Life is an adventure. Live it and love it.
My parents raised me to always be the best I can be at whatever I do, no matter how miniscule, no matter how grand. Being the best I can be requires learning all I can about whatever I do and always being willing to learn a better way. This upbringing has made me extremely competitive, blending with another parental philosophy, to always be fair and honest in dealing with others.
Every morning of my life, I rise with hungry anticipation of what unknowns lay before me. Sure, we plan much of our lives but there are always those unknowns.
As an example, my mother accidentally signed me up for intermediate swimming during the summer swimming lessons offered on the navy base where I grew up. I didn’t know how to swim but my pride and my extremely competitive nature would not allow me to back down. I think I was twelve years old, an old age for a non-swimmer growing up on a navy base.
The base pool was 50 meters long and the wall at the deep end was the same height as starting blocks for competitive swimming, one meter above the water. We all stood at the top of the wall and the instructor blew the whistle, having instructed us to swim to the shallow end. I dove in with everybody else and sank to the floor drain like a stone. Luckily, an older boy named Willie Rowell pulled me off the drain and saved my life. I immediately signed up for beginning swimming and worked hard at learning. Having no body fat at that time, I was what they called a non-floater, so learning to swim was hard work.
By the summer of my 14th year I was on the swim team. By the summer of my 15th year I was winning races in freestyle and butterfly and, at one time, held 12 different pool records around Southern California.
Another important event in the summer of my 14th year was a powerful spiritual event. While at church camp at Big Bear Lake, we were sent into the woods to pray. I found an isolated spot and sat down to ask God a question. To my astonishment, he answered in a rich, all encompassing, audible voice; a specific answer to a specific, silent question. Later that year, I had a falling out with my church and stopped attending.
I believed, at the time, that all religions worshipped the same God but in different ways. I knew God was real and so too was Jesus but the church had greatly angered my foolish pride. In search of answers, I read the Koran, some Buddhist writings and some Hindu philosophy. These teachings are universally opposed to Judeo/Christian teaching so I backed away from organized religion and slowly drifted away from God.
During my high school years, I continued competitive swimming, lettered in varsity football, wrestled, learned to play guitar, worked at various jobs and maintained a B average. The summer following my senior year I actually made some money playing guitar and singing folk songs.
My first year at Bakersfield College was a disaster. I did letter in varsity water polo but I majored in party. After two semesters I found myself on double probation and searched for answers within myself. Praying for guidance never occurred to me. Tommy Huddleston, one of my high school classmates, had just graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp where he’d earned his dress blues, having graduated Honor Man, ranked as the best among 75 recruits. He convinced me I could do the same.
Seeing it as an opportunity to grow up and prepare to move forward with my life, I signed into a three year enlistment. Three months later, I graduated Honor Man and earned my own set of dress blues. Only former Marines truly understand the significance of this.
Our Family Picture
Our dog “Popeye”.
I became a radio telegraph operator and volunteered to serve at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, what an adventure. These years of service found me fighting forest fires, working at a ski resort on weekends, hunting and fishing for native trout on Pickle Meadow. My service there inspired Meadowlarks.
I transferred to the Marine Base at 29 Palms where I made the base swim team and served as a lifeguard and water safety instructor. I became captain and coach of the base team and we won our meets.
After the Marine Corps, I moved to Miami with Danny Sanjenis, another former Marine lifeguard. His older brother Michael had been a lifeguard on Miami Beach so they held a test date until Danny and I showed up. I passed the test, became a lifeguard on the Miami Beach Patrol, and attended Miami-Dade Community College.
Working as a Lifeguard
Danny failed the test by a hair but got onto the Dade County Lifeguard Association and worked at Matheson Hammock, a hotspot for the ladies.
I had decided on architecture and transferred to Arizona State University, working my way through college as a bartender and remodeling the Library Tavern over my first Christmas vacation there. After leaving ASU I worked for three different construction firms, designing, supervising and estimating. During a slump in the economy, I returned to Miami, worked at several construction related jobs and tested for fire departments. I was hired by the City of Hallandale and got my general contractor’s license at about the same time.
Working as a Fire Fighter
Along the way, over the years, I had learned to cook, seeing it as another creative outlet. Whichever shift I worked at the fire department, the shift cook stepped aside and gave the kitchen to me. My blog will, from time to time, contain some of my infamous recipes.
I founded Architecture and Construction, Inc, a Human Space Corp. and designed and built many projects in and around Coconut Grove, while working one day out of three for the fire department. I was elected to serve on the Hallandale Civil Service Board as the fire department representative and defended civil service regulations.
By this time in my life I had drifted away from God and had completely forgotten His having spoken to me. I was drinking copious amounts of beer and, sometimes, being quite obnoxious to my friends. After one such obnoxious event, I went to bed in tears, crying out to Jesus, “If you’re real, please help me stop liking beer so much.” The next morning I felt different, like some heavy load had been lifted from my body. On my way to breakfast I walked past a couple of tourists carrying open beers. The breeze carried the odor across my face, a smell I could never have remembered after years of drinking. It was like my first whiff of beer from my father’s beer bottle, awful.
This was a major miracle in my life. I have had no desire to drink since that day and it doesn’t bother me to be around those who do, as if I had never touched a drink of any kind. I started reading the Bible and going to church and, shortly thereafter, was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been my best friend ever since.
I spent time sailing the Caribbean and met John Quinn, sharing many adventures together.
Below, John and I are standing outside an abandoned church on St. Christopher. It was rumored to be haunted so we had to go inside where there was no doubt of its haunting. Some entity, or entities, definitely dwelled in the bell tower.
With my friend John
John convinced me to return to California where I continued to design and build while learning to write screenplays. During my Hollywood Daze, I did some acting in film and on television and attended the prestigious American Film Institute. These years caused both pain and joy, a wild ride of high expectations and deep disappointments. What an adventure.
After being ripped off several times and learning there was nothing I could do about it, I started writing novels, a whole different craft. After self-publishing through a vanity publisher, the economy collapsed and I decided to move to a place where I could give my full attention to writing without starving.
My publishing consultant recommended Cebu, in the Philippines. I packed up my ailing mother, my dog, my cat, my art, my library, some of my furniture and moved to Cebu where I met my first and only wife, Wilma. She gave us our daughter, Michelle Trixie and we live under a one acre grove of coconut palms on the Philippine Sea, where I continue to write every day.
My life has been a wild ride, an adventure and a long flow of happiness. Happiness, you see, is a state of mind. We can choose to be happy, no matter what our circumstance, but this is sometimes difficult. I’ve found the best way to be happy is to work at making others happy. With my writing, I endeavor to do this. My stories are always a good ride and leave us feeling happy at having taken it.
Writing all of the above was difficult for me. I’d rather be looking forward than back.
Live your life to the fullest and always look forward. The adventures still in front of you are waiting.