Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Troubling Sound on a Sunday Morning

There are sounds that have become part of our collective memory. The rumble of thunder, birds brightly chirping, an airplane passing overhead, a knock on the door, a voice, a song, a dog’s bark. One sound, however, is irreparably changed for me.
It being a rainy Sunday morning today, my inclination was to either stay in bed until noon or sit by the fireplace, and read. But I told my friend George that I would meet him at Eliot Unitarian Chapel for eleven o’clock service. I’ve been dipping my toe, so to speak, into Eliot in my search for meaning or belonging or an alternative to Meet the Press. Maybe all three.
The sanctuary was full. George and I sat in the back row. He had knee surgery recently and needs the leg room. I like to look at all the people, like Eleanor Rigby. The service began. Piano solo, singing, readings, the children’s gathering, silent thought and remembrance, and then the sermon, by Reverend Gadon. She spoke of memory, of reviewing our lives, of reaching into our past to help define who we are today. She spoke about a people who have survived in spite of hatred and intolerance. This, in the shadow of the killings at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Her sermon was laced with warm humor and personal insights. She talks “with” people, not “at” them. 
Part way through Reverend Gadon’s sermon, a passing siren broke the mood. Seconds later, a second siren sped by. They were intrusive, dominant, sharpened by unknown events somewhere “out there.” Months ago, even weeks ago, I would have assumed they were going to a fire, a domestic dispute,  an auto accident or maybe even an attempted hold-up in some store. Not today. The sound of the siren uncovered something new in me. Possibly for many of the others in the congregation as well. It now carried a different message, a reminder and a warning.
Today it seemed possible there might just be another mass shooting somewhere, a nut with guns and lots of clips who had decided it was time to take action to get rid of evil in our community, our nation. Someone who realized that now it was safe to step out of the darkness and do something. Sitting in the sanctuary of the chapel, I couldn’t assume this was a “safe place.” I couldn’t assume that the many churches in Kirkwood on this Sunday morning were immune from this hatred. Perhaps the sound of the siren carried new meaning to them as well.
Reverend Gadon continued with her comments on life, unity, acceptance, and survival. With some effort I pulled myself back into the moment. She concluded on a note of hope. The service ended with warmth and uplifted spirits, people chatting and shaking hands and laughing. 
And yet…and yet…


Friday, October 26, 2018

THOU SHALT NOT SQUANDER


At this stage in my life - admittedly a late stage - I am searching for meaning. Answers to those musical questions,  “What’s it all about, Alfie?,” or “Is That All There Is?”. I need more compelling guidelines for the time ahead than watching my salt and fat intake, eating plenty of fiber, staying off ladders, and being “mindful.”
So I’m reading a couple of books about this sort of thing. One of the books is by a Buddhist Zen master and best-selling author, fairly impressive credentials and certainly far above my limited literary abilities. The other book is a compilation of thoughts and quotes for each day of the year, from January 1 to December 31. As if you hadn’t figured that out. Admittedly I came across this book in the middle of the year, but I cheat occasionally and read something from an earlier month. Chronology is not essential to effectiveness. 
I came across a phrase or a quote, not sure which, that I find meaningful. In fact, it’s so meaningful that I wrote it on an index card and taped it to my office door. It says, “I will look upon this day as a gift, not to be squandered.” I like that thought. It usually helps me get out of bed in the morning. Usually, but not always. Sometimes I begin the worrying process as soon as I open my eyes. “What kind of worries?” you may ask. The usual culprits. The roof, the furnace, the screens, the yard, the woodpecker who arrived a few days ago, that pain in my lower back, that pain in my right shoulder (can I play tennis today?), my heart, my liver, my kidneys, my teeth. It’s a really long list, and with very little effort I could stay in bed until noon just running through all the possibilities that might befall me that day, or certainly tomorrow.
Most of the time, at least since I discovered that phrase, I simply say to myself, “I will look upon this day as a gift, not to be squandered.” And I’ll pop out of bed, throw on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, feed the dog, make coffee, decide on Shredded Wheat or Plenty O’Fiber (or whatever it’s called), and I am on my way to positive, constructive things. Recently I’ve added a 15-minute meditation to that morning ritual, guided by an app on my iPad. 
Not this morning though. I let Lexi out and heard the rhythmic drumming of the Kirkwood High School Marching Band in the distance. They were practicing for this weekend’s football clash. I like marching bands, so Lexi and I jumped into the car, even before coffee, and hurried over to the football field. Sure enough, the band was lined up, all three thousand of them (at least that’s how it seemed), in school clothes. Yes, uniforms are a necessity for a band. Just like The Music Man said.  
We listened for about ten minutes, then came home where I resumed the morning ritual. It was actually an energizing way to start my day. I don’t know what song they were playing, but I don’t think John Phillip Sousa is on the top ten list anymore. (Side note: I played trumpet in the Washington U. ROTC Marching Band in 1956, until I bumped into a tuba player and cut my lip on my braces. Mom put an end to that right away.)
Back to that phrase. Here’s the word that sticks with me. “Squandered.” An interesting choice, that word. It’s not one you come across frequently, if at all. I can’t remember the last time someone used that in a sentence. I know what it means, as I’m sure you do. “To use or spend extravagantly or wastefully.” Ben Franklin wrapped it up neatly with “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” Amen, Ben.
I’m not going to give you any advice. You wouldn’t take it anyway. All I can say is that this “don’t squander” concept seems to work for me. On most days anyway.
But you’ve spent enough time reading this article. Don’t squander any more of your time. Go do something that makes you, or somebody else, feel good. You have the gift.

