Bruno the Easter Dog

great-dane-rescues-177-150x150 When I think of Easter I don’t think of bunnies and yellow baby chicks. I think of Bruno, a Great Dane I surprised Bob with early in our marriage.

Bruno was a fully-grown puppy when my boss, who couldn’t keep him in his apartment, asked if I wanted him. Me? Gee! Sure. I loved animals. He’ll be a perfect pet. What could possibly go wrong? At the time we lived in Manhattan Beach in a tiny, one-bedroom house with a big yard –– perfect for a dog. Bruno happily hopped into the backseat of my four-door Dodge and we drove to his new home.

“Bob, come see what I’ve got,” I called from the front yard, pointing to the car.

“I don’t see anything,” Bob said, peering at the window. He couldn’t see Bruno because he filled the entire back seat like a hairy, fawn-colored rug. When the rug moved Bob recognized it was a large animal. He was speechless. Aghast, and against owning anything that large, it took a few minutes to convince him we should keep Bruno.

Bruno required lots of exercise so we regularly drove to the Manhattan Beach Pier, parked in front of Lulu’s White Stop Café and then let him run on the beach. (It was the mid-fifties –– dogs could run on the beach then.) It may be a slight exaggeration but before we finished a cup of Lulu’s coffee Bruno could run a mile to the Hermosa Pier and back.

One day we had just parked in front of Lulu’s when surfer Dale Velzy parked alongside us, with his dog in the front seat –– a big, scary-looking wolf-dog cross between a domestic dog and a wolf. His name might have been Wolf, so that’s what I’ll call him.

The two dogs spotted each other. Our gentle giant wanted to play. Slobbering, he barked maniacally and pounded his paws against the car window, so Dale’s dog did the same. Wolf’s inner alpha probably growled, “Who does that silly dog think he is? Kill him.”

Because of their size, there was no stopping them. Dale’s window cracked in those square pieces that laminated glass does when it breaks.

We bought Dale a new window.

Another day, we were drinking coffee in Lulu’s and Bruno lay on the floor next to us. A dog walked by outside and Bruno decided to say hello. Without warning he crashed through the screen door, wiggled a greeting to the other dog and took off on his pier-to-pier run.

We bought Lulu a new door.

Just before Easter, my mother created a special basket for us filled with jellybeans, chocolate rabbits and hardboiled eggs. The eggs were elaborately decorated with lace, sequins and glitter. She delivered the basket but we weren’t home, so she left it inside the door.

Later, she telephoned to ask, “How did you like your Easter basket?”

“What basket?” I replied. It was nowhere to be found. Then we looked at Bruno. He sat there guiltily, his head hung low. Hanging out of his jowls and caught between his molars, were shreds of green grass. Bruno had eaten everything –– glittered eggs, jellybeans, chocolate (usually harmful to dogs, Bruno was the exception), the basket, and all the grass on which the goodies were nested.

My mother bought us another basket. Happy Easter everyone



This gallery contains 3 photos.

A friend sent me an email with pictures of a 1960s bomb shelter recently uncovered in the back yard of a Wisconsin home. It was built during the Cuban missile crisis and reminded me of fall 1962, when America, Russia and … Continue reading



The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Famous color woodcut published between 1830 and 1833.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Famous color woodcut published between 1830 and 1833.


Note the boats out at sea waiting for the %22all clear. Photo from

Note the boats out at sea waiting for the all clear signal. Photo from

A few days ago Ray Pendleton wrote in his HawaII newspaper column that April was Tsunami Awareness month, and it reminded me of an experience I had there thirty years ago.

Bob and I lived in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island where he’d opened Hogan Boat Works, and I commuted to my office on Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu. While we waited for a slip at Kona’s Honokohau Harbor, our 50-foot cutter “Discovery” remained berthed at Ala Wai Harbor, not far from my office. On trips to Oahu I lived aboard; a perfect arrangement––until the day the tsunami sirens went off.

I knew what to do: Call Bob in Kona and tell him not to worry, I’ll take the boat out to deeper water; find a friend to follow me as I drove my rental car to a safer parking place; and then…take the boat out to sea. I parked on the top deck at Ala Moana Center, which was located on flat land probably only 1000-yards from the ocean, (in retrospect clearly not the best choice) and my friend drove me back to the boat where I readied Discovery for sea.

