Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Walking to Shell

Do you have that special time with your children?  A time when there are few distractions, a sense of purpose and time to talk. I did and it consisted of a half-mile walk to the neighborhood Shell gas station to get a can of pop.  This Shell had five or six machines and a few dozen different selections.  On a nice summer day we would walk up, buy a pop and walk back.  Seems like a simple enough purpose, but that’s not what this story is about.

A mile walk, at a child’s pace, provides at least 40 minutes of time to talk. I used that time to pose questions to them and we would discuss.  For example, the absolute question “is it always wrong to kill someone?”.  Most of these types of questions resulted in a resounding “yes!”. Then we would talk about self-defense.  Other questions allowed us to explore the history of the Civil War or the thorny issues around abortion. These talks allowed us to explore many questions and taught them that there are few, if any, absolutes in our world and that they needed to critically think for themselves.  I personally think that’s one of the most important duties as a parent. They need to think for themselves and not believe everything they hear. And the lessons did not stop there.

The first time we made this trek, the three of us found ourselves standing in front of the pop machines trying to decide what to have. The kids couldn’t make up their minds and after a few minutes I decided on a root beer.  That also made up their minds and two more root beers were purchased. The second trip also ended in them having what Dad decided. Time for a precious learning moment. On the third trip I just feigned not being able to decide and forced them to make their own decisions before I selected last. They had to step back, think about what they wanted and slide their two quarters into the machine. But after that first time where they were forced to decide, they never just chose what I chose. They liked figuring it out for themselves and occasionally take a risk to try something different. Sometimes achieving that freedom takes a small push, and again, a duty every parent should happily deliver.

I fondly remember those walks and talks. I also remember their mother thinking I was cheap because I only spent a dollar on them. She didn’t understand how priceless a little walk, and a little talk, could be.

Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 Wine Country Vacation

Friday, September 2

Up at 5:30am and out the door 6:45am to make sure we get to CVG with time to spare. A relatively light day of traffic through Cincinnati with little delay. The usual great service at the long-term parking lot, giving us plenty of time to enjoy double-shot Bloody Mary’s before the flight. The first leg got us to Los Angeles (LAX), an hour or so layover and then to short, 300 mile flight to San Jose. We each watched Superman vs. Batman using Delta’s GoGo Inflight, Wi-Fi-delivered entertainment system. Very much enjoyed the Dorothy Lane Market sandwiches that Elaine packed for us.

Headed to Budget to get the rental car, a mid-sized Mitsubishi. Headed out to US-101 only to find slow, stop-and-go driving for the first hour, mainly caused by a fire off the side of the road that firefighters were busy putting out. After we got up to full speed, we discovered that the plastic air dam under from front bumper was not securely fastened and when the car went over 60 mph it started to wobble and make scary sounds. Need to swap cars before we head to San Francisco on Sunday.

Made it, finally, to Carmel and headed to Galante Vineyards, meeting Molly, to get the key to our cottage, which turned out to be right above their wine tasting room. One room with a low-slung Murphy bed, little kitchenette and a bathroom. The weather in Carmel is idyllic, with the day time high in the mid-60’s and the night time low in the mid-50s. Unloaded the luggage and found a place to park for the evening, about three blocks down the street in the residential part of Carmel.

The long day of travel made us thirsty, and at Molly’s suggestion, we headed over to the Cypress Inn for drinks. Met Garrett at the bar, a resident at Pebble Beach whose passion is helping people learn the English language, and talked and talked while enjoying two Bombay Sapphire martinis, each, which gave us a second wind. Ordered a little bar food, including some delicious grilled brussel sprouts, and glasses of wine, a Pinot Noir for Elaine and a Zinfandel for Paul. We noticed that the TV’s were playing Doris Day movies, which we thought was a bit quirky, only to find out later that Doris is co-owner.

Google Maps found us Lopez Liquors and Fine Wines, open until midnight!, just a couple blocks away, where we bought a fifth of Jameson for $20. Walked back to the cottage, exhausted and a little buzzed, to have a capper and a much needed nights sleep.

Saturday, September 3

The day began with Elaine bringing coffee from Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company back to our room before heading out for food and exercise. While heading north on Monte Verde we checked out the Happy Landing Inn, a cute set of one-story rooms with names like Hemingway and Monroe. A likely place to try on our next trip back.

Ate breakfast at Friar Tuck’s Restaurant at Dolores and 5th Street. Started with a couple mimosas, then Elaine had Eggs Benedict, her favorite, while Paul had scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, toast and more coffee. Chatted awhile with Greg and Cynthia, the owners, who were as entertaining as the breakfast was good. Cynthia told us her favorite walk was south on Scenic Road, which starts at the bottom of Ocean Avenue, right before Carmel Sunset Beach. We took her advice and it did not fail. The beautiful Pacific Ocean on one side and unique, multi-million dollar homes on the other. On the way back we checked out another Cynthia recommendation, Mission Ranch, where sheep graze in fields and the views are gorgeous. After a total of about five miles, made it back to the cottage.

Called up Budget rent-a-car and arranged a car swap at the closeby Monterey Regional Airport, where we exchanged the Mitsubishi for a Kia Soul, which Elaine immediately started calling “the hamster car”. Took the 17 Mile tour of Pebble Beach, which now goes counter-clockwise, which makes way more sense since all the turns into and out of the parking areas for the scenic areas are right-hand turns instead of the far more dangerous left-hand turns. We met a very friendly squirrel who obviously lived on people’s handouts, contrary to the many posted signs that forbade people from feeding the animals. We stopped and took photos before ending up at the Pebble Beach Lodge for pictures at the 18th green and a beer at The Tap Room. Bought some presents at the gift shop, including a Tap Room shooter glass for Paul. Took the back way into Carmel, parked and bought a few more gifts at Carmel Bay Company.