Friday, October 12, 2018

An Evening with Pasta, Wine and a Lambo

(Originally published in the Fall issue, 2018 of County Living Magazine, in my Random Musings column)

A friend named Alan recently invited me to his home for an evening of “hanging out with the guys.” These were friends of his whose wives were enjoying a “Girls Night Out.” Sounded like a proper thing to do, even though “girls” seems like a risky term these days. 
“You don’t know these guys,” said Alan, “but you’ll fit right in. We’ll sit around the pool, have some wine, and some pasta dishes I made for dinner.” I accepted. I had nothing else going and I liked the idea of pool, wine and pasta. He asked everyone to bring a bottle of red. Alan's rather particular about having the right wine to go with one of his meals. It's an admirable trait, one that is foreign to me since I'm not into wines. Give me a Tito's vodka or a Knob Creek bourbon and I'm happy.
That evening I was the last one there, having stopped at Total Wine for a bottle of medium-priced rose’, a good choice for summer drinking, so I’ve been told. Besides, red wine gives me a migraine. From the moment I pulled into his driveway in my 2013 Hyundai Elantra, I knew I had no business being there. It’s that “car thing,” a big deal with guys that closely ties the size of their net worth to their car. Mine is clearly reflected by my shiny red Hyundai.
I parked behind a 2018 white Mercedes convertible. It’s the model that grabs my attention when it passes me on the road. The Mercedes was behind a sleek new Infiniti SUV. Which was behind a new Lexus sedan and a sporty BMW or an Audi - I confuse the two. Sitting by itself, away from everyone else so it wouldn’t get scratched, was a white Lamborghini. This is a show stopper. These beauties start at $200,000 and rapidly escalate from there. 

I could own at least twenty Elantra’s for the price of one Lamborghini. Why, I wondered, would someone pay that much for a car to drive in a state where the maximum speed limit is 70 mph? The answer, of course, is because they can. 
As we sat around the pool - actually, next to it, on a patio; no one went swimming - a big, entertaining guy named named Bob asked a perfectly sun-tanned guy with a full head of beautifully-styled white hair a question I’ve never heard before. “Steve, how do you like your Lambo?”
Lambo! At first I wasn’t sure what a Lambo was. I started to laugh but realized it was a serious question. About what, I had no idea. “What’s not to like in a “Lambo?”, I almost said, always tempted to go for the cheap laugh. Steve casually said, “It’s a lot of fun.” Two or three hundred thousand dollars worth of fun on four wheels??? I don’t know what passes for fun in a Lambo but it sure isn’t going to Home Depot for a can of Rust-Oleum. 
And so the night progressed. The group was easy to be with. Lots of laughs, a relaxing banter, jokes both good and bad, golf stories. And I felt included - except for the golf. Never touch the stuff. After a delicious dinner of four different pastas prepared by Alan and a salad and a little more banter and wine, I was the first to say goodnight. I didn’t want them to see that pitiful little car I was driving. It didn’t work. They all decided it was time to leave. So there I was, trapped in the driveway while they climbed into their chariots and began to pull out. 