(With tsunamis, a boat is always safer in deeper ocean with no land around, because a tsunami’s swells surge under the boat unnoticed, while waves that form in shallow water rush ashore and destroy. Rogue waves from out of nowhere that wipe out boats altogether are another story.)

Back at the boat I struggled to take down the heavy canvas sunshade covering it from cockpit to mast. All over the harbor sailors hurried to get their boats out to sea, others hurried to Hawaii Yacht Club bar for a drink and a look out to sea from the lanai.

Several sailor acquaintances walked by. I asked them for help––but they all made excuses for why they couldn’t­­––and moved on. Finally, our slip neighbor obliged, then started his engine and quickly left the harbor, joining a steady line of boats filing out of the channel. I hurried to do the same and was backing out of the slip when a friend with extensive cruising experience, strolled by, on his way to the bar.

“Would you crew for me,” I asked. He said yes.

“Whew,” I thought, “Discovery is in good hands.”

Halfway down the slipway a woman on a boat nearby yelled, “Could you tow me out to sea? I don’t have an engine.”

She tossed us a line, my crew caught it and made it fast to a cleat. We continued toward deeper water, then bobbed offshore with several hundred other vessels, turned on the radio and waited for the “all-clear” message. Boat owners called back and forth, chatter filled the airwaves. I fixed a nice lunch off Waikiki. The sky turned to dusk and our two boats, still connected by a Dacron umbilical cord, floated on the small swells. Honolulu city lights flicked on. Finally, we heard “all clear” and we headed back to the harbor.

After we tied up in the slip, I plugged in the telephone and called Bob to let him know we were OK. Next, my crew called his wife to tell her where he’d been–– and she went ballistic!

“Where have you been and what have you been doing?” she yelled accusingly into the phone, so loud I could hear. She wasn’t happy when my crew explained that he’d been out at sea––on a boat, with a woman, and another woman under tow. Nor did she applaud him for helping me. instead, she ordered, “Get home right away.”

I don’t know what happened when he got home, but I’ll be forever grateful that least one Good Samaritan stopped to help.

Happy Easter Season, and aloha



Seasons and Sentences

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m currently editing the chapters of my first book while simultaneously checking email, posting on Facebook, and reading about writing and publishing books. I know there are helpful suggestions out there so I rationalize by telling myself it takes a lot of reading to write a book. However, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever finish the book itself?

It’s the same feeling I had when we were blue water cruising. Often we’d be at sea for twenty or more days where the only marker ticking off the passage of time was wave, after wave, after wave.

“Will we ever arrive in port?” I’d think to myself, a similar question to the one children ask on a long car trip, “When are we gonna’ get there?” Finally, after twenty-one or twenty-two days at sea we’d sight land, and then I’d wish the passage wouldn’t end.

Writing a book is like sailing long distance, running a marathon or pedaling a bicycle across country. You put one foot in front of the other, pedal one full rotation, and write or revise one sentence at a time.

While I’ve been doing that, I notice that the Lynden tree outside my office window has subtly marked its own passage of time with the changing color of its leaves and finally the lack of them. Each day as I sit at my computer and move through the sentences my tree moves steadily through the seasons; it’s leaves turning from spring buds to summer green, then autumn red and finally to winter’s bare branches, leaf, after leaf, after leaf.

And I know I must move through the sentences and chapters as steadily and patiently as that tree moves through the seasons. I can’t hurry, or fill up sentences with words that aren’t quite right, just to make the work go faster. I search for exactly what I want to say, no matter how long it takes, and at the end of the day pray that I have written words worth reading.

