Friday, April 17, 2015

At home in Graz, Austria

At home in Graz, Austria

                                              Graz - River Mur and Kloister

My partner Greta and I are living in a 500-year-old building in Graz, Austria. We will be here for about a month.  From the time we left our Dana Point, California, home Monday, it took us 41 hours to get here. We do not recommend that long of an uninterrupted trip for seniors. A seven-hour layover in the Madrid Airport was a bear. It really wore us out.

The home is owned by a couple who met in the Department of Motor Vehicles in Fresno, California, four years ago. Christian is Austrian. His wife, Jai, is an American citizen who was born along the Laos/Thailand border.

In 2011, Jai was living in Fresno. Her purse had been stolen so she was at the DMV to get a replacement driver’s license. Christian, a building contractor, was in Fresno on business and needed a commercial driver’s license. They were in line next to each other. They had just enough time to tell each other a little about their backgrounds.

Then, Jai was summoned to the payment window. Christian was called to the adjacent window. As she was leaving he asked if she’d wait for him outside. Once there, he asked for her phone number and they started dating. Soon, however, he had to return to Austria. The odds of a relationship were against them. Speaking of a long distance relationship, 6,000 miles+ is pretty darn far.

They corresponded. He wanted her to visit Austria. Since arriving in the United States as a young child, she had never been out of the country. She didn’t even own a passport. Due to some paperwork issues, getting a passport took her months. Christian didn’t know for sure, but he thought she might be dragging her feet and probably didn’t really want to visit. One day he emailed, “I really would love for you to visit.” She shocked him by replying, “Send me a ticket.”

She spent three weeks visiting Christian in Graz.

In 2012, they married. Jai and her daughter, Maddie, packed their things and moved to Graz. Jai said over dinner this past Wednesday night, “At first, it was hard, I didn’t speak German. But now, I love living here.” Maddie now has a baby brother named James.

How did Greta and I meet them and why are we living in their home? There is a website called Home On that website, people can trade their home/apartment/ranch--where ever they live--for a short period of time with people who own living accommodations as well. People from different countries often exchange their homes.

A trade or exchange can be at the same time--what’s called a simultaneous exchange, or at different times--a non-simultaneous exchange. In December, 2014, Christian, Jai, Maddie and James stayed in Greta’s San Clemente home for the holidays. And now, we are staying at their home in Graz. While we are here, they are living at Christian’s father’s farm outside of town. We have become very good friends.

We have had one full day in what is known as the inner city of Graz. If that day was any indication, we are going to cherish our days here. Graz is the second largest city in Austria, after Vienna, and has a population of 350,000 people. There are four universities here so there are lots of young people.

There are an estimated 200-250 restaurants and outdoor cafes within a quarter mile of us. Hot dog stands and gelato shops are everywhere.  The city’s central tram station is 100 yards away. The main train station is less than a half mile away. There is no need to rent a car or drive anywhere.

Last night, we enjoyed a thin-crust pizza topped with prosciutto and a salad, 25 yards from our apartment. A tasty bottle of Austrian wine cost us less than $3.00 at the grocery store directly below us.

                                    View from our outdoor dinner table

Jai has decorated their home with proverbs and little sayings in every room. We like this one the best:

Posted on the wall of their living room

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Retirement: Write, Stand up Paddle Board, travel- a new life chapter begins

Write, paddle board and travel: a new life chapter begins on Monday

As I’ve mentioned, I retired January 30, after owning and operating Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point for 26 years, a job that kept me very busy.
People ask, “Now that you’ve sold the deli, won’t you get bored? What will you do with all of your free time?”

If the first two months of retirement are an indication, boredom is the least of my concerns. I’ve been busier than a cranberry at Thanksgiving.

When a small business is sold, there are a myriad of things that must be done. Usually, the seller agrees to train the buyer for a period of time. In my case, I spent 120 hours working with the new owners. 