Look, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to spend a pile on a vehicle. If I had the money, I’d probably go for something that gets people to stare with envy and, as Mose Allison sings it, “makes little girls talk out of their heads.” The language of cars belongs to guys. I never heard women talk about their “Caddy” or a “Jag” or especially a Lambo. Of course that may change with the changing times. Along with “girls night out.”
One thing I regret - not asking Steve if he’d take me for a ride. Even to Home Depot. It’s probably as close to riding in a Lambo I’ll ever get.

(NOTE: Since this article ran in the Fall issue of County Living Magazine, I received an email from Steve. He offered to take me for a ride. To Costco. Fine by me. I like Costco better than Home Depot anyway.)




Saturday, September 15, 2018

Boy, did someone put me on the wrong mailing list. I'm flattered to be included, but I don't come close to qualifying for what they're selling. Here's what I'm talking about - a brochure that arrived in the mail recently from Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Truth be told, I can just about afford One sea, much less Seven. I've received brochures from other cruise lines before, some of them with offerings within reach, but this one showed me that I know less about the world, and about how the well-heeled travel.


Here's a sampling of their "Exotic Hideaways" for 2019. Some of these places are unfamiliar to me. Maybe you've heard of them, maybe you've even been to them. If so, I salute you for your spirit of adventure.

Let's start with their top of the line. It's 19 nights (I guess that rounds out to 20 days) on the Seven Seas Mariner from Bali to Sydney. Highlights are the Timor Sea  (never heard of it), several stops in Australia - Broome, Exmouth, Perth, Penneshaw (aka Kangaroo Island!!). I forgot to mention - it starts in Bali. That's an island in Indonesia. So, figure it out. 19 nights in the Mariner Suite for $35,000. Or, if you're having trouble making ends meet, get the Penthouse suite for $29,000. The Mariner figures to be  roughly $1800 a night. Meals included. And clean sheets. And French wines. Still. $1800 a night is more expensive than most New York hotels (regular rooms with a king bed and 2 sets of towels, anyway).




Not interested in Australia? No problem. Try their Singapore to Bangkok voyage, starting  at $16,000 for 16 nights, and going up to $28,000. By the way, that's for the Mariner Suite, which is 900 square feet. The Regent Suite, should you need more space, is 4500 square feet. That's bigger than my house! I'm sure you could play pickle ball in your room if you get bored. On this cruise, you visit Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and cruise the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
These sound like locations for a Tom Cruise movie.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I should mention there are several amenities included with these cruises. A sampling: Unlimited shore excursions. Unlimited beverages, including fine wines and booze. In-suite mini-bar, replenished daily. Just in case you're trying to escape your personal problems. Like how to pay for this if the market tanks while you're at sea. And maybe the crowning jewel - unlimited WiFi. So you can stay in your 4000 square foot cabin and watch YouTube all day while the South China Sea glides by outside your window.

I've got to be honest with you. If I had bought a load of Microsoft or Apple 20 years ago, I'd probably be sending in my registration right now. Doesn't matter which cruise. They all look appealing. In fact, I'd probably book two or three cruises for 2019. Only problem would be what to do with my dog. I couldn't leave her for that long. But maybe...maybe...a cabin for two? Unlimited Milk Bones? A frisbee to play with in my very large cabin? That might just work.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Wallet That Wouldn't Die

You can file this story either under "Dumb Moves" or "Hope for Humanity." Maybe both. Your call.

It concerns a wallet. My wallet. A couple Saturday's ago I went to the movie with friend Harry. Afternoon movie at Chesterfield Mall, aka The Land of Empty Stores. After the movie, as we walked to the parking lot, we decided to meet at Barnes and Noble, about a half mile down the road, for coffee and some stimulating conversation. We're good at that. Harry went to his car, I went to mine. I had put my iPhone in the same pocket as my keys and my wallet, which makes for a very crowded pocket. Don't ask why everything was stuffed in one side. That's just how I did it. When I got to my car I couldn't get my keys out, so I put my wallet on top of my car, got the keys, jumped into the car and pulled out. 