Chrysanthemums For Sale

Autumn, with its colorful array of warm foliage, always reminds me of my dad, who was a remarkable gardener.
When my brother and I were in grammar school we lived in a white stucco Tudor style home trimmed with brown wood, situated on a large corner lot in Manhattan Beach, California. There was also a large empty lot adjacent to the house and my parents owned that, too. It was early 1940s, during World War II and dad worked in the Post Office. He was also a volunteer fireman and air raid warden. Mom worked swing shift in a defense plant in El Segundo. I can still picture her going to work looking like Rosie the Riveter, in slacks with her hair tied up in a red and white bandana.
Each evening after work, dad spent hours planting a Victory Garden in the empty lot, nurturing and cultivating the plants so that eventually a marvelous assortment of vegetables and flowers bloomed there. It was long before home vegetable gardening became so popular.
Because of the war, canned vegetables were rationed, which is why families in the United States, often referred to as The Home Front, planted Victory Gardens. These wartime gardens were intended to help prevent food shortages. Their produce also helped stretch ration coupons, which defined the amount of certain foods people were allowed to buy at the store.
According to National World War II Museum statistics, at their peak there were more than 20,000,000 Victory Gardens planted across the United States, and more than a million tons of produce were grown during the war.
I can still remember going out to the garden in the summertime, pulling up small baby carrots, dusting off the dirt and eating them then and there. I also loved pulling green beans off the vine and tasting their crunchy earth-flavored sweetness. I also remember the grotesque brown potato bugs and the repulsive green tomato worms that my brother and I, at my fathers orders, helped pull off the plants.
But what I remember most is that throughout October, part of the lot bloomed with chrysanthemums in all their dazzling fall colors: Orange, white, yellow, bronze, amber and brown. This was the signal to my dad that it was time for my brother and I to earn our Christmas present money.
Dad would make up bunches of a dozen long-stemmed chrysanthemums, wrap them in newspaper, pack them into a little red wagon and send us out into the world to sell them––for seventy-five cents a bunch. Our sales territory covered about a two-mile radius. In those days, personal safety wasn’t much of an issue.
I was always slightly embarrassed to be peddling flowers from door-to-door. I envisioned myself as very similar to The Little Match Girl. But our customers loved them and we were rarely, if ever, turned down without a sale. By the time the chrysanthemum season was over we had walked miles, up one street and down another selling flowers, until all the blooms were gone and we had enough money to buy presents for the whole family.
Recently, I bought a basket of chrysanthemums and when I put them on the front porch I thought of those “good old days.” I recalled how hard dad worked in his garden, growing food for us to eat and flowers for us to sell so that we would have a little spending money. I don’t think I ever appreciated him, or them, as much as I do now.


JOE BTFSPLK, created by Al Capp, is very simply the world's biggest jinx. He walks around with a perpetually dark rain cloud a foot over his head. Once he appears on any scene, dreadful bad luck befalls anyone in his vicinity. He is a very lonely and feared little man.

JOE BTFSPLK, created by Al Capp, is very simply the world’s biggest jinx. He walks around with a perpetually dark rain cloud a foot over his head. Once he appears on any scene, dreadful bad luck befalls anyone in his vicinity. He is a very lonely and feared little man.

There’s a thick fog this morning, and the foghorn sounding offshore reminds me of an incident
that happened years ago when we were preparing to depart on our first cruise aboard Discovery

It was early spring and we were living aboard in King Harbor, in Redondo
Beach, California. Several bachelor acquaintances had already approached us about coming
along as crew. Bob and I had discussed taking an extra hand aboard and decided the ideal
person would be our friend, Joe Inch, who we first met when racing on the sailboat Dorothy

From the moment we met Joe we formed an instant friendship and we spent a lot of time
together on land and at sea. Best of all, Robbie and Sharri liked him, so he was our first choice.

But we weren’t his.

“I don’t want to sail around the world in a rain cloud,” said Joe, joking that Bob was the
Li’l Abner character Joe Btfsplk, the world’s biggest jinx.

There were others hoping for a berth. A freelance photographer and surfing contest
announcer we barely knew offered to photograph our odyssey. We said we’d consider taking
him along, but while we were deliberating he made arrangements of his own. Aware of
our plans to approach equipment sponsors, magazines and newspapers to write about the trip,
he showed up one day with reams of letterhead stationery and envelopes printed to resemble a
yellowed treasure map. Inscribed in the upper left-hand corner was the name Discovery. Next to
it was a blackened hole burned in the paper. Near the hole was a motto: A Worldwide Adventure
in Living
and underneath that were our names, his name, and my parent’s address.