And then there were tax returns that had to be prepared and filed. The federal government requires that business financial records must kept for up to seven years. So, those records must be packed and stored in case the government asks for them in the future.

Some people who are already retired told me that I will wonder where the time goes. I fall into that group. No boredom yet.

Newly retired people are asked: “What will you do with your time?” My answer is pretty simple: Write, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and Travel.

As far as writing, I plan to continue with this complimentary Life and Love after 50 newsletter and my newspaper columns as well. My first published article on love after 50 was published on July 4, 1994--almost 21 years ago--in a local Dana Point, California newspaper. The situation hasn’t changed much for older singles, other than Internet dating, which didn’t exist back then. The most-asked question I hear remains the same: “Where are the men?” 

This week, a Champ wrote, “I am retired and would love to meet an available, honest, adventurous man. Where is he? I am fun, smart, spiritual, good looking and healthy. I love my family, friends, animals, and ENJOY my life. I am so ready to meet him. I am 70 years young, please pass this message on.”

I replied, “I wish I had an easy answer for your question. Finding a good quality mate after 50, 60, 70, and beyond is difficult, for both men and women. But it does happen.

“I tell older singles that they need to get out and about and meet new friends. But where to go?

“One example, here in Orange County is on the last Thursday of each month, Tutor and Spunky's Deli, 34085 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, 92629, hosts a Meet and Greet for singles 50+. Anywhere from 25 to 75 people attend, depending on the weather, what's going on in the world, and other things.

“You could attend and check that out. Making new women friends is essential and that is a good place to do it.

“Also, dating online is certainly a mixed bag; there are jerks and scammers out there. But, there are also nice people and that might be one of the tools you try. Just proceed with caution.

“Attend as many social events as possible. Go to them to enjoy and not expecting to meet a man. It sounds like you have great credentials. Get out there and show the world you are a confident and positive woman.”

Regarding stand up paddle boarding (SUP), one of the most important things for retired people is exercise. In anticipation of retirement, in October I decided to give paddle boarding a try. In Dana Point, where I live, we have a protected harbor that is home to more than 3,000 yachts and sail boats. Unless the wind kicks up, the water is quite calm and paddling is a pleasure.

Three times a week, at least, I launch from a place called Baby Beach. Sea lions and birds enrich the experience. And except for the board and the paddle, the sport is free. For people who don’t want to paddle, walking around our harbor is great exercise.

This week I was thinking I had become a pretty good paddler; I hadn’t fallen into the chilly waters in a couple of months, although it seemed others were faster than I. Then, an old-timer paddled by and said, “You’re dragging your leash (which is secured to your leg) in the water; it’s slowing you down.”

Yup, he was right. Adding to the drag was a large clump of seaweed. I placed the leash on top of my board and wow, I noticed a difference right away. In retirement, there is a lot to learn.

As far as travel, when I met my life partner Greta 17 years ago, one of the characteristics we had in common was a love of travel. True, when I owned the deli, we were able to get away on several trips. But, as those of you who own or owned a small business know, you aren’t totally free when you travel because you think about whether the business has enough money, or whether a refrigerator breaks down, or any number of possible problems.

Now, I won’t have to worry about deli issues. Our plan is to travel as much as we can as long as we are able to. Our first trip begins Monday. We are off to Austria and Central Europe for seven weeks, which concludes with a two-week river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. If I hear of any romance-after-50 stories on our travels, I will share them with you.

At the least, I will be posting details of the trip on my travel website blog. So, I will be mixing two of my retirement activities, writing and travel, while we’re gone.

As far as stand up paddle boarding, I doubt if that will be possible on the Danube or Rhine rivers. I guess we will be doing a lot of walking instead.

Here is a link to the website. On the home page, click on the travel blog tab. I hope you will follow us and email your comments.

