On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter (special edition)
September 24, 2022
By Columnist Tom Blake
Picture of Johnny Cash and a future king together (photo courtesy of Rosanne Cash)below
Our Champ Andrew emailed on Tuesday a “heads up” of a Twitter post by Rosanne Cash, the youngest daughter of Johnny Cash. Andrew didn’t know if I had seen the @rosannecash post. I hadn’t and really appreciate him sending it to me.
I have known Rosanne for 46 years and Greta and I try to see her in concert when she performs within an hour or two from our home. Rosanne is in the Country Music Hall of Fame (along with her dad) and is extremely talented and intelligent. Here’s what her Twitter post stated (keep in mind, this was the day after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral):
“I’ve been debating all day whether or not to post this photo, but it’s just too good to keep it under wraps. I expect a lot of captions, but none I haven’t thought of already. But go right ahead.”
I decided to provide a caption that I can guarantee neither Rosanne nor any of her 103,000 likes followers thought of. As a co-producer of Johnny’s album of train songs, “Destination Victoria Station,” I came up with this caption:
“Johnny wrote a song titled “Destination Victoria Station,” about the Victoria Station train station in London. Album is the same name. JRC nailed it. The other guy in the photo passed through the Victoria Station train station but was probably lost. John is giving him directions!”
The other guy in the picture is King Charles III in his much younger days.
In September 2019, when Ken Burns’ eight-part film series “Country Music” premiered on PBS, my partner Greta and I watched the series in two-hour segments. We loved it. After that, we started watching more country music programs on YouTube.
This Monday night, I turned on YouTube music while working on a Sudoku puzzle before going to sleep. YouTube music often presents us with a choice of country music selections based on our previous viewings.
I noticed Monday that “Country Music. Live at the Ryman,” was on and featured many of my favorite country music stars. I thought perhaps it was a segment from the 2019 “Country Music” series, but it wasn’t. It was a two-hour show, also produced by Ken Burns, that promoted the release of the upcoming 16-hour “Country Music” series.
“Live at the Ryman” was released in March 2019 and filmed at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, which was home to the Grand Ole Opry for 31 years until the Opry was relocated a few miles away in March 1974. Greta and I took a tour of the Ryman in 2017.
That Ryman tour touched me deeply as my friends Johnny and June Carter Cash, on March 15, 1974, sang the final Opry song at the Ryman, which was “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” (Made popular by the Carter Family and others).
Many of you know that I worked with Johnny in 1975 and 1976 when I was the director of Marketing for the Victoria Station Restaurant Chain (restaurants were built of boxcars and cabooses–Johnny loved trains). Johnny agreed to do our radio commercials.
On the night that his band recorded the music for our commercials at the House of Cash recording studio in Hendersonville, Tenn., Johnny invited some of his friends to play along with the band. Band members included Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes), Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers, Earl “Pool” Ball (piano), W.S. Holland (drums), and Marshall Grant (bass). I think Marty Stuart and Rodney Crowell were there as well. I got to meet them all.
While watching “Live at the Ryman” on Monday night, I started to feel a little nostalgic. Especially when Larry Gatlin sang my favorite Johnny Cash song, “Sunday Morning Coming Down (written by Kris Kristofferson). Once, at the Sahara Resort in Lake Tahoe, Johnny asked me before the show what my favorite song of his was. He opened the show by dedicating that song to me before an audience of 2,000 people.
I have remained friends with Rosanne Cash. When Rosanne sang on the show, “I Still Miss Someone,” a song her dad, Johnny, wrote for her, it was a real grabber for me.
Marty Stuart was on the show. He had played guitar for Johnny and was married to Cindy Cash, Rosanne’s sister for a while.
Seeing Vince Gill playing guitar on nearly every song, regardless of the artist singing was indicative of his versatility and talent. Gil has been a regular at the Grand Ole Opry for years.
When Greta and I were having a private VIP backstage tour at Opryland in 2017, we walked past Gill’s dressing room. He was there receiving lots of visitors, so we did not get to meet him. Our tour had been set up by Johnny’s long-time manager and dear friend of mine, Lou Robin, who was still overseeing Johnny’s royalties, 24 years after Johnny had passed away.
