Monday, February 23, 2015

San Juan Capistrano Author Lecture Series Feb 23 2015

Tom Blake column for the week of February, 23, 2015

Everybody benefits at San Juan Capistrano Author Lecture Series

On the third Sunday of each month, the Friends of the San Juan Capistrano Library sponsor a Local Author Lecture Series from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm., at The Bookstore. The February event featured romance and travel writers.

Cheryl Gardarian and I were the guest authors. Cheryl writes fiction, and I write non-fiction. Nearly 30 people attended and it seems that everybody benefitted in one way or the other. Cheryl and I benefitted simply by being the invited authors. That was an honor in itself.

Both of us were able to share our stories and writing experiences in a panel that was moderated by Ann Ronan, a local travel agent and the Chairman of the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce. At the end of the session, complimentary snacks and refreshments were served while Cheryl and I got to display and autograph our books.

The Bookstore is run entirely by volunteers, led by Friends of the Library president Mary DeMers, who put a great deal of effort into coordinating the event. The book shelves are moved aside and temporary chairs are set up for the guests. After the event, the chairs are removed and the book shelves put back in place. The all-volunteer staff was assisted by members of the National Charity League.

Book lovers benefitted by meeting the authors in person, asking questions and purchasing autographed books.

The library earns a commission on the sale of the books, which helps cover operating costs. Not to mention the exposure that the library received by having people new to the bookstore enjoy its charm.

Singles benefitted by making new friends and getting dating, relationship and travel advice. One woman, recently widowed, met Christine Baumgartner, a relationship counselor/event planner who attended, and scheduled some future consulting appointments with Christine.

Aspiring authors learned the ins and outs of publishing books. Cheryl uses publishers and Tom self publishes. Both authors also publish electronic books (Ebooks), which are very popular these days.

I often tell older singles that the most important thing they can do is get off the couch and out of the house and meet new friends. Attending events like this is a great way to achieve that; I heard two women say they were meeting for coffee the next morning.

Getting out and meeting the public is beneficial to authors as well. I was pleased and surprised when moderator/travel agent Ann asked if I would like to host a four-day cruise out of Los Angeles in November on the Star Princess cruise ship. When I said yes, Ann replied, “We will name it the “Tom Blake’s Loving Life after 55 Cruise.” That would not have happened to me had I not appeared.

Each of our local tri-city libraries are greatly assisted by volunteers. Funding is tight for libraries. We as residents are blessed to have these volunteers helping our libraries, which we need to support.

What a pleasant afternoon this was. There is nothing greater than to be in a warm and cozy environment surrounded by books just waiting to stimulate our minds.

For information on the Sunday, March 15, Local Author Lecture Series at The Bookstore at the San Juan Capistrano library, call 949 493-2688. Or, visit the website at

For information on the November 12 cruise, contact Ann at 949 702-3977 or by email at  Cruise details are also on the website:

                                       Photo by Monique Dodge

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Travel at age 80 - still going strong

On Life and Love After 60

by Tom P. Blake

Travel at age 80 – Still Going Strong

In the September 26, 2014, newsletter, we featured Champ Chris and his girlfriend Tina. They have the unofficial longest long-distance relationship on record, both for duration and distance: 12 years and 5,419 miles.

Chris, 80, lives in San Clemente, California, and Tina, in England. Chris had open-heart and bypass surgery in late August. He was down for the count. But, he stated in that newsletter, “Sometime in the not too distant future I will be dancing and traveling again.”

He kept his word. Wednesday, I received this email from Chris: “I am sorry that Tina and I haven’t been in touch, but email is almost impossible from the ship. So far, we have had a wonderful cruise and have been to some great and interesting places: Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Danang, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Manila, Philippines, and yesterday we spent the day on a beautiful beach on the Philippine island of Boracay.

“We are now heading towards Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo. The weather has been almost perfect; we’ve had no rain. The sea has been calm except for one day when it got a little choppy.

“It has been interesting to see different countries and how people live, as expected there are the rich and the poor. We like the ship although it is rather old; the crew and food are excellent. We send our love and hugs to all of Tom’s Champs.”

Several points jump out from Chris’s email.  His message illustrates that love at 80 can happen, and can be as fulfilling as love at 50.