He hadn’t asked if we wanted stationery, and we were unaware it was being printed until
he handed us an exorbitant bill. He was soon out of our lives, and we stored the unwanted
stationery in my parent’s garage. For the rest of his life my father wrote every letter to us on that
stationery –– but not before crossing off our friend’s name with a big red X.

Another potential crew member, a high school friend of Bob’s, eventually made us an
offer: If he could come along as crew he would deposit $3,000 into our bank account prior to
departure. If he didn’t work out and only sailed with us for a few months, we could still keep the
cash. I didn’t know him at all and was hesitant, but the cash sounded good. I’d read that if you
want to know whether someone will be a good crew member or not, sail with them on your
boat and you’ll soon find out. We decided to give him a try.

It was the end of April, the sailing weather was fine, and so we invited him on a
weekend trip to Catalina Island. More trips followed, and with each one he became more
overbearing. He ordered everyone around, and the children didn’t like him one bit. I rationalized
that he was effective because he made them mind me.

On his sixth weekend with us we’d only been anchored a short time when he began
teasing Robbie, threatening to throw him into the water. He chased Robbie around the deck and
eventually caught him, then lifted him into the air to throw him overboard. Robbie grabbed the
shrouds, holding on to the rigging with a death grip.

“He’s trying to kill me,” Robbie screamed.

“Let Robbie go,” I growled, an unmistakable “or else” in my voice. I wanted to kick our erstwhile
crew off then and there, but Bob advocated patience. We were anchored in an isolated harbor
on an island twenty-six miles from the Mainland.

Early next morning I awoke to the sudden sound of the engine revving up, followed by the
rattling of the anchor chain being hauled in. Strange, I thought, Bob hadn’t mentioned leaving
early. By mid-morning we were halfway across the busy Catalina shipping channel ––
surrounded by an impenetrable fog with no visibility beyond the bow. At the helm, Bob steered
silently with clenched jaw, maintaining our compass position and constantly checking the depth.
I rang the ships bell every few seconds and Robbie blew the air horn at designated intervals.
Nearby, our aspiring crew member sat doing nothing, growing more anxious by the minute.

“We’re lost. Radio the Coast Guard!” he pleaded frantically. Bob just stared ahead into
the fog. A few hours later we were safely tied up in our slip.

“Man, you came real close to losing the boat out there, you know?” our almost
crew member observed.

“No. We didn’t come close at all,” answered Bob, through closed lips. “We. Just.
Couldn’t. See. Anything.” Relieved, I knew this guy would never be asked back.

Later, in a letter to my brother I wrote: “There can only be one captain on a boat, and it
was hard to tell who the captain of Discovery actually was. That really got to Bob.”

Truth be told, we didn’t want anyone else on board except the four of us, and in the
end we learned sometimes it’s better to go it alone. We never regretted our decision.


I am currently reading Coop, A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg, by an author named Michael Perry. This is the first time I have read his work and I love it. Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Dryly humorous, mildly neurotic, and just plain soulful––a book that might even make you want to buy a few chickens.”

I think he’s hilarious.

The book zigzags between his childhood experiences on his family’s farm and his own farm with his wife and two daughters. The recurring theme is that he hopes to raise chickens but first he must build a coop. Of course, a lot of life takes place in between. He is a writer and musician with a family and deadlines always on his mind. The coop is literally under construction throughout the whole book.

There are several incidents in the book that made me nostalgic about my own chicken experiences and I just had to blog about one of them.

Before the year 2000 began, bringing with it the end of the world, as we know it, we lived in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and I made preparations for the apocalypse. I planted a vegetable garden. I purchased a 500-gallon portable plastic water tank, installed it under our house and topped it off. I bought cases of canned food and stashed them in my office. I visited a poultry farm in Kealakekua and purchased four fully-grown white laying hens. I don’t remember their breed. Since we lived in a housing development with a homeowners association that didn’t allow barnyard animals, the four squawking hens rode home incognito in a burlap sack in the back of my pickup truck so the neighbors wouldn’t see them.

Bob was incredulous when the chickens arrived, but agreed to build them a coop in the back yard. Placement was a primary concern. He built it on stilts, not far from the vegetable garden, directly over the compost heap. I figured that way the chickens would enrich the compost with their poop and I could enrich my garden.