I got to know the Carter family well. Mother Maybelle was a sweetheart, and June’s sisters, Helen and Anita were always nice to me. Mother Maybelle played an instrument called The Carter Scratch. Her best-known song is “Wildwood Flower.”
Anita Carter, June’s sister, had one of the purest women’s voices in the history of country music. Her singing of the song “Peace In The Valley” was breathtaking. Anita’s husband, Bob Wootton, and I became buddies during the two years.
When “Live At The Ryman” ended with the entire cast returning to the stage, and singing, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” I nearly lost it. Rosanne was front and center and she and Dwight Yoakam were having fun up there together. Ken Burns was even on stage singing. I thought to myself, how fortunate I have been to have known so many of these talented people.
By the way, I was so captivated that I didn’t make one entry in the Sudoku puzzle!
In 2015, I published an eBook on Smashwords.com, titled, “The Johnny Cash I Knew. A Kind and Caring Man.” The 64-page book details my time spent with Johnny and June. It’s $2.99. I think you’d enjoy it. The link is below. Once it opens, type the book’s title in the search box.
As I often do, I include an appropriate song in my articles. There were many from which to choose but I think this version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is exceptional, as many country music people are featured. Johnny opens the video. Watch for the picture of June Carter Cash near the end.
In March 2017, I wrote a column titled, “Delivering a Letter to Johnny Cash,” which described a trip my partner Greta and I took to Tennessee to visit the Johnny Cash Museum and Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, and Graceland, and Sun Records in Memphis.
As many of you know, I worked with (and became friends with) Johnny Cash in 1975 and 1976 and wanted to show Greta the places where I had been with him.
A fellow Dana Point resident and Champ, Michael McLeavy, responded to that article. He wrote: “I enjoyed your ‘Delivering a Letter to Johnny Cash’ column and thought you might get a kick out of how I met Elvis Presley, since Elvis was a friend of your friend Johnny Cash.”
Michael and I met for lunch and compared stories about how he met Elvis and I met Johnny, two of Tennessee’s greatest singing legends. Michael presented me with a replica of a poster that pictured Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley together, promoting a March 10, 1956, concert in Armory, Mississippi (photo above)
On April 13, 2017, I wrote a follow-up column detailing how Michael met Elvis.
This February, Michael told me he had just completed an autobiography, which features his meeting Elvis as one of the highlights.
He said, “I purchased your Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark book and was impressed that you self-published it by using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Would you consider editing, formatting, and helping me publish my book on Amazon?”
I said, “I admit, as a senior, I have extra time on my hands due to staying at home during the pandemic. Seniors need projects to work on. Projects can keep their minds active and give them a purpose. I’m not a professional editor, but I did learn a lot publishing my book.”
I thought getting Michael’s book edited and published might take me three weeks. So, I said to Michael, “I will do it.”
Three weeks turned into two months. Besides editing the manuscript, building a table of contents, and creating the book’s cover, there were multiple pictures to reformat and other details to address. One blessing: the book turned out to be only 132 pages.
As I worked on the book, I became fascinated with Michael’s life. He moved to Los Angeles from Scotland in 1965. His primary goal was to meet Elvis. He did that and so much more. He built a successful career in the insurance business.
Michael is an accomplished singer. He has recorded four CDs, which are available on Amazon.
Currently, Michael’s book, “What Now? What Next? Where To?” is available in paperback only. The cost on Amazon is $14.99 plus shipping and taxes.
However, if Champs would like a signed and personalized copy, email Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org with the details. The charge for Champs is $14.25, plus delivery. He will invoice you via his PayPal account, which can be paid via credit cards.
Michael has lived in Dana Point with his wife Linda since 1989.
Will I begin a second senior career helping people as an editor and publisher of books? Perhaps, but not full time as I must leave enough time to keep writing my eNewsletters and newspaper columns. Let me know if you have a book in your future. I’m receptive to questions.
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – October 30, 2020
By Columnist Tom Blake
One of the offshoots of the pandemic is that Champs are tapping into their personal reservoirs of creativity.