3 dot journalism - a variety of topics

Spraying to all fields-3 dot journalism

Often, Champs respond to newsletters with sage comments that I cannot share with you immediately but want to at a later date. Sometimes, I have to lump comments on different topics into the same newsletter. Such is the case today, which is why the newsletter is called, "Spraying to all fields."

Actually, I must admit, that I borrowed that title from the iconic formerSan Francisco Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen, who called his form of writing, 3-dot journalism. He referred to many of his columns as "spraying to all fields," a baseball term that refers to batters who hit to right field, center field, and left field, all over the place, spraying the ball in many and all directions. 

Caen's columns were a series of unrelated paragraphs; he was a genius and was loved by readers, especially in the Bay Area. That being said, here is our version of spraying to all fields today.

From Terry, Thailand, aka "The Funny Plumber," who is married to a Thai woman, lives part of the year in Thailand and part of the year in southern California. Regarding background checks, he responded, "I had to go halfway around the world to find a lady that could not do a background check on me." Terry always puts a humorous and refreshing spin on topics.

Regarding all of the stuff we keep stored in attics, garages and basements, most of which we likely do not need, two Champs commented.

Joanne emailed, "I did got rid of stuff 15 years ago. Everything I have now fits in my Jeep or I can't have it. Every once in a while I think about something I no longer have but then I realize I gave it to someone who could really use it, or, I got rid of it because it wasn't worth saving. I did not have corporate papers to hang onto, but I could not believe how much stuff I threw away. Makes you feel a lot lighter."

Tom's response: Does this mean, Joanne, that you live in your Jeep?

Liz, Illinois, "I got rid of stuff years ago, weeding out and keeping only the very minimum when I moved into my current house six years ago. I loved all of the empty spaces I had created and breathed more freely.
"And then, guess what? 

"My son moved in with me, with all of his pack-rat clutter, and now my basement, attic and two garages are once again filled--with his stuff. My plan is to get a pickup truck and, in the dead of night, haul all of this stuff away. Wish me luck on that!"

Tom's response: Liz, you aren't the only one who is housing a return-to-the-roost son or daughter, and the stuff that accompanies them. Some Champs would need a semi-truck to haul their kids' stuff away. I have no children so I can't comment on what to do in a case like this, other than to say older kids should understand the imposition they are putting on their parents and set a deadline to get out from under foot.

Sometimes, circumstances make that hard or impossible to do. I know of Champs who have grandchildren living with them. When I owned my deli, I would see younger employees move out of their parent's home to live on their own and quickly discover it's a tough world out there, and before you know it, they were back at home.


Marta, Montreal, responded: "Your recent newsletter regarding marriage and responsibility for a spouse's health care costs, made me think how unfortunate that there is no national health care program in the USA. If people WANT to get married, it is a shame that they might not because they fear financial disaster through a medical crisis.

"My American cousins fear 'government involvement' in their medical care might mean poor care, and our Canadian system is not perfect, but it makes me happy to know that my contributions all of the years that I worked mean that my poorer neighbor, who contributed less, or those on welfare, receive the same care I get.

"My cousins' fears and attitudes mean they vote for a system that keeps them paying over $800 a month in premiums before they receive any medical care, and then there are the 'co pays' when they see a medical professional. Whenever we visit our American cousins and other friends, much of the discussion is about the outrageous cost of medical care, whereas that is never a subject at home here in Canada.

"Thanks for the newsletter, much appreciated, but you have not billed me for a while. Isn't there a charge? I'd be happy to pay it."

Response from Tom: The newsletter, currently at least, is like your Canadian health care, there is no charge. I charged a small fee at one time, but then decided to stop charging because I wanted to be able to write about any topic I wanted, and not only about dating later in life. That is why the newsletter title is "On Life and Love After 50."

I made that decision years ago while I was gainfully employed. Now that I am retired, if the money gets tight, perhaps I will have to start charging again, but not for now.

Which leads me to mention that the newsletter, during the next couple of months, will likely include some travel columns, since my life partner, Greta, and I are heading for Austria on April 14. Any Champs interested in following that trip will be able to read my travel blog on the Travel After 55 website.