Dinner consisted of drinks and appetizers at the Hog’s Breath Inn, followed by drinks at La Playa Carmel, another place to visit again for its views. The walk back was very dark, with people using their cellphones as flashlights. We had to check out the singing at the Cypress Inn, standing outside a window looking in. The singer started into “Let’s Give Something to Talk About”, which Elaine sang. The singer, who was not getting a lot of participation from her crowd, saw Elaine, opened the window and they dueted for a little while.

A great day, highlighted with the University of Dayton winning its first football game of the year, and combined with Ball State’s win on Friday, puts Elaine in an even happier mood.

Sunday, September 4

The day, like most, began with coffee, getting us ready to for a 3-mile run, down Dolores, Santa Lucia and Carmelo streets and back to Scenic Road, more or less running the path we walked yesterday, but in the opposite direction. Then along Scenic Road, much less crowded in the morning, ending at Ocean Blvd. Finished the exercise by walking up Ocean Blvd, which might have been the hardest part of the morning. Running in cool weather, after several months of extreme heat back home, felt absolutely wonderful.

Packed up the car, grabbed more coffee and a little breakfast, and got on the road headed to San Francisco. Traffic coming towards Carmel, was backed up for at least twenty miles but northbound was smooth sailing, with just a little slowdown around the San Francisco airport, all the way until we got to downtown. Then it was absolutely horrible as we inched along, car length by car length until we finally go to Pier 33 and parked.

Took the ferry boat out to Alcatraz island, munching a much-needed hot dog and Diet Coke along the way. Hiked up to the cell block and got an audio headset, which directs you along, giving a view of the daily lives on some of the worst criminals in history, their escape attempts from the prison and the activities they did to pass their days. Alcatraz also has some of the most stunningly beautiful views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, and the cloudless day was perfect for picture taking.

Ferried back to the mainland and took a 45-minute, one mile trip to Scoma’s restaurant for dinner. Thank God for valet parking as we were at our wits end with the traffic. A drink to decompress and appetizers, Clam Chowder for Elaine and a Prawn Cocktail for Paul. Next up was a leafy salad for Elaine and a Caesar salad, complete with yummy anchovies, for Paul. Pacific Black Cod for Elaine and a fried Combo platter for Paul completed the feast.

The final driving leg, which started for a short time with more mind numbing traffic, put us back on US-101, over the Golden Gate Bridge and north past Santa Rosa. Exited and headed east on Mark West Road for an up and down, twisty, curvy adventure through the mountains, which would have been fun except it was now pitch dark outside. However the weary-eyed travellers made it safely to Calistoga and checked into the Indian Springs Resort and Spa, unloaded luggage and headed over to Sam’s Social Club for a nightcap.

Monday, September 5

After the traffic and the hectic schedule of the weekend, it was time for a slow day. At least slow by Elaine and Paul standards. Elaine brought back coffee from the Calistoga Roastery to wake us up before the twenty-five minute drive to Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley for our Veranda wine tasting. The views from the deck are stunning and tranquil, with a lone hawk effortlessly circling the sky. Tracy, our hostess, started with their Chardonnay, one of the best we’ve ever tasted, paired with a New Jersey creamy cheese. Over of the course of an hour we sipped Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and a blend named Alchemie, more cheese, cherries and nuts. We ended up buying, and having them ship, a pair each of Chardonnay and Malbec, and single bottles of Cabernet and Pinot. We also picked up several ingenious wine bottle toppers which aerate wine as it’s poured, prevent drips and reseals the bottle. These will get much use at home.

Headed back towards Calistoga and stopped at Chateau Montelena, made famous by winning best Chardonnay in the 1976 “Judgement of Paris” and helping put California at the forefront of the world’s wine conversation. The beautiful grounds and the Chateau are worth the visit by themselves. After a short wait we met our pourer Amy, perhaps the happiness hostess on the planet. She gave us some history of the winery and poured five wines including a Riesling, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and a pair of Cabernet Sauvignon, the last one being sinfully delicious and pricey. We had them ship a bottle of Chardonnay and one of the awesome Cabernets and spent enough to get our wine tasting for free, which made the $165 price tag for the Cabernet feel like a bargain. This Cab is slated to open when Elaine retires, another reason for justifying spending that much on a single bottle.

Arrived back at the resort and walked down through Calistoga, deciding on sitting outside at the Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery for a late lunch. Paul had a Calistoga Club sandwich and a glass of Gewurztraminer, and Elaine having a salad with chicken and a mimosa. After lunch we continued the stroll through town, bought some bottled water at Cal Mart and returned to the resort. Donning our suits, we headed over to the Mineral Pool, which is fed by a geyser directly behind the pool. Water and steam, at 232 degrees, shoot from a pipe every few seconds and gets cooled down to 100 degrees to feed the pool, basically making it an Olympic-sized hot tub. The steam room was unlike any other, with just walls and benches with no steam machinery, being that it’s fed from the geyser. There is also a smaller, adults only pool which is kept about 10 degrees cooler than the main pool. The sun and water completed the needed relaxation from the weekend’s whirlwind.

Back to Sam’s Social Club for drinks and dinner. Elaine had a Cauliflower Steak with charred cashew tahini, hot pepper vinaigrette, puffed farro, oil cured olives and pomegranate, while Paul opted for a more traditional Cheeseburger. Ended the evening around the fire drinking Irish Coffee made with Equator coffee, Jameson and twin dollops of the most delicious cream, while chatting with like-minded folks.