Several Champs have mentioned they are working on creative projects. Perhaps it’s because they have more free time than usual. Or, they are reflecting on their lives and what’s really important to them. It’s interesting that several men are working on writing projects such as autobiographies, blogs, or books. Women are painting, gardening, and exercising more.
Patrick Hynes, a native of Australia, is writing a postcard blog that he emails to his friends. It’s titled, “Patrick’s Brief Encounters…Snippets of my life in America.” Working as the Public Relations Director for the Anaheim Hilton Hotel years ago, he met many famous people. Each weekly postcard contains a photo and about 150 concise words. Patrick’s first postcard was about meeting Muhammad Ali. Here’s the photo of him and Ali:
Patrick’s first postcard (July 20, 2020) photo (courtesy of Patrick Hynes)
Other postcards have featured President Reagan, Madonna, Buzz Aldrin, Joe Dimaggio, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Sean Connery (James Bond), and Kobe Bryant.
Champ Pam Peters, San Diego, has created more than 100 paintings during the pandemic. She has created boxes of gift cards that feature her paintings. (By the way, Pam happens to be my sister; she’s the creative one in the family). Here’s one of the 100 she’s created during this pandemic.
Come for dinner – Shrimp Provencal
Champ Sandy, Sonoma County, California, also paints, “I have been painting more and creating cards from it…just a lot of fun. I’ve been dormant on writing but have started writing in my head again..and I can feel it about to jump out.”
Champ Rick O. is writing about his career as a former professional baseball player. His writing project is temporarily on hold while dealing with several serious family-health issues, which, understandably, take a higher priority than the writing.
Champ Teresa has been creative in a different way, one that has taken time and patience but is changing her life. In the August 21 eNewsletter, I wrote about refinancing my home. Teresa capitalized on the information. How so?
This week, she emailed, ‘Wanted to thank you for the referral to your broker Vanessa Schwartz. My refinance/loan closes Tuesday, a day after my 64th birthday. Yea! I am really jazzed as my monthly payment will be about $300 less than before, allowing me to stay in my home for a few more years after I retire at 70, probably (Italics by Tom). My neighbor refinanced with Vanessa as well. We are both grateful for this opportunity to lower our interest rate and payment.
“I’m doing a little ‘happy dance’ right now, in honor of your willingness to help a stranger.”
In a coincidence, Teresa and I (and Patrick Hynes) worked for the Victoria Station restaurant chain, eons ago, but we didn’t know each other.
I’ve been friends with Rick Lenz for merely 65 years—we were classmates at Jackson High School, in Jackson, Michigan in the 1950s. Rick is a retired successful actor (played opposite Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Walter Matthau, and Peter Sellers among others). He has written several books, including his latest novel, which will be published early next year.
Here is my favorite piece of art that Rick has created. This painting hangs on my wall.
Another high school classmate is Carmen (Carm to me), who lives in Barra de Navidad, Mexico. Carm was featured in our May 29 eNewsletter which is posted on the FindingLoveAfter50.com website. Carm is writing an autobiography. He and Patrick Hynes often send me rough drafts of their work for my comments.
Last Friday, Carm sent a draft of Chapter 10, titled, “My Life with Karen.” Carm was a friend of Karen and her husband Charlie, and when Charlie died, Carm spent time ensuring she was doing okay. The relationship grew and they had five special years together before she passed away on August 1, 2019.
As I was perusing Carm’s Chapter 10, I noticed he included a cluster of four pictures of Karen and him. The caption under the photos reads:
Loving her was easier than anything I’ll ever do again. –-Kris Kristofferson
That caption blew me away. You’ll see why in a minute.
During Greta’s and my 23 years together, I’ve occasionally mentioned to her that when I pass away, I don’t want a funeral. An upbeat, fun, small, positive, memory-celebration is ok, but only if five songs that express how I’ve felt about her, are played on a video for the people attending. I wrote down the titles of the five songs on an old, tattered, envelope for her to keep in her files.