A second message: Although as we age, most of us will face health issues, we should not let those issues stop us from pursuing joy in our lives. Granted, not all of us have the means or energy to hop on a plane to London, and then on a plane to Singapore, and then board a cruise ship. However, even at home, we can make the best of our health issues with something that costs nothing: a positive attitude.

Another lesson from Chris’s story: long-distance relationships can work, even if there are 5,419 miles between partners.

I received a retirement card from Phyllis and Tammy, friends of Greta’s and mine. The message on the front of the card said:

“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years!”

Chris’s email illustrates that as well. I love to share stories from our Champs. Send me yours.

                                       Chris and Tina, Greta and Tom

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fahim Fazli - Actor appears in "American Sniper"

On Life and Love After 50                      

January 26, 2015

Fahim Fazli – a remarkable Dana Point resident

There are lots of interesting people who live in the tri-city area. As a columnist, I am fortunate to meet many of them.

In early January, I was having coffee with friends at J.C. Beans Coffee House on PCH in Dana Point. They introduced me to their neighbor, Fahim, a regular customer there. Even though Fahim has lived in Dana Point for 28 years, I had never met him.

When I asked Fahim what type of work he was in, he modestly said, “I am an author and an actor.”

As writers, we had much in common. He signed a copy of his 2012, memoir, “Fahim Speaks,” and handed it to me. I said, “It will be fun to learn about you.” He smiled. We promised to stay in touch.

While reading each page of Fahim Speaks, I became more and more fascinated with this man’s life. As a young boy growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Fahim sometimes skipped school and went to the movies. His dream was to become an actor in Hollywood.

In September, 1983, Fahim’s father came home one day and said to Fahim and his brother, “Pack your bag, we are leaving immediately.” The Communist secret police, who occupied Afghanistan, were about to arrest his father. If that happened, Fahim and his brother would have been sent to an “indoctrination” camp in Russia.

Fahim’s mother, two younger sisters and older brother had escaped four years earlier. Fahim guessed they had made it to America, but his family had not heard from them.

The goal was to make it to Pakistan, and then, somehow, some day, get to the United States. Fahim’s book takes readers on that perilous and dangerous journey.

The three family members made it safely to Pakistan, crossing the border by horseback over a freezing mountain pass. They applied with the American Embassy to go to America. After a four year wait, one day they were summoned to the American Embassy. His mother and siblings had been located in Virginia. The family was reunited by telephone. Fahim said to his mother, “We are on our way to join you in America.” He was 18.

After living in Virginia, the family moved to California. The book explains how Fahim eventually moved to Orange County and took acting classes, hoping to fulfill his childhood dream. He became a U.S. citizen.

In 1996, Fahim met Amy, his future wife, at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach.  A year later, they moved to an apartment in Dana Point. He was working for Nordstrom’s and at a mortgage company, and was getting movie work as an extra.

While on vacation, he proposed to Amy on a ferry boat crossing the Straits of Gibraltar from Tangier to Spain. They married in Orange County. Three years later, they were blessed with a daughter Sophia, who now attends Dana Hills High School.

Fahim and I got together last week. What struck me the most about him is his love of this country, and his positive attitude. He said, “In this beautiful country, everything is possible. If you love what you do, it will happen.”

He told me has appeared in 60 movies and television shows, including Rambo III, Charlie Wilson’s War, Iron Man, and now, “American Sniper.”

He said, “I have been interviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post, network television, magazines and have been on numerous talk shows. Your newspaper is the first media outlet in Orange County to interview me.”

Fahim was so grateful for the opportunity to live in America, he wanted to give back to his adopted country and at the same time help his native country. He signed up to be an interpreter for the Marines and returned to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.

He returned again in 2014. But when his agent called to say that he had a role in the Clint Eastwood movie, “American Sniper,” he resigned his position and returned to Dana Point.

There is much to learn about Fahim’s life by reading his book and visiting his website. He said, “Fahim Speaks is now a screenplay, a mandatory step to becoming a movie. We are just waiting for financing.”

He has also completed his second book, which will be published soon.

Fahim said, “I’ve learned from my experiences to be optimistic and forward-looking. I told myself. What’s done is done. Things happen for reasons which will make sense later, if we have faith and hope. Don’t dwell on the past. Think about possibilities.”

When the movie about Fahim’s life is made, we will have a movie star living in Dana Point.

                                                               Fahim Fazli with his book