I fed them organic pellets, cracked corn, calcium and grit. They scratched happily on the lawn and in the garden for bugs. After a while they produced four eggs daily. Then one day I heard a ruckus in the back yard. By the time I got there a mongoose was gnawing at the bloody neck of one of the chickens. I hadn’t taken into account these prolific critters, introduced to Hawaii in 1883 to control rats in the cane fields. I tossed the dead bird out into the lava field beyond, and shooed the other squawking chickens back to their coop.

The curly-haired boy across the street heard the to-do and became suspicious. Had he really heard chickens? He wanted to check so he collected a few of his friends and they sneaked through the vacant lot next to our house and around to our back fence. I heard them snooping and rushed out to see what they wanted.

“We heard chickens,” the neighbor boy said.

“No chickens here, but you’d better be careful of that field,” I warned. “A lava tube could collapse and bury you, and no one would ever know.” But they knew what they had heard.

A few days later the boy’s golden retriever decided to check, too. I saw it jump over the gate and, while I watched, grabbed a chicken and ran across the street with bird in its mouth.
I am inclined toward nervous laughter or inappropriate humor when accidents happen, and I thought at the time: “that’s why a chicken crosses the road.” I followed the running dog with the dangling chicken in its jaws, right into my neighbor’s driveway. Too late. The bird was dead. Red blood streaked its white feathers.

My young neighbor saw the whole incident and boasted aloud: “My dad didn’t believe me when I told him I heard chickens, but now he will.”

A second mongoose attacked days later. When I heard the commotion I looked out to see the weasel-like creature standing on its hind legs, stretched up under the cage and clawing at the chicken wire with its front paws. The remaining agitated chickens clucked so loud the whole neighborhood probably heard them. I ran down the back stairs and chased the mongoose out of the yard. Soon, someone was going to call the homeowners association and a cease and desist letter would arrive any day.

The earlier dog incident reduced our supply of fresh eggs to just two per day. As I scrambled them, I wondered when a letter from the homeowner’s association would end forever my chicken-farming endeavor.

A mongoose only hunts in daylight so I knew that if the chickens made it to evening, they were safe for another night. But standing guard over them each day was taking its toll on my business. I decided they would be safer if I found a more protected home for the two remaining hens. I gave them and their food supply to a friend with a flock of her own and an invader-proof coop. I saw her a few months after I gave her the birds and she revealed that one had escaped and run into the mountains up above her home. She figured it was dead. I didn’t ask how it happened.

And then there was one.

We all know that the world didn’t end at the stroke of midnight on December 1999, but well before then I gave up chicken farming in favor of a powdered egg supply. I never learned what happened to that last chicken, but today I can hear hens clucking in my neighbor’s yard in Washington State. I’m tempted to see if I might have better luck up here.

My Favorite Photo

Discovery in Papetoi Bay 01870002 When we were in Tahiti we sailed often to Moorea, and on one trip Bob waited patiently for just the right picture of Discovery in Papetoi Bay, with its stern line tied to a tree and another anchor off our bow. I think he captured the essence of this beautiful place with this photograph, the light on the boat and the dark clouds above the mountain. I chose it as the photo to use for my business card to represent my book In the Wake of Discovery: Two Adults, Two Children, and 25,000-Miles on a Small Boat.
While we were still living in Hawaii, Bob painted a watercolor of this photograph and gave it to me for our 20th anniversary. Now, years later, it still hangs on the wall in our home and is one of my favorite paintings. It reminds me of what we did and what anyone can do –– follow their dreams and do amazing things.
I’m still working on the final chapters of the book and hope to have them finished, maybe edited, by summer. It’s fun writing, but difficult as there is so much I want to say and I know I can’t put it all into just one book.
That’s it. This is a short blog and its main purpose is just to display this amazing photo.