Three weeks ago, Greta left that envelope on my desk with a written request to put those songs into a word document, so she could access them on her computer desktop (I don’t know why she made that request, perhaps Greta knows something I don’t know!).
Here are Tom’s five songs (and the links to each)
1) Loving her was easier than anything I will ever do again (written and sung by Kris Kristofferson)
Note from Tom: That’s the same song Carm used in the caption under Karen’s pictures. That’s why I was blown away. I found it hard to believe that a guy I’ve known for 65 years and I picked the same song to honor our partners.
2) If Tomorrow Never Comes (written by Garth Brooks and Kent Blazy, sung by Garth Brooks)
3) Sunday Morning Coming Down (written by Kris K, sung by Johnny Cash)
4) Dreaming My Dreams (written by Allen Reynolds, sung by Waylon Jennings)
5) Dry Your Eyes (co-written and sung by Neil Diamond)
Note from Tom: This Neil Diamond video I took on my phone at one of Neil Diamond’s last concerts, August 2017, at the Forum in Los Angeles. It’s not a perfect video as I didn’t zoom in until later in the video. But the sound is terrific. Note the trumpet player solo near the end. He is spectacular. It’s nearly impossible to find videos of Diamond performing this song–he rarely played it in concerts. It was originally written honoring Martin Luther King after he was assassinated.
Do you have a song that has special meaning to you or to a loved one? Are you working on a creative project? If so, please share it with us and tell us why it’s special.
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – March 13, 2020
A Reunion with Rosanne Cash, an elegant, long-time friend
by Columnist Tom Blake
On Saturday night, March 7, I had a reunion with an elegant, long-time friend. I’ve written about her before, after seeing her at previous reunions. This reunion was so special, I was moved to share it with readers.
Don’t get the wrong idea. My partner of 22 years, Greta, was at my side. And as a special treat to me, so were my sisters Pam and Christine.
The reunion took place at the intimate and wonderful Poway Center for the Performing Arts, located in the quaint city of Poway, California, 23 miles northeast of San Diego, and about an hour’s drive from our home in south Orange County.
And why do I refer to it as a reunion? Because I’ve known this woman for 43 years, met her when she was about 21. Her name is Rosanne Cash, a multi-Grammy Award winner, and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
And if her last name has a familiar ring, it’s because Rosanne is the eldest daughter of the late Johnny Cash. That connection is how I met her.
In the mid-1970s, when I was the marketing director for the boxcar and caboose Victoria Station restaurant chain, I hired Johnny and worked with him for two years. He was our company spokesperson and sang our radio commercials. I also co-produced the Destination Victoria Station record album with Johnny Cash.
Needless to say, on the album, Johnny did 99.9 percent of the work; I just approved the songs that were featured on the album. He did the singing.
In July 1989, my sister Pam and I were photographed with Johnny, at Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego, a cozy concert venue next to the water with a plethora of yachts berthed alongside.
Tom Johnny Cash Pam Blake Peters
July 19, 1989, at Humphreys by the Bay – San Diego
When I published “Middle Aged and Dating Again,” my first book in 1997, Johnny endorsed the back cover with these words:
“In the 20 years I have known Tom Blake, he has become an authority on dating and relationships.”
I’m not sure how Johnny knew that, but I happily accepted his endorsement.
Because my sister Pam was with us last Saturday night, I printed out a copy of that 31-year-old photo of us with Johnny and gave it to Rosanne backstage after the show Saturday night.
Handing the above photo to Rosanne
Minutes later, a new photo was taken of Pam, Chris, Rosanne, me and Greta.
Pam Christine Rosanne Tom Greta
March 7, 2020, Poway Center for the Performing Arts
In the last ten years, Greta and I have seen Rosanne, along with her husband/co-writer/producer and arranger John Leventhal, in concert five times, including last Saturday.
When Leventhal saw us backstage Saturday night, he said, “And who are you guys?” I surmised that Rosanne hadn’t briefed John that the Blake clan would be visiting backstage.
John Leventhal and Tom’s sister Christine
The Poway Center for the Performing Arts is a fun place in which to see a concert. It’s small, 797 seats. The ushers are pleasant, friendly and helpful. Michael Rennie, President and CEO of Poway OnStage, greeted us warmly and was accommodating by leading us backstage after the performance.