Yep, you guessed it. Wallet on top of the car. I got to B&N, met Harry inside, and realized I didn't have my wallet. "I left it in the car," I told him and went out to my car. Totally wrong. That's when I realized I had left it on top of the car. So I sped back the 1/2 mile to the Mall, found the parking spot where I had been, looked around. No wallet. "I'll just check at the Cheesecake Factory," I thought. Someone found it and turned it in there (it being one of the few open businesses). As I drove down the row to the Factory, my cell phone rang. A woman. A stranger. "Are you Gerry Mandel?" I told her I indeed was. "I have your wallet," she said. "I found it on the road." She was across from B&N, at Trader Joe's, actually at Smashburger, which I had no idea where that was..or even what it was. "Stay there," I told her. "I'll be there in 3 minutes."

And I was. We found each other - she in a blue car, me in a red car. She handed me my "stuff" - the wallet and a handful of cards, id's, photos, etc etc. She explained she had picked up what she could from the road, a dangerous proposition since the cars move quickly along that stretch of highway. "I couldn't find your driver's license, or any other credit cards," she said. Turns out she was from Michigan, just visiting, and had seen my wallet in the road. And endangered her own life by picking up the contents. She even handed me the  $20 bill I had. I tried to give it to her. I would've made it a ten, but didn't have anything smaller. She refused it. "Pay it forward," she said. She walked into Smashburger and I got in my car and headed back up the road.

Hang in there. It gets better.
I parked along side the road near the area where she said she had found the wallet. I put on my blinkers and started scouring the median and roadside. Which had to be a pretty pathetic sight. This old guy walking up and down the road, looking for who knows what as drivers flew by, probably thinking that poor old coot oughta be in a home. Back and forth I walked...until I saw a plastic card in the middle of the road. I retrieved it, in between the cars and pickups. My driver's license! Now all I needed was my MasterCard, the one I use to charge everything so I can get a free airplane ticket to somewhere I may want to go someday.

That's when a Chesterfield cop pulled up behind my car. "Great," I thought. "They'll tell me I can't be wandering around on the median, or can't be parked on the side." A young woman officer walked over to me. I gave her my most sincere and helpless smile and a slight wave. "Hi. Do I have to move my car?" I said, assuming a negative outcome.

"We got a call at the station," she said. "Someone reported they'd seen a wallet in the road. I'm here to help you." I could have hugged her. But I'm sure it would've been taken the wrong way. She spent about ten minutes walking around with me. Then she said, "If you can't find it soon, I suggest you call the credit card company and cancel it." She said it nicely and she was right. But canceling a card creates its own problems. "I'll just look a couple more minutes," I said. She said "okay" and "be careful." And left.
By then, Harry had joined me in the hunt. Nice to have company on the median. I told him thanks but I think I'll wrap it up, get a new card. 

I had almost given up when two young women who had just gotten off work at the Cheesecake Factory were walking along the road, across from the median where I was. They saw me looking. One of them held up a card. "What's your name?" she shouted. I told her. I spelled it. I said "MasterCard." "This is yours," she said, crossed the road and handed it to me. I could have hugged her, but...well, you know. I thanked her profusely and offered her the twenty dollar bill. She took it. Hesitantly, but took it. For her and her friend. I had paid it forward, I guess.

So that's my story. Good people still abound in our society. There still exists a strong element of morality, of doing what is right, even though it may be inconvenient or even dangerous. You don't hear much about these people, but they are there. More than we realize. Small acts of concern and compassion that help define us as human, even when evidence occasionally leads us to different conclusions. I don't know the names of any of these people who helped me. What I do know is they have renewed my faith in the goodness of people. Maybe not everybody, certainly, but enough to help us get through the rough spots. A belated "thank you" to those beautiful strangers.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dinner and drinks at a fine restaurant, Marx Brothers style

First of all, I'll admit the meal was not bad. Actually quite good. It was dinner with two friends, Julie and Steve, at a popular seafood restaurant in Clayton, Missouri. We were seated at a quiet table after only a 15 minute wait past our reservation time, not bad for a busy place on a Friday night. The bar scene was incredibly lively and joyful. TGIF still has significance even in this day and age.