Tuesday, September 6

Began the day with more Calistoga Roastery coffee before hitting the neighborhoods for a 2.5 mile run where many houses have grapevines covering their entire front yard. Exercise complete, we showered up and walked the block to the Calistoga Wine Company and purchased a shipping box for a dozen wine bottles. Headed next door to the Palisades Cafe, which we visited on our last trip in 2010, where we picked up lunch for the road, a couple Beer Battered Fish Tacos for Elaine and Rustic Ham and Gruyere Cheese sandwich for Paul.

Headed west back over the Mayacamas mountains, a much easier drive in the daylight, to reach the Russian River Valley, where cooler climate grapes, like the Pinot Noirs we’re after, grow well. First stop was Merry Edwards Winery. Merry Edwards was the first female winemaker in Napa, was the founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek and her awards include being inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Vintner’s Hall of Fame. Ron poured three Pinots with a white wine on either side. Very unusual to end with a white, but this one was nicely oaky and was up to the challenge. Clearly the best Pinot to us was the 2013 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir (named after Merry), and we came away with two bottles.

At Ron’s recommendation, our next stop was Dutton Goldfield, just up the road. David first poured a unique Pinot Blanc, a white Pinot that “should have been a red”. Being a slow day, one of the benefits of visiting wine country after Labor Day, David lined up three glasses each so we could taste three different Pinot Noirs side-by-side. We highly recommend trying this, it’s a great way to compare and contrast wines, going back and forth between the glasses. We both agreed we liked the Emerald Ridge Pinot the best. We also tried a Zinfandel grown in this cooler area, which gave the wine less alcohol and gentler flavors. Paul finished by trying a Chardonnay while Elaine had another taste of the Emerald Ridge. We ended up purchasing a bottle each of the 2015 Pinot Blanc Shop Block, 2013 Zinfandel Morelli Lane Vineyard and a 2013 Pinot Noir Emerald Ridge Vineyard.

We ended the wine day with a Sparkling Wine tasting at Iron Horse Vineyards, way up in the mountains at the end of a one-lane road. No fancy buildings or pretentiousness, just great cuvees and views as spectacular as they come. A few days before, Carl told us, the lines were five deep behind all their three tasting tables, but today perhaps a dozen or so folks were there. Tasted a variety of sparklers, chatted with some couples and Carl, who had to be a 60’s surfer dude. Took away a 2012 Ocean Reserve Blanc De Blanc, a 2012 Wedding Cuvee and a 2012 Commander’s Palace Brut.

Back to Indian Springs for the much-awaited Couples Massage. There is almost nothing better on this Earth than the relaxation of a massage as your body and mind drift away under the firm and well-directed pressure on your muscles, feet, neck and fingers. You find yourself barely breathing, more relaxed than you can ever imagine. World peace could be achieved if we all had massages every day. Finished up with some water in the Buddha Garden, listening to the water trickling, totally refreshed.

Headed downtown to find dinner and took a chance on Brannan’s Grill at the corner of Lincoln and Washington Street. What a surprise! A fantastic dinner, starting with salads, then Elaine had the “melt-in-your-mouth” half chicken and Paul a Flat Iron Steak, perfectly medium rare, with a generous portion of mac-and-cheese. Need to put a 5-star review on that place.

Ended the day with another Irish Coffee at Sam’s Social Club sitting by ourselves around the fire. Another day, well met and well done.
Wednesday, September 7

Surprise! Morning started with coffee yet again. We have had some really great coffee each morning on this trip, and today Paul had to have a second serving (saying cup would diminish the size) on the way out of town. First stop was the Armstrong Woods Redwood Forest after an hour’s drive, working our way to the furthest point then working back towards Calistoga. The redwoods are absolutely stunning, towering three hundred feet or more above and wider than your arms fully extended. Walking under the shade of their canopy is serene, peaceful beyond words.

We had lunch at Korbel, the second repeat performance from 2010 (Hanna was the first), We each had a glass of champagne, and yes, Korbel can legally call their sparkler champagne, and serve food, being grandfathered in many years ago when the French, well being French, claimed champagne as their own word. Since we own bourbon, maybe that’s a fair shake, but anyway, Korbel has been around for so long that the wine and food police granted them an exception. Lucky us. Elaine had a BLT salad and Paul a salami and brie on soft French bread (OK, I didn’t stay upset that long).

Visited Gary Farrell, another repeat performer, and Lydia poured Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs while we stared out the panoramic window to the beautiful views. Ruthanne, who we met at Dutton Goldfield yesterday, was also working there and immediately recognized us. We quickly decided to join their Wine Club, selecting the six-bottle, thrice a year Connoisseur membership, which allows us to customize each shipment to our desires. Hint: If you ever visit Wine Country and sign up for a Wine Club, do it early in your visit. Your selection and amount they pour will improve dramatically. It also waived the tasting fees, which can really add up, however most wineries, but not all, will waive that fee when you buy a bottle per person. Second Hint: Dress nicely. Slacks and a collared shirt for men, and a dress or long pants for women, will set you apart from the rest of the crowd and gather their serious attention. We selected our six wines for the Fall shipment, and added a 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Toboni Vineyard and a 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay Westside Farms for to our ship home stash,

On Lydia’s recommendation our final stop was Arista and Todd started us out with a wonderful Pinot based on Oregon grapes and moved us to the local Pinots. Todd, who looked a lot like former San Francisco quarterback Steve Young, finished the tasting with local Pinots and a Zinfandel, which we took outside to their Japanese garden. Zen and Zin, a nice match. We took way two of that first wine, a 2014 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley.