Check out their website for upcoming shows: www.PowayOnStage.org. And, unheard of these days, the parking is free!
The audience was mesmerized by Rosanne. Her voice is clear and beautiful. Her stage presence and mannerisms are gentle and polished. Her songs are personal, sang as if she’s telling a story that she experienced.
Leventhal is a master guitar player and joins in on limited vocals. He and Rosanne have been married 25 years. They have fun together on stage. They played without an intermission for 90 minutes.
It’s evident that Rosanne loves the United States; she mentioned unity for our country several times. My sisters were deeply moved by her performance.
She sang “Ode to Billie Joe,” as beautifully as Bobbie Gentry did, when Gentry made it a hit in 1967. At the song’s conclusion, Rosanne said, “That song was recorded 53-years-ago, and people are still trying to figure out what Billie Joe was throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” Her comment triggered a huge laugh from the audience.
Rosanne’s rendition of “The Long Black Veil” was spellbinding. She sang “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” which her dad wrote, and she performed “Sea of Heartbreak,” an old Don Gibson tune.
She ended the concert with her 1981 hit song “Seven Year Ache.”
The applause brought she and hubby John back for an encore; she sang “Wayfaring Stranger” from the Ken Burns 2019 Country Music documentary, a tune her father had also made popular.
Add a future Rosanne Cash concert to your bucket list, it will be one of the most enjoyable 90 minutes of your life.
On Life and Love after 50 e-Newsletter – February 8, 2019
by Columnist Tom Blake
There are two parts to today’s e-Newsletter
Part 1 – An Evening With Rosanne Cash
Seniors often ask for suggestions on where to go when they’d like a little variety in their routines. For our southern California Champs, I can now recommend the magnificent Chapman University MUSCO Center for the Arts, in Orange, California. Most Champs in other parts of the country have similar venues they can visit.
Greta and I had a senior date night there last Saturday (February 2). It was to see Rosanne Cash in concert. Why Rosanne?
When I first met Rosanne Cash, the oldest daughter of Johnny Cash, she was 21. I was the Director of Marketing for Victoria Station restaurant chain, that specialized in prime rib; most of our restaurants were constructed of boxcars and cabooses.
Victoria Station had hired Johnny to sing train-themed radio commercials and it was my job to work with him to ensure the company’s association with him went well.
In January, 1976, I attended a TV taping of a country music show at the NBC studios in Burbank, California, that featured Rosanne’s dad Johnny, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Roger Miller and Mary Kay Place.
At that five-hour taping, Rosanne and I sat together in the front row; we became friends and have remained in contact—albeit sporadically–since then.
I’ve watched in admiration as she has matured into an incredible, prolific, composer and musician. I’ve observed her emerge from under her famous father’s coattails, and, become established on her own merit.
Her music isn’t solely country, it’s called Americana, which includes pop, rock, blues and folk. Rosanne’s career took off with a 1981 title track song and album called “Seven Year Ache.” She has released 15 albums.
In 2015, she won three Grammy awards for best Americana album, “The River & the Thread.”
Rosanne has had 11 songs that reached number one on the country music charts. She has published four books, her most noteworthy, a 2010 memoir, titled, “Composed.”
Last Saturday, February 2, Greta and I attended an evening concert at the magnificent Chapman University, MUSCO Center for the Arts, where Rosanne and her husband, John Leventhal, performed as a duet. She said the MUSCO has the finest acoustics of any venue in which she’s performed in California.
A guy in the audience yelled out, “That’s what Vince Gill said.” She smiled and said, tongue-in-cheek, “Vince is always copying me.” That brought a big laugh from the audience.
Rosanne sang a breathtaking version of the 1967 Bobbie Gentry song, “Ode to Billie Joe, from Rosanne’s “The River & the Thread,” album, and a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “The Long Black Veil,” from The List album, which was based on a hand-written list of 100 greatest American songs her dad gave her when she was 18. She mentioned she still has that list.