That is a website of mine that contains articles and pictures of many of the trips Greta and I have taken in the 17 years we have been together as a couple. The Austria blog has been started but there is not much on it yet. We will be staying in Graz, Austria, the second largest city.

Here is the link:Tom's Travel After 55 website. On the home page, click on the white tab that says "travel blog" and the Austria story begins in the upper left hand corner where you see this photo. 

Photo Old city Graz, Austria, our home-to-be for one month

                 photo courtesy Christian Schachner

I love hearing your comments, stories, questions and experiences. Keep them coming. They make the newsletter possible. 

A nostalgic week-end getaway to see Rosanne Cash perform

A nostalgic week-end getaway to see Rosanne Cash perform

Thirty-eight years ago, I attended a TV show taping at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California. I was there as a guest of singer Johnny Cash, who was a spokesperson for Victoria Station, the restaurant chain for whom I was the marketing director.

At that taping, I was seated in the front row with Rosanne Cash, Johnny’s daughter, who was 22 at the time. John Denver was the master of ceremonies and singers Roger Miller and Glen Campbell were also on the set.

I remember that day quite vividly because Johnny left the stage unexpectedly and Rosanne was concerned because at the time, Johnny's wife June Carter was having some tests done at the Mayo Clinic. However, everything turned out to be OK with June that day.

The reason Johnny left the stage was a prisoner at the Utah State Prison, Gary Gilmore, wanted Johnny to sing him a song before he was executed. Johnny did over the phone and then returned to the stage to finish the taping.

A few months ago, I read that Rosanne was going to appear in concert at the Fred Kavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m., Friday, March 20. Rosanne is an accomplished musician herself, who won three Grammy awards this year for her album, “The River and the Thread.”

She is often classified as a country singer, but her music combines folk, pop, rock and blues as well.

My partner Greta and I decided to attend Rosanne’s concert and get a hotel room near there so we would not have to drive late at night.

I decided to make it a total Johnny Cash-related trip. Johnny’s manager, Lou Robin, who now handles Johnny’s estate, lives in Thousand Oaks. We’ve been friends for 39 years. Greta and I arranged to meet Lou and his wife Karen for breakfast on Saturday, at a place called Jerry's Famous Deli in nearby Woodland Hills. 

Rosanne’s concert was outstanding. She performed several songs from her Grammy-winning album. At the start of each of those songs, she spent a few minutes narrating the history and background upon which the songs were based, which was a nice personal touch audiences don’t often receive from performers.

She ended the regular part of her concert with her number one single of years back, “Seven Year Ache.” In the encore, she sang the Bob Dylan song, “Girl from the North Country,” a song her dad and Dylan made popular as a duet in 1969. That song was featured in the movie, “The Bridges of Madison County.”

All members of Rosanne’s five-piece band, including her husband John Levanthal, were exceptional musicians. The concert alone made the long drive worthwhile.

After the show, Greta and I went backstage and had a few moments to spend with Rosanne. She and I had a couple of laughs together remembering the old days.

                                   Tom and Rosanne Cash - March 20, 2015

Breakfast the next morning at Jerry’s Famous Deli with Lou and Karen Robin, was equally rewarding. Two hours went by in a jiffy. To listen to stories from Johnny Cash’s manager of 40 years was fascinating for both Greta and me. I learned things about Johnny that I did not know although I traveled with him frequently in the two years we worked together.

Lou was also the manager of Don Ho for a while, after Johnny had passed away.

On the drive home Saturday afternoon, Greta commented on the similarities in mannerisms she noticed between Rosanne and her father Johnny. She added, “Johnny would have been proud of Rosanne’s professionalism.”

It was a special week-end for me; I was happy to be able to share it with Greta, and have her meet these people I have known for years who were so close to Johnny Cash.

Rosanne Cash - Seven year ache