It was the getting to the meal that ended up being a slapstick scene from a Marx Brothers or Steve Martin movie. Follow me closely on this. Our waiter was named James. Some friendly banter after he appeared at our table revealed he was a wanna-be actor and screenwriter. He had even spent some time in LA, trying both, writing a play (who writes plays in LA? You go to NY for that!) and not finding much acceptance as an actor. One thing for sure: He wouldn't ever get a part as a waiter. That's just not within his range. Tell you why.

James the Waiter (I use the term loosely, so you can follow the action) shows up with 3 glasses of water - one for Julie, one for Steve, one for me. My wife isn't with us this night. He sets down 2 of the glasses. So far, so good. Then he sets the 3rd glass down on the dividing line between 2 adjoining tables. They are not of equal height so guess what. Right. The glass of water falls over, soaking the adjoining table (unoccupied), the table cloth, the wine list. James recovers nicely and, with a giggle, swoops up the soaking mess, dispenses with it. Then he returns to take our drink order. Smooth sailing from now on, you're thinking. Oh, so wrong. Steve orders his Pinot Grigio. Julie orders a Bombay gin martini, on the rocks. I order a Tito's vodka gibson, straight up. James doesn't write it down. It's locked into his mind. He returns several minutes later with our drinks. Pinot...okay. Julie's martini is served straight up. My martini is served on the rocks. Sorry, James, I say, We need a do-over here. He apologizes again, laughs again, and takes our 2 martinis back to bartender hell. Minutes later he returns. Julie's martini is fine. Gin. On the rocks. My gibson is straight up, as ordered. But there are no onions. My drink is naked. "James," I say, "where are my onions?" He dashes off, returns - with a large plate bearing one onion on a toothpick. In a good natured way, I tell him I really need more than one onion. Maybe two. He brings them. I put them into my drink and take a sip. All is well, I'm thinking. But I'm wrong.


My drink is not a gibson (that's a martini with onions instead of olives). It's a gimlet, which is vodka with Rose's lime juice, a cloying sweet drink that went out with the Charleston. My mother drank gimlets, which is probably what did her in. I scream for James . He scrambles off and, several minutes later, he brings a beautiful Tito's vodka straight up. But no onions. "Sam, you forgot the onions." He's off in a flash and returns with 3 onions on a tooth pick. I dip them into my gibson, take a sip, and...ahhhhhhh. All is right with the world again.

It has taken only a half hour to get our drinks right. I hesitate to ask Steve if his Pinot has gotten warm. He doesn't complain. We toast to happy days, good health, and less comedy at our table.

I see a plate on our table with olive oil and other stuff swirled in with it. It sits alone. There is no basket of bread next to it. I point to the plate and ask James, "What is this?" He tells me it's oil and spices to dip our bread in. "Bread. Aha!" I say. James forces a smile and says, "I'll get you some bread." Which he does, several minutes later, fresh from the oven, which is why it took so long to get here, at least according to him.

I'd like to say it ended there. But listen to this. We ordered (mussels, sea bass, salmon), all served hot and delicious. But Steve finished his salmon before Julie and I had finished. James was right there, doing his alert waiter thing. He whisks away Steve's plate and asks him if he'd like a dessert menu. That's when I stop laughing at these antics and warn James. "Don't touch another plate until we've all finished eating, James. Not another plate. And don't mention dessert until our plates are gone." He backs off, a little surprised by my intensity. 

A lot of restaurants in St. Louis instruct their waiters to get those plates off the table "as soon as you can." I don't know why. It's just a really dumb move, in my opinion. It makes the people who are still eating their main course feel like they're late, they're slow eaters, they've gotta move on, eat fast, finish now and pay the bill. Fine restaurants I've been to in Big Cities have their waiters wait until all at the table have finished. That's class. If I want to eat and run, I'll go to Miss Sheri's Cafeteria.

Looking back, the three of us agreed it was a most unusual dinner. We had lots of laughs.  Fortunately we are good sports and were in no hurry to go anywhere. One thing for sure - we'll always remember this dinner. And I'll make sure I explain clearly to any server what a gibson is, and what it is not, even to the point of embarrassment. If the waiter doesn't know, at least the bartender should know. 