She featured songs from her just-released album, “She Remembers Everything,” saying with emotion in her voice, “This is a deeply personal collection of songs for me.”
At the end of the two-hour concert, after playing Seven Year Ache (see link below), Cash and Leventhal received a two-minute standing ovation.
After the second encore song, “Tennessee Flattop Box,” Greta and I went backstage and were able to spend a few minutes talking with her.
When she noticed us, I held up a copy of my 2006 memoir, Boxcars and Prime Rib. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? and said, “Remember this?”
Front Cover: Prime Rib & Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station?
“How could I forget?” Rosanne said, “That’s you and Dad on the cover. Didn’t I endorse the back cover?”
I showed her the back cover with her quote.
Back cover of Tom’s book with endorsement by Rosanne Cash (and Bill Walsh and Lynn Swann)
In a bit of an unusual twist, I had her sign the inside front cover of my book, which she did, writing, “To Tom and Greta, with love, Rosanne Cash.”
She said, “I remember you posted the book and my dad’s radio commercials on your Victoria Station ( http://www.VicSta.com ) website.”
I said, “Yup. When you click on the link, after about 5 seconds, you hear Johnny singing our commercials. He sounds as good as ever.” Note from Tom: If you want to hear Johnny singing the commercials, avoid using the Google Chrome browser (a recent update by them muted the sound). Any other browser works well such as Microsoft Edge.)
I told Rosanne how proud I am of her, and how amazingly talented she’s become. She seemed to appreciate those words, from a friend of her dad’s, whom she’s known for 43 years.
Greta, Rosanne Cash, and Tom on February 2, 2019
It was a special “date-night-out” evening for Greta and me.
Part 2 – New Facebook Page: “Tom Blake Publishing.”
Some Champs have said they’d like to read the e-Newsletter on Facebook so they can comment and interact with other Champs. So, I’ve created a new page just for that purpose. Hopefully, today’s e-Newsletter will be the first one posted. The Facebook page is titled “Tom Blake Publishing.” When you get a chance, check it out. This is not a closed page, anyone can post comments (at least for now) but not post photos. We will see how it goes.
On Life and Love after 50 e-Newsletter October 12, 2018
Senior Cruising: People you meet on board
by Columnist Tom Blake
My partner Greta and I are on day 13 of an 82-day Grand Asia & Pacific cruise. There are approximately 855 passengers and a crew of 700 the ms Amsterdam, a Holland America Line ship.
I estimate that 70 percent of the passengers are age 60+. Most are retired, some are married or traveling with a significant other. Many are single but traveling with a friend. During the first two weeks, we’ve met many interesting people.
If you ask passengers what they enjoy most about cruising, many will tell you it’s the ports they visit. Our first two ports were Dutch Harbor, Alaska and Petropavlovsk, Russia; there are 30 more to go.
Other passengers will say it’s the amenities: you don’t have to prepare meals, or take the dirty dishes to the sink, or even make your bed, those things are all done for you on a cruise.
But some passengers–Greta and I included–consider a cruise’s highlight to be the people you meet on board.
Greta and I prefer what’s called open-seating at dinner. You dine with different people most every night. You have time to talk to them over dinner and get to learn a bit about them.
Almost always, the first question when meeting new people: “Where are you from?”
The first couple we met were from San Antonio, Texas. They boarded the ship in Seattle, before it came to Los Angeles.
At dinner the second night, we dined with a California couple who live in Camarillo, California, but own onion farms in the vast Central Valley north of Los Angeles. They explained how hard it is to make a living at farming because of the lack of irrigation water coming from the California Delta area.
The man said, “The situation could be fixed by the authorities simply turning the pumps back on.”
A woman named Elena, originally from Romania, now residing in Canada, also was at our table. She explained that her husband was too busy to travel so she was a married woman traveling alone.
On the third day, we met eight new people, four at a small gathering in one of the ship’s lounges: a woman from Dallas, another woman named Barbara from New Orleans, and a married couple from Colorado.
The other four we met at dinner. Two of them said they were traveling together. I guess you could consider them to be a LAT relationship (living apart together) couple.