Back to Calistoga and dressed up for our dinner at Auberge du Soleil, down the Silverado Trail in Rutherford. This is dining at its finest, perched on a hillside with southern views of the Mayacamas mountains in the distance. We selected the four-course dinners, an initial drink of a martini for Elaine and a glass of Domaine Carneros sparkling wine. Dinner wine was a Stag’s Leap Viognier. Appetizers were White Corn and Blue Crab Soup for Elaine and Sautéed Foie Gras for Paul. Second course was Heirloom Tomato Risotto with Lobster for Elaine and Seared Ahi Tuna with Glazed Pork Belly for Paul. Main course was Prime Beef Pavé for Elaine and Liberty Farm Duck for Paul. Not to be outdone, but having to overcome seriously full stomachs, dessert selections were Japanese Beignets (sinful) with Suncrest Peaches for Elaine and Swanton Farm Strawberries with Fromage Blanc Mousse for Paul. Drove back to Calistoga in the setting sun with full bellies and fond memories.

Thursday, September 8

Getting really used to coffee, and capturing these memories, in bed every morning. I wish every day could start at this kind of leisurely pace. Laced up the running shoes and put in a 3.5 mile run out Grant Street, past Tedeschi Winery, over the Napa River and turning around at the Old Faithful Geyser of California. Most of red grapes on the side of the mountain, primarily Cabernet, are still hanging on the vines where the Pinot grapes west of the mountain have mostly been picked and their leaves beginning to turn yellow. Running past soon-to-be-harvested vines is so much nicer.

Headed to Healdsburg, at Todd’s recommendation and he works there, to Barndiva for lunch. Elaine had their Banh Mi sandwich, consisting of ground pork loin, cucumber and cilantro on a brioche bun. Paul worked his way through a Filet Mignon Burger, complete with avocados and bacon.

Somewhere along the days, but forgotten by now, we had the Stonestreet Winery circled on our map, so we decided we must have been smarter a few days ago and took the fifteen minute drive across Alexander Valley Road to try their wines. We were greeted by Alex, more beautiful views sitting outside for this tasting and learned a little history of a horse name Rachel Alexandra, whose statue adorns the center part of the patio. She was the 2009 Horse of the Year when she won the Preakness Stakes, the first filly to win the race in 85 years, and owned by Jess Stonestreet Jackson Jr., the winery’s namesake, and the “Jackson” in Kendall-Jackson. Departed with a 2013 Stonestreet Chardonnay Cougar Ridge Vineyard and a 2012 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Rockfall Vineyard, only the second $100 bottle coming home.

Alex suggested Dutcher Crossing, another unfamiliar name, and we took the trek way up Dry Creek Road to their tasting room. Ryan poured several wines, all pretty decent, and we came away with a bottle of their 2015 Winemaker’s Cellar Chardonnay and the 2013 Taylor Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. We agreed later that this was on the bottom of the list of places we visited, but compared to the duds we’ve experienced on previous trips, this was more because the other wineries were so good. At least they comped us one of the two $10 tasting fees.

Hightailed it down US-101 to J Vineyards for our 4:00 pm appointment. We were seated upstairs overlooking the tanks, pumps and other wine-making equipment and Izzy poured a number of great wines, including a side-by-side comparison of three different Pinot Noirs. We chatted with Izzy for quite a long time before deciding on a bottle each of their 2012 Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine, 2013 Strata Pinot Noir and 2013 Nicole’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. Can’t wait to open the sparkler, which is made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes. If you didn’t know, all grape juice is white and it’s only the contact with the red grape skins during processing that turns wine red. The more time, the darker the wine.

Back to Calistoga and decided dinner would be light after the filling lunch at Barndiva. Walked down the main avenue in Calistoga, peered at a few menus and decided to give Johnny’s a try. Elaine had a couple of chicken sliders and a glass of Pinot Noir, while Paul went for some wings paired with a Sauvignon Blanc. Ended the last evening in Calistoga at Sam’s Social Club around the fire with Paul having his signature Manhattan and Elaine sipping a Gin and Tonic before enjoying our last Irish Coffees. We’re going to miss this place.

Friday, September 9

Coffee, of course, and then breakfast at Cafe Sarafornia on the main drag. Elaine bought a jewelry bag at North Star and some Equator coffee at the Cal Mart grocery store. Paul struck out trying to find some wines we can’t get shipped to Ohio, for example Matanzas Creek Cabernet, at the Calistoga Wine Stop only to learn they can ship any wine we want to Ohio, even when the winery can’t (or won’t). This was great news and we’ll be calling them as soon as we work our way through our overflowing wine collection. Paul bought a Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay to include in our two shipping boxes. We now have three empty slots left to fill.

Packed up the bags, loaded the car, checked out and headed our way towards the city of Napa via the Silverado Trail. Stopped in at ZD and shared a wine tasting, more than a bit overpriced at $40. ZD is on the floor of the valley and the view from our tasting table, facing west over grapes everywhere, was again breathtaking. Carson poured the wines on the patio and we bought a bottle of Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay. We found during this trip that we really liked Pinot Blancs and while ZD just started making them, they are not yet available. Carson suggested a stop at Robert Sinsky winery for a great Pinot Blanc. With not much time left, Paul went in and bought a bottle, but not before accepting a quick taste. Our two cases are now complete and we stopped at Buffalo’s Shipping Post in Napa to send them back to Ohio.

The travel back down south to San Jose for our night’s stay at Marriott Courtyard near the airport was uneventful, with a short backup getting to I-80 and Elaine’s phone giving us a last minute, time-saving detour just miles from the hotel as I-880 got clogged. The poor souls on northbound I-660 were stuck in a twenty mile backup. I love visiting California, but that traffic would drive us insane.