Yes, I'll go back to Oceano, some night when I'm feeling down and need a few laughs. I just hope James is still working there. And has gotten a role in some low-budget movie, maybe as a pickpocket or a musician, but certainly not as a waiter. Unless it's a comedy.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Disappearing Letters, Distinctive Mailboxes: A Conundrum


The mail. Now that’s a word which has changed in meaning and importance.
The mail used to be eagerly anticipated. The mailman (before there were mailwomen) might bring good news from a distant relative, expressions of  “I miss you” echoing a romantic evening, a note of congratulations or “send money, please” or “You’re invited to help us celebrate…” The thrill of the unopened envelope was a daily possibility.

Think about the last time you received an actual letter in the mail. Been awhile, right? I’m talking about words-written-or-typed-on-stationary-in-an-envelope-with-a-stamp kind of mail. I think the last real letter I got was from my cousin Myron, who passed away four years ago. He wanted to borrow some money, to tide him over until he got back on his feet. It went unanswered. Myron had never even been on his feet. Family and money - like oil and water. I don’t count letters from Hillary and Donald and Claire as real letters. Not even Whitey Herzog, who writes the most sincere letters about a hearing aid he's pitching, guaranteed to get me back into the conversation. Sorry, guys. Those letters also go unanswered.

This lack of a written diary of our daily lives worries me. What will future historians be able to cobble together about us? Only little parcels of information from emails, tweets, instagrams, and Facebook comments. Not a lot to go on. I have a book of the letters of Abraham Lincoln. Also of Tennessee Williams. The latter is actually more than I want to know about Tennessee. Here’s a historical fact: Two former presidents - John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - exchanged 150 letters between 1812 and 1823. This, incredibly, followed twelve years of silence between them caused by a bitter political feud. But once they made up, the letters flowed like Sam Adams beer. That’s an average of one letter per month, more than I used to write to my mom when I was in the army.  

But we still hold expectations of getting a letter in the mail. I’d even like to get another one from Myron. Actual fact: The sole representative of the people who deliver the mail is the National Association of Letter Carriers. That’s really their name. Founded in 1889, they claim to be “the only force that fights to protect the interests of city letter carriers.” This is not a complaint about our postal service. I think they do a terrific job. I just think the NALC might seem more up-to-date with a relevant name. Maybe National Association of Postage-Paid Carriers. Just a thought.

While I’m on the subject of mail: Consider the lowly state of the mail box. Maybe even yours. As you drive down your street, notice the mail boxes. It seems everyone buys theirs at the same store. A redundancy exists that chills the soul. I don’t understand it. People spend big money on their homes, yards, patios and pools and driveways and - yes, even their awnings and trees. But mailboxes? Bland and black, ignored and ill-conceived, even though we visit them every day. 

There are a few exceptions. Not far from my house live two families who I don’t know but greatly admire.
 
They exhibit pride in their mailboxes. They have impeccable taste, a sense of worth and, yes, a sense of humor. They have discovered that your mailbox can say a lot about you. Their mailboxes transcend the utilitarian into the realm of art.

I doubt if they get more personal letters than the rest of us. But that isn’t the point. Chances are their mailboxes are stuffed with the same materials we get - flyers, brochures, magazines, statements, overdraft notices, lost dog postcards. But it doesn’t matter. Unlike people, it’s what outside that counts. It’s the messenger, not the message.

These public servants were called letter carriers. Then the letters disappeared. Now they are postal workers. They do their job well. But I wonder how many of them miss the thrill of delivering a personalized envelope, hand written, of imagining the delight they bring as they listen for that shout, “The mail’s here!” And the letter awaits, in that distinctive mailbox that says, “I still care.” 

There is still one individual in my family who looks forward to the daily appearance of our mailman. She doesn't get many letters, maybe an occasional catalogue from PetSmart or Drs. Foster and Smith. Which is okay, because she's a slow reader. What she does get, however, is a treat. A Milkbone. Sometimes two or even three, if the mailman's in an expansive mood. 


Here's a suggestion. Next time you think of someone you care about, sit down and write them a letter. Even a note card. Something in your own handwriting. When you put it into the mailbox, I know you'll smile to yourself and realize you've done something worthwhile. And rare. And greatly appreciated. Guaranteed.

This article originally appeared in the autumn issue, 2017, 
of County Living Magazine.