The man, Clyde, from Gulfport, Mississippi, had worked with Corrine’s husband before the husband had passed away. Corrine lives in Washington, D.C.
At the same table, there was another couple from Mississippi, who had driven four days to Los Angeles to save on airfare. However, they had parked their car for 82 nights in a nearby lot, which cost them $750.00. Plus, they stayed in hotels going to the ship and returning home. Flying might have been cheaper.
A couple of days later, we met another couple living in a LAT relationship. Frank, a former Department of Defense employee, who resides in Macon, Georgia, and Linda, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia. They met by coincidence on a previous cruise. He had purchased a vacation condo in Florida. His realtor had a client who wanted a winter, “snow bird” rental. Frank rented it, came on the cruise, and met Linda.
He was a character with multiple entertaining stories about his top-secret DOD life.
The other two at the table were women in their late 70s who met on a cruise eight years before. One was from Vienna, Austria, and her friend was from Florida. They said they enjoy traveling together.
Greta met a woman named Gillian at a seminar who said she was originally from Liverpool, England. Greta said, “Oh, did you grow up watching the Beatles?”
Gillian said, “No. I’m only 60; the Beatles were before my time.”
Later, I sat next to Gillian and her husband Jim while watching an NFL game on TV in the sports bar. Gillian was wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey.
I said, “Green Bay fan, eh Gillian?”
“Of course,” she said, “We are cheese heads; we live in Wisconsin.”
One morning at breakfast I saw a guy who looked so much like Johnny Cash I about fell over. I worked with and knew Johnny well in the 1970s. The next time I saw him, I introduced myself and told him how much he resembled Johnny. He said his name was Alex and he was honored and suggested we get together for dinner with he and his wife. He grew up in England and his wife in Germany and now they live near Vancouver, British Columbia.
Turns out, Alex and Kirsten were dance instructors on the ship.
Here is a picture of me, my sister Pam, and Johnny Cash in 1993. Doesn’t Alex look like him? Same height, same facial structure, and same smile.
Another night, we had dinner with an intriguing couple. The man was 6’ 2” and his wife was 5’ 1”. He was also from a small town in Germany and she was originally from South America. They met while working for the same high-tech company. They now live in Carson City, Nevada.
The other couple eating with us that night were Diane and John from South Carolina, near Charlotte, North Carolina. They are retired and said they’ve taken several world cruises.
A couple of mornings ago at breakfast, a guy wearing a bright red tee-shirt with “Alabama Football” emblazoned across the front asked if he could sit at the table where I was having coffee.
I said, “Of course, but it’s about that tee-shirt you’re wearing.” He laughed and asked who I followed in college football.
“I’m a Wolverine,” I said. He laughed and said, “Poor guy, Michigan just can’t win the big games.” We exchanged friendly football barbs.
At a table near us, we both heard I guy mention Alabama. The guy at my table tapped the other guy on the shoulder and pointed to his tee-shirt.
“Roll Tide,” the other guy said, which is what all proud followers of Alabama football say.
Barbara, the woman from Louisiana we had met at the small cocktail party a few days earlier, sat down at our table next to the swimming pool. She said her son had studied computer programming at LSU and worked for Twitter in Silicon Valley. He had previously worked at Google.
She said she was dumbfounded that her son and his wife had just purchased a fixer-upper home in Mountain View, California, south of San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, for $1.8 million.
She told them they could buy a home in Louisiana for $80,000. “But, it’s an investment, Grandma,” he said. (My partner Greta could relate; he grandson Andre and his wife Lindsay just purchased their first house in Los Angeles for about $1.3 million.
And finally, yesterday at breakfast, we sat with two women who said they were recently widowed. The have known each since they were age 14 and enjoy taking trips together. They are from Norway. One of the women said her son is the President of Holland America Line.
I said, “Wow, I bet you have a nice stateroom.” She laughed and said, “Well, it is on the seventh deck.” (the deck with all of the luxury suites.)
So, you can understand why Greta and I enjoy meeting the other passengers on board the ship. Everybody has a story to tell. And it always amazes us the diversity of areas from which the people come.