Checked in the hotel and consulted Google Maps for a local bar to have a beer. Walked about ten blocks to the Doghouse Sports Lounge, a local dive bar and the polar opposite of this week’s wine tastings. Enjoyed some Oktoberfest beer, the colorful crowd and a bartender who moved as fast as any we’ve seen. She talked so fast when asking us if we wanted a short or a tall beer that we had to ask her to slow down and repeat it. What a ball of fire. Stopped at the liquor store next door and bought a 200ml bottle of Jameson for $9, just enough for a pair of cappers later on. Back at the hotel we had Happy Hour drinks at the hotel bar, ridiculously overpriced glasses of Decoy at $16 each. Very not happy. DInner was at Vito’s NY Trattoria, a couple blocks from the hotel and one of just a few choices, however, it was a winner. Elaine had Veal and Paul the Mixed Seafood platter, Then the cappers in bed and the day was done.

Saturday, September 10

Back to reality day … dammit. Except Starbucks. Happy to have Starbucks again.

Checked out, gassed up and returned the rental car, checked our bags and breezed through security, again, with TSA Pre-check. Enjoyed our traditional Bloody Mary’s and tried not to get depressed. Other than a tighter-than-expected connection in Los Angeles which caused us to buy airline food, the trip home was uneventful. Now the wait for Fedex and UPS to enjoy our spoils.

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Name

My full name is Paul Maurice Earl Moorman. As names go, I’ve always been happy with mine, unlike some folks that wish their first and middle names were reversed, or not the same as five other people in class or just because there is just no good nickname to be had. My parents liked short, traditional names and never gave us a nickname or variation. In other words, they never called me Paulie. While I like my name, it’s not a good fit for the current fad of abbreviating stars names like J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez) and A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). Mine ends up as P-Moor. Not cool in the least.

Each of my names comes from somewhere and has its own story.

I’m been told that Paul comes from the name of a highly regarded friend of my parents, Father Paul Schaaf, a missionary and religious leader. Father Schaaf served as a missionary in Chile, working among its rural population, among many other positions before retiring in 2002. He passed away in 2007.

Paul only has one spelling, so everybody gets that right, very much unlike my last name. But Paul is actually fairly hard to pronounce clearly. It starts with the hard and fast consonant “P”, which is similar to a “T”, and then trails off to the very soft “L”. People quite often think my name is Tom when they hear it, particularly over a phone. I’ve had to learn to very clearly pronounce Paul, or just use my middle name, which people seem to hear better, albeit have more trouble spelling.

Maurice is my mother’s father’s name and my favorite grandpa, but to be fair my other grandpa, Leo, died when I was five years old. Maurice died on my 14th birthday, one of the saddest days of my life. I have so many memories, going back to his Dayton house on Oak street where he had a train set that spanned two rooms and I loved watching the engine poof smoke as it travelled over the tracks. He was also a big cigar smoker and his garage was stacked with empty boxes. His house in Beavercreek was the focal point of most Sunday’s, with my family and my many aunts, uncles and cousins regularly converging. We kids mainly played outside, both for the lack of room inside and the choking cloud of smoke, as it seemed everybody smoked back then. But it was the best of times.

Earl, my confirmation name and my father’s name, is the only name I got to pick for myself. My dad grew up in west Dayton, served in the Navy, graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in engineering and worked at General Motors, mainly Frigidaire until it was sold, until he retired. Unlike most engineers that I know, my Dad was a cheerleader at U.D. and an actor. He met my mother, Rose Marie, while performing with the Dayton Blackfriars Guild, most noted for actor Martin Sheen. I think that combination of the left-brain engineer and right-hand actor defined not just myself but also my siblings. Our father died at 62 and our mother at 64, far too early in both their lives and ours.

Moorman is German, which I’ll get to in a moment. It’s not a name that most people are familiar with, which leads to spellings like Morman. But I’ve learned over the course of time to spell it for them using “M-double-o-r-pause-m-a-n”. The double-o helps them get the two “o”’s part, but the critical piece is the pause. The pause makes them think about what I just said instead of listening for more. During the pause they comprehend the double-o part, just about the time they’ve finished the “o” and are just about to write the “r” and skip the second “o”, which I think their brain would just skip over if I said “o-o” instead. The “man” is pretty normal, so they almost always get that right.

The German spelling is Moormann and that’s how it’s spelled on my great-great-grandfather Franz’s tombstone in Saint Henry's Church Cemetery. Franz and his wife Maria immigrated to America in 1854 from Oldenburg, Germany, settling in Mercer County, Ohio, a favorite place for my ancestors to land. Franz and Maria gave birth to John Henry, and he and Anna had Leo, my grandfather. Leo and Walburga conceived Earl and he and my Mom, Rose Marie, over a ten year and one day period, had Greg in 1952, myself in 1955, Mary Rose in 1957, Martin in 1960 and David in 1962. During recent research into my heritage going back four generations, families with the names Eggenschwiller, Geis, Kastle, Leimeister, Liddy, Little, Maria, Meier, Otto, Overman, Paulick, Reichert, Schneble and Siemer are great-great-grandparents. If you have one of those names in your family tree, we might be related somehow.

But the person that truly defines “Moorman” was Franz’s first son, August Moorman, who fathered 21 children. Can’t think of anyone who represents a “more man” any better than that.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Otto Picnics

The end of summer signals the start of a new school year, the changing colors of leaves and the inevitable first snow. But in years long past, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend brought a most exciting time, the annual family reunion (Mom’s side) at the Otto farm. My aunt and uncle moved to the farm, located in Beavercreek, Ohio, as their family expanded to six boys and three girls. It never seemed to rain on that Sunday, even if the forecast said so. Seemed like divine intervention to me. Let me relate a few of the memories that stand out to my little boy self.