Incredible, It’s Edible

My grandfather, Oscar Bessonette, fished all his life and owned several bait and tackle stores in Manhattan Beach, California. The first was a bait shack he constructed on the end of the municipal pier. It sported a sign that said “If They Swim — We Have the Tackle To Catch Em.” He lost his pier lease in 1926 and moved, to a two-story building  on Manhattan Beach Boulevard, at the entrance to the pier. He named his store “Oscar’s Surf Club,” and remained there until he lost his lease in 1956 when the state decided they wanted the land for a parking lot. He gave us most of his leftover fishing tackle to use on our sailing trip, some of which later came in handy as trade for food, or souvenirs, along the way. The photos above are from Images of America, Manhattan Beach Pier, compiled by Jan Dennis.
On board our sailboat Discovery the continuing conversation at breakfast, (mostly oatmeal with raisins), was always: “What’s for lunch?” When we found it, cooked it, and ate it, someone always asked: “What’s for dinner”?

Foraging for food was central to our way of life.

During our family’s incessant search for meals all manner of sea life, including sharks, cowered in fear when we dropped anchor. In the open ocean, throughout the intertidal zones, and in dark coastal mangrove swamps, the word was out–“here come the Hungry Hogan’s.”

Guided only by the sonar of our growling stomachs, we harvested myriads of edible marine life: most accessible, some unusual, but all nutritious and free for the taking. Necessity taught us how to turn it into a gourmet meal and our logbook reflects our appetites. At last count the logbook list included sixty-three different species of fish, fifty-three of which we caught, cooked, and consumed.

“If wishes were fishes we’d have scales on our teeth,” was our sea shanty. I don’t know who in the crew coined this magical phrase, but it grew into our personal piscatorial incantation. As traditional (to us) as the Star Spangled Banner before a football game, we sung it as we sat around the cockpit waiting for the aquatic animals to bite.

Sometimes, the fish just laughed at our efforts, but on most occasions we had all the seafood we could eat.

“Hawkeye!” was the call to action when a fish actually took the hook in its mouth. A traditional code word, it meant, simultaneously:“ We’ve got a fish, the vang’s straightened out and the line’s taut, call Dad, get the gaff, come up into the wind so we can haul it aboard, grab the hook disgorger, make some tartar sauce, and cancel reservations at Fisherman’s Wharf.”

On any successful passage we ate fresh fish every day.

On our way from Mexico to Costa Rica, just offshore of Cocos Bay we encountered a huge school of dolphinfish in a feeding frenzy, and caught them until our arms were sore.

Bob wrote in the logbook: “dolphin in the five-to-ten-pound class are so thick off the stern that it’s absolutely impossible to drop a bone jig, feather, or anything else in the water without getting a hookup in the first 20 seconds. I’ve never seen anything like it.” The following day, we encountered the school again and Bob wrote “…more dolphin around the boat than I have ever seen. We’ve decided to take some into port with us to give to whoever might be there. The only word that fits is carnage. Dolphin are fighting for the jigs, running into the propeller and the hull. At one time there were about 50 of them in the air at one time.”

From Cocos, during the five days it took to reach our next stop, Quepos, we caught enough fresh fish to feast on finny flounder for fifteen meals in a row (a tongue twisting stomach-filler), for sure. The challenge was always: “How to cook it this time?”

After one particularly successful lunch, the diners: Bob, Robbie and Sharri, awarded me the Pectoral Medal of Honor (with Three Scales), denoting meritorious action in the galley for a recipe I named “Sole Food.” I generally leave recipes for other’s cooking blogs, but the one below is pretty tasty for a winter fish stew, and includes ordinary ingredients most sailors keep aboard:

Sole Food

1/2-cup butter, margarine, or vegetable oil

1/3 chopped green pepper (1/4 cup if dried)

2/3 cup finely chopped fresh onion. Use dried according to package directions

1/2-cup light brown sugar, or maple syrup

1/4-cup vinegar

One, 16 oz. can pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/2-teaspoon salt

1-tablespoon water

1-2 lbs. freshly caught fish

2 tomatoes cut in wedges or 1 can whole tomatoes

1-1/2 cups rice cooked in 3 cups water with 2 tablespoons butter or margarine.

Melt butter in saucepan. Add green pepper and onion. Sauté until tender then remove from heat. Add sugar, vinegar and pineapple with juice.

Mix cornstarch, salt and water to a smooth paste and add to sauce, cooking well. Stir constantly until mixture thickens then set aside.

Poach fish in water, drain and add to sauce but don’t cook. Cook rice in water, salt and butter. Add tomatoes to fish and sauce. Spoon over rice. Should make 4-6 servings.