead to stress and burnout.
So how do we find a balance? This is especially important right now in our political climate, when we must work hard to preserve our democracy amid the fear and uncertainty that can wreak havoc with our sanity.
As a US citizen, I have often taken my freedoms for granted, so the fact that many rights are on the line has turned my world upside down. Everywhere I look, be it social media, TV, conversations with friends, or the worry recesses of my brain, the subject of Trump comes up and the content is often distasteful. This constant barrage can wipe me out, so recharging my inner batteries becomes necessary.
For me, it’s key to avoid accelerating to a speed beyond the limit, where I’m prone to miss crucial messages from my internal guidance system.
We all have this mechanism, but without connecting to the stillness within, we can miss the subtle whispers designed to keep us on the path toward our humanness, the place where we fulfill our purpose. I aim for the aware state that offers clarity, compassion, appreciation, and an ability to be guided by my higher self—or if you prefer, by God as he resides in my heart.
To experience peace and calm in a tumultuous world, we have to remember that everything is relative. Our situation is a far cry from what those in other countries have to deal with, like living in a war zone, surviving as a refugee, or existing under the restrictive thumb of a dictator. I can empathize, but in reality I can only imagine how difficult those situations would be. As bad as it has been, life could be worse.
When you have a lot to do or something weighs heavily on your mind, look for ways to stay in balance. When I’m writing, which is my work, and it ceases to be enjoyable, I take a break. If I have a deadline, I take a short break. I’ll take a walk, play with my dog, meditate, watch a movie, read a good book, or find some other distraction that will allow my creative juices to regenerate and reset the connection to my heart.
I don’t want to downplay the need to address a crisis in your personal life or fulfill your responsibilities as a citizen. I simply want to stress the importance of stability. When things become shaky, don’t use it as an excuse to harden your heart. We don’t want to become like those we oppose. When there’s tough work to be done, embrace the challenge while dealing with the problem—leaving time to appreciate the compassion and beauty that also exists.
Easy for me to say, right? I must admit finding balance has been a test of late, what with our beloved leader charging around like the proverbial bull in the china shop, toppling freedoms and breaking alliances. As feelings of anger and helplessness spring forth, I often find myself shedding my pacifistic persona for a more reptilian one. Instead of conjuring up images of neck-wringing, I came up with a plan to alter the picture.
I keep these three things in mind:
1. In my opinion, our new president is reckless.
2. Reckless people tend to make mistakes that sooner or later come back to bite them.
3. Visualization can lead to manifestation.
The first two points are self-explanatory, so let’s explore the third one. From personal experience, I know that when we create a firm mental picture, one we hold with confidence, it quite often comes to pass. When I replace the image of the president boasting, bullying, scowling, or shouting with an image of him being led away with his shackled hands behind his back, it takes the charge out of a grim situation. This technique can turn paralyzing despair into a freeing sense of hope that justice will prevail.
If this resonates with you, consider sharing my vision—who knows what could happen.
Visualization is only one weapon in any opposition arsenal. All of us need to evaluate what we can do and find the most effective tools for making our voices heard. That’s what democracy is all about.
Arianna Huffington offers wonderful advice and steps we can take in her post “How to Get Out of the Cycle of Outrage In a Trump World”:
The goal of any true resistance is to affect outcomes, not just to vent. And the only way to affect outcomes and thrive in our lives, is to find the eye in the hurricane, and act from that place of inner strength. . . .
Public Service Announcement: If you need an escape from the uncertainties surrounding us, read my fun sixties adventure book, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes. It will get you laughing while taking you back to a time with similar real-life issues.
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