Soon after we arrived in the early afternoon, and sometimes before, a baseball game would be organized, with both adults and kids participating. Always seemed to be a big debate on what the score was at any point in time, which might have been that most people just enjoyed playing and the score was secondary to them, or maybe the keg of beer influenced that. Baseball generally led to volleyball and for the hardcore few, a determined game or two of basketball. By dinnertime we were a sweaty, happy mess.

Dinner was laid out on a few picnic tables and filled with fried chicken, baked beans, potatoes of all sorts, salads and desserts. We were starved by all the exercise and ate at least two plates full. One of my favorite, and very unique, selections was a piece of buttered rye bread topped with sliced white and red radishes and green onions. But what made this awesome was bacon grease, dripped from a large chunk of scored jowl bacon held over the fire pit until it sizzled. Truly yummy!

During one of the later years, when I was a Dad and my kids had been introduced to the yearly ritual, the usual fried chicken was augmented with a whole pig roasted on a spit. Most of the kids had never seen an entire animal being cooked like this and they all stared in amazement. Then they were asked if they would like to try some cracklings, the fried skin of the pig. You can learn a lot about a kid’s personality when they are presented with something entirely new and foreign. Nobody leaped at the chance, but with some coaxing one brave kid decided to give it a try. When they approved, a few others came forward to try. It was amazing to watch the concentration on the kid’s faces as they tried to make their decisions. Most finally succumbed, the most risk-averse simply caving into young peer pressure.

After dinner a large wagon would be hitched up to the tractor and hay rides began. Usually took 2-3 trips around the farm to accommodate our large family. Then as the sun began to set, the marshmallows would be roasted to a golden brown on sticks, or simply lit on fire by those not paying enough attention. But unless they fell in the fire, they were eaten. The night fell upon us, we talked and stared into the fire and talked about how we couldn’t wait until next year.

Funny, I can’t remember the ride home. I suspect the day’s fun and a full tummy put this little boy to sleep in the car the moment we turned off the gravel driveway and onto Patterson Road.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cost of College

I’ve been living a lie.

Took me over forty years to realize it.

What was once very much a sense of pride is now gone.

But there’s a longer story involved, which I’ll relate before getting to the punch line.

I started college in 1974. My plan had been to follow my older brother’s lead and attend General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan. That was a co-op program where you went to school half time and worked at GM the rest, working to pay for college. But I was not successful at being accepted at GMI, which led me to Wright State University, which I’ve been forever grateful. I worked twenty hours a week when in school and forty hours a week when not. I made enough to pay my tuition, buy my books and have a little left over for a pizza or a movie with my girlfriend. I didn’t do drugs, didn’t drink and party, and never had a fake driver’s license. Why waste these years self-destructing and not taking full advantage of learning cool stuff. That all seemed very natural to me.

My son considered college in the 1990’s, so I ran the math again. The twenty/forty work and tuition equation still worked. He could pay his way through if he wanted. It wasn’t his lack of work ethic that led him away from college. He’s one of the hardest working people I know and I’m very proud of him for that. And even more proud that he’s a really good person and owns his own business.

There’s been a lot of press lately around the cost of education and the piles of student debt being accumulated by young adults. This isn’t just kids that go to Harvard or medical school. This is happening to average folks going to regular universities. So I decided to do the math once again. But this time all the 20/40 hard work doesn’t cover tuition and books, but about sixty percent, with nothing left over for pizza.

What happened? Has the cost of college in the last twenty years outstripped wage inflation that much? That’s part of the story, as universities have competed for students by offering tons of costly amenities. But the shocking part for state universities like WSU is the dropping level of state funding. In my college days, state funding accounted for about 75% of their budget, with tuitions like mine making up the remaining 25%. Restore that funding and the equation not only works again, but you can occasionally take your girlfriend to a nice restaurant, the kind with cloth napkins. Perhaps that’s how state funding should be determined. Those that work hard should be able to go through a state university debt-free. That’s not the path everyone would have to take and it would be their decision to either “work now” or “pay later”.   

I now know I didn’t pay for college. That’s the punch line. Thanks mostly to the taxpayers, I received a quality education and was not racked with debt at the end of it. Many thanks to my parents who allowed me to live at home, fed me and paid for my car insurance. And a girlfriend that liked a simple pizza.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Remembering Moses

I have only bought one pet, for myself, in my life. I was around forty years old, living in an apartment by myself and decided that a cat would be the pet for me. I travelled quite a bit back then and it was not unusual for me to be out of town for a week or more. I didn’t want fish, birds or a guinea pig, and a dog wouldn’t work. But a cat, with enough food, water and litter can easily be left alone for long periods of time. Not they that like that, but after a few minutes of admonishment when you return, they’re your friend again.
But all cats are not the same. Some are overly aloof, providing little companionship. Others are mean, some hide all day long and others get fat and lazy. Some spend their waking hours plotting to escape and feel good about leaving you despondent, or better yet, crying your eyes out. Picking your perfect cat is a combination of knowing what you want and finding a cat to match. Not an easy task.
My cat journey started at a local SICSA (Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals). I spent forty-five minutes meeting a variety of cats, some mean, some sleeping, most not adorable. Then I spotted a black and white cat perched all by himself up on platform. I went over, he immediately let me pet him and he started purring. I found out that he was one year old, which was perfect as I didn’t want a kitten, and all those challenges. Took a while, but I had found my cat.
My daughter and I picked up the cat a couple days later to take him home. He had some kind of generic cat name that I didn’t like. So we talked about names for a bit and my daughter suggested Moses, a name from the song “Jessie” (by Joshua Kadison) that she was listening to on the radio. I was immediately smitten by this unique pet name. Very classy. I could nickname him “Mo” (although I rarely called him that), just like my middle name, Maurice, can be nicknamed “Mo”. And his black and white hair reminded me of Charlton Heston when he played Moses, as he came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments.
Moses started out as an apartment cat for the first few years. He would spend the days lounging in the sun or curled up on a couch. He always met me at the front door when I got home. But what was really special was bedtime. The routine developed where I would get in bed, Moses would hop up, I would pull the covers up, he would go in head first, turn around and snuggle on my shoulder as I tucked in the covers. He purred, rapidly at first, then gradually slowing over several minutes. On a few occasions we woke up the next morning in that exact position, but more often he would extract himself after ten or fifteen minutes and head off to whatever cats do all night.
Moses loved to explore. After we moved out of apartment living and into a rented house, Moses found a way to get into the walls. He would spend an hour or more crawling on the ceilings and ductwork, eventually finding his way back out, covered typically in gray dust, which would take him hours to lick off. On three of these explorations he came back with a dead mouse, presumably of his doing, given the number he found and killed in the backyard. But how he could do all this in the darkness of the interior of a house is the most amazing to me.
Perhaps the craziest thing I saw Moses do was be the family protector. One day my daughter was in the living room on one side of the couch. Max, a dachshund of advancing age prone to bite people, was on the other side. Moses was making his way from the kitchen to the living room when something outside caused Max to bark. Moses, obviously thinking Max might bite my daughter, flew across the room, jumped up on the couch and began to slap Max faster than the dog could see. After a flurry of punches, Moses leaped down, convinced he had saved the day. And for the next week, every time Moses and Max met, Moses would slap him a few more times for good measure.
Moses lived a long, good life and now rests under a tree in my former house in Bellbrook, where I buried him amid a stream of tears.

I still miss my “little buddy in the purring business”.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


I've moved this blog from the generic blogspot.com domain to my own ... paulishing.com.

Paulishing is a term I made up at NewPage Corporation where part of what I did was review documents and presentations for spelling, grammar and clarity, basically polishing up documents.  So Paulishing is just a twist on polishing, and reflects my love of writing.

The old blogspot link will redirect to the new.  The direct link to the new name is:


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

You Said What?

At one or more times in your life you will hear something that stops your tracks and you question “They said what?!”. At other times you’re the source and others stare at you. Sometimes you’re unaware and innocent. For me, it’s usually because my brain runs faster than whatever mechanism is responsible for closing my mouth. So I offer a collection of three of my favorite stories. I hope they they give you a chuckle or three.

Back in the 1980’s we used IBM impact printers to create multiple-part forms, for example, pack lists and shipping documents. In order to save money, the Mead Products division bought a number of used printers and had all sorts of problems with getting the correct lineup. But the worst problem was wasting forms when printers would just skip a form in between without apparent cause. We all got in a big meeting to understand the problem and get a team working on finding the root cause and see if anything could be done. I summed up the problem concisely with the statement “So what we have here is a case of premature page ejection”. He said what?! But they had to agree, as I tried to stifle my own laughter.

The second is nothing of my doing and I hope to accurately tell the story as told to me. First, let me set the stage with a definition. In IT, a pilot is as short project to validate a design before doing a full implementation. Got that, ‘cause it’s important. The Mead Corporation was blessed with two awesome 7-seat corporate jets and an equally awesome group of pilots. The Aviation department met with IT to discuss a project that would automate one of their functions and IT thought that would be a great idea. The leader of that IT group, Grace, who has been a friend forever and is a beautiful, tall redhead, wanted the project to go well and declared “First we have to do a pilot”. The Aviation leader, Fred, eye’s widened with a “She said what?!” look. “Doing a pilot” meant something completely different to Fred and wasn’t proper business discussion. It was all sorted out and all was good. I never heard exactly what shade of red Grace’s face turned. But I’m sure it complemented her hair.

The last story developed over a 4-day, 4th of July holiday. It rained for 3 straight days and then into a fourth, and my wife was getting bummed out. Finally on the fourth day the rain started letting up a little, so I suggested we just get in car and go somewhere. We decided to go to a farmers market about 20 minutes away, look around and maybe buy a few vegetables. Then I suggested we head over to a bar named Chammp’s and have a beer, which we did. My wife started feeling better. We drove home and took a nap. Later on she said she was very appreciative for getting out of the house and in less than a split second my reply was “I just did what you did with your kids when they young and restless. I drove you around, gave you a bottle and put you to bed.” He said what?! But before she could get mad she realized that accurately described our afternoon adventure.

And could only laugh.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Best of 2015

This is my fifth year of publishing a list of my best experiences of the previous year. 2015 was not the big year for travel to exotic places that 2014 was, but was still chock full of memorable good times.

10. Baseball All-Star Game in Cincinnati

My son took me to my first All-Star game ever. A short Hummer drive down I-75, we arrived several hours early to a driving rainstorm, which we neatly avoided getting wet. We made our way to The Yard House, which I was surprised we could even get in the door to enjoy a few pre-game Kilkenny beers. The pre-game activities were really cool, with the announcement of each team’s all-time top players, their “Franchise Four”. The Reds Franchise Four, Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan and Pete Rose, were introduced on the field to thundering applause. The finale was the on-field introduction of the four "Greatest Living Players," Sandy Koufax, Johnny Bench, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Seeing these living legends put goosebumps on my arms and a lump in my throat. The game itself was mediocre, with the American League winning 6-3, with little drama.

9. Ohio State Football Winning the First Four Team National Championship

The most improbable ending for a Buckeyes team that played, at best, OK compiling a 11-1 record, including a bad early loss to Virginia Tech and a double OT squeaker at Penn State. Hope was low on making the four team playoff, and even more so after losing their second starting quarterback, JT Barrett, to a leg injury during the Michigan game. Third-string QB Cardale Jones made his first start and led OSU to an absolutely stunning 59-0 shutout of #11 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game, impressing the selection committee enough to make the top four. Nobody gave OSU a chance against Alabama, and after falling behind 21-6 in the second quarter, it looked bad. OSU then scored four unanswered touchdowns to take a thirteen point lead in the third quarter. Alabama finally answered, closing the game to within six points. But late in the fourth quarter Ezekiel Elliott flat out outran the entire Alabama defense for an 85-yard touchdown and a final score of 42-35. The championship game against Oregon, also a supposedly faster team than the Buckeyes, was a close affair until Elliott ran for the final three touchdowns of the game and a lopsided 42-20 victory.

8. Tour and Dipping Bottles at Maker’s Mark

I’ve been a member of the Maker’s Mark Ambassador’s Club since 2008 when my son nominated me. The first benefit of the program is a creative Christmas gift. In 2015 that was a Maker’s Mark headband which I’ll use in the hot tub. One year it was an ice cube tray which made four, two-inch diameter spheres, perfect for chilling bourbon without diluting it too much. The second benefit was having my name burned into a barrel of Maker’s Mark (along with dozens of other ambassadors) and getting the purchase two liters of bourbon from that barrel. It took seven years for the bourbon to age but finally the day came to make the trip to Loretto, Kentucky, take the tour and hand dip my bottles myself. I also picked up and dipped a special Cask Strength bottle for the holidays.

7. Steelers Game at Heinz Field

Since I started dating my wife we’ve made numerous trips to her native Pittsburgh to see her family and have seen many sights, but not a Steelers game at Heinz Field, which has been on her bucket list forever. We enlisted one of her son’s help and he reached out to a friend with family on the Steelers staff and snagged us a pair of tickets, and a great parking pass, for the November 1st game against the Cincinnati Bengals. With other commitments in September and October, we just couldn’t make an earlier date and we expected a very chilly, if not downright frigid, game. But things worked out exactly the opposite and we had a gorgeous, sunny, mid-70’s day, nice to walk around outside before the game. Other than being beat by the Bengals, it was a perfect day.

6. Catamaran Ride to Isla Saona

A nice spring vacation to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic was highlighted by a trip out to Isla Saona, located off the southern coast. The trip started with a shuttle ride, transferred to a large bus, then moved on to a boat trip, where we jumped into calm waters looking for starfish. Then completed the journey to the island on the powerful catamarans. It was a partying crowd that bounced across the Caribbean Sea, dancing and drinking to the music. Lunch and beach time on the island before taking the long trek back to Punta Cana.

5. New Kitchen

The last, and by far the largest, home project was a complete reimagine and rebuild of the kitchen, a real relic from the late 1950’s. Everything was replaced, even the kitchen window. Custom-built Amish cabinets, new appliances, stone flooring and granite countertops were installed. The dual-fuel, double oven range was the real highlight, giving us a gas stove top with a real power burner, true simmering burner and griddle, along with independently controlled large and small electric ovens. Next best was the the Uba Tuba Leathered granite countertops. The leathering provides a textured feel in place of the typical smooth granite look, and hides fingerprints very well.

4. Pirates vs Cubs at Wrigley Field

Wrigley is the place to watch a baseball game. An old-time neighborhood stadium filled with nostalgia and Cub-crazy fans. While I’ve been to a few games there, including one seen from the Wrigley rooftops, my wife’s brother got us tickets to a late September game five rows behind home plate, a little bit on the third base side, and again on an absolutely beautiful day. That view totally immersed me into the game and watching pitchers throw fastballs so quick they’re hardly more than a blur gave me a new appreciation of how good major league batters must be to make contact with the near-invisible baseball. Pirates won 4-0, making my Pittsburgh wife happy but over 40,000 local fans not so much.

3. One World Observatory in NYC

We went to New York City for a black-tie wedding in October, yet again, in awesome weather. We had already bought Priority tickets to the One World Observatory, which sits atop One World Trade Center, the beautiful replacement of the two towers destroyed by the 9/11 terrorists which I had visited many years ago. We grabbed a cab for the ride from The New York Palace Hotel to Lower Manhattan, entertained by the street savvy cab driver, so much so that we arranged for her to take us to the Newark airport the next day. The choice of spending the extra money for Priority tickets was a good one, as the line was long for the regular tickets. With the Priority tickets we bypassed the ticket line and the regular elevator line and within five minutes were atop the building. We rented an iPad which pointed out all the various buildings and points of interest, and tell stories about them. Aside from the beautiful views of New York and New Jersey, it was gratifying to know firsthand that those terrorists were the biggest losers of 9/11, and America will always rise above them, and the clouds.

2. “Book of Mormon” Play in Chicago

My wife’s brother and sister-in-law took us to see “Book of Mormon” in April at the Bank of America Theatre in downtown Chicago. For those who are not aware, this play pushes the boundaries of comedy when related to religion and race. Written by the creators of the TV show “South Park”, very much known for its political incorrectness, I guess that should have been expected. But with the appropriately open mind about such things, the play was absolutely hilarious, and one you walk away from saying “I want to see that again”.

1. Zac Brown Band Concert in Columbus

As great as 2015 was, crowning the #1 experience was easy. Zac Brown and his band put on the best concert I have ever seen. They played all the big hits including “Toes”, “Knee Deep” and “Chicken Fried”. They had an acoustical segment, like an “Unplugged”, that was beautiful. But what put goosebumps on my arms was their performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, every bit as good as the original.