Book Review:  If You’re Not Quite Depressed Enough, Then Read This Book

Publication date:  February 2021

Category:  Mothers and children fiction, historical fiction.

Review, short version:  Four out of four skunks.

Review, long version:

Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds is about a woman who has a relentlessly rotten life and dies at age 40.

Why anyone would write a book like this, and why anyone would read it, is a mystery to me.

It was published in February 2021 while – as you’ll recall – we were seeing headlines like this:

But the reading public – instead of eschewing a depressing book about a relentlessly rotten life – devoured it.

Hannah’s book, which I only recently read – correction, tried to read – debuted at #1 on the February 21, 2021 New York Times best seller list.  The book wasn’t just somewhere on the list – the first week it was out, the book was #1:

And the book continued to make headlines, like this in April 2021:

And this, in July 2021:

The Publisher’s Weekly article said that from January through June 2021, The Four Winds sold 558, 479 copies.

That’s a bunch.

And that number doesn’t include how many people read the book without buying it – as in, borrowed it from a library.

So I queried my local library and here’s what I learned.  In 2021:

Most checked-out hardcover adult fiction:           The Four Winds
Number of checkouts: 100

Most checked-out eBook adult fiction:                   The Four Winds
Number of checkouts:  802

Most checked-out audiobook adult fiction:          The Four Winds
Number of checkouts:  500

That means that in 2021 more than 1400 people read the book, and that’s just from my library.

Unless – like me – they screamed “No more of her relentlessly rotten life!” and gave up after 200 (out of 448) pages.

So, 1400 people only from my library.

There are more than 9,000 public libraries in the U.S.

And I haven’t even started on Kindle readers, and paperback readers, and foreign language readers, including Greek:

Would you mind doing the math?  I’m too flummoxed to add it all up.

So, why did I read try to read it?

Because recently someone I trust said, “What?  You haven’t read The Four Winds?  You have to!  I loved it!”

So much for trust.

As is my wont, I went looking for company – specifically, Amazon reviewers who disliked the book as much as I did.  Out of the 102,000+ reviews, only four percent said The Four Winds was a stinker.  Here a review I especially liked:

“The tiny bit of light at the end was far too small to make up for all the sadness.  The notes at the end tell us her family lost someone dear in this pandemic, so it appears Ms. Hannah wants to be sure everyone shares her grief.  We are already there.  I needed something to lift me above today’s darkness and this sure wasn’t it.”

The reviewer is suggesting that Hannah was doing a “misery loves company” thing, and succeeded.

These reviewers all mentioned a theme I missed, not having read far enough into the book:

“What an anti-capitalist communist propaganda piece of crap.  Will never buy her garbage again.  I’m sure she’s donating all of her capitalist book income to the working poor.”

“Pro-communist rhetoric prompted me to stop reading 3/4 through.  I’ve loved all of her books, but this was a political activist sellout.  So disappointed.”

“I’m three-fourths though this book and I can’t even finish.  It’s horribly written, pro-communist dribble* that I can’t even bring myself to care about how it ends.  Don’t waste your time or money.”

*Did the reviewer perhaps mean “drivel,” rather than “dribble”?

So – The Four Winds, according to my Amazon colleagues and me:

“Sadness, misery, pro-communism, darkness, depressing, and death.”

And, well…why not?

Maybe some “dribble,” too…

This Quote Resonated With Me

It’s highly probable that you know the name Ben Franklin – Founding Father, polymath, writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher, and political philosopher.

During the American Revolution, Franklin (pictured) served in the Second Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  He also negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War (1775-83).

In 1787, in his final significant act of public service, he was a delegate to the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution.

Franklin also graces our $100 bill.

Not bad for a guy who had only two years of formal education.

This website:

Says, “Franklin became a hit writer as a teenager,” and Franklin continued writing throughout his long life (1706-1790).

He had a way with words, and many of those words are still with us – in Franklin quotes – though we may not know it.  If you ever heard these, you’re hearing Ben Franklin:

“Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Honesty is the best policy.”

But it’s a less-well-known Franklin quote that resonated with me, one I heard only recently, and gave me much to think about:

“A republic, if you can keep it.”

Here’s the story behind the quote, from this article and other sources:

There are debates about the history of this quote, and here’s the version I’m going with:

It was 1787 and Franklin, along with the other Founding Fathers, was in the State House in Philadelphia hammering out what would become the U.S. Constitution.  As Franklin was exiting the building, a lady spoke to him.

The lady was Elizabeth Willing Powel (pictured), a prominent society figure and the wife of Philadelphia Mayor Samuel Powel.

Mrs. Powell said, “Well, Doctor Franklin, what have we got?  A republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.”

Franklin wasn’t being evasive – he said exactly what he meant.

This republic the Founding Fathers were creating was an experiment.

An experiment that would depend on solid, reliable, “for the people and by the people” government institutions.

And more importantly – solid, reliable, “for the people and by the people” government leaders.

It would also require the ongoing vigilance of citizens who were aware on a daily basis that this form of governing – like any form of governing – came with no guarantees of enduring.

To verify this, 18th-century citizens of this new United States had only to look back at 17th-century England.

England had been a monarchy for hundreds of years, and everyone assumed it would always be a monarchy.

Then civil war came to England in 1642, and the monarchy fell.  England’s king, Charles I (pictured), was beheaded in 1649.

England became a king-less Commonwealth in 1649. 

The Puritans were in power, and life in “Merry Olde England” changed dramatically.  Puritans advocated an austere lifestyle, so Christmas and other holidays were banned, theatres were closed, and most sports were forbidden. 

Puritans didn’t limit themselves to a scarlet letter “A” – other labels included a “B” for “blasphemer” and “D” for Drunkard.

There were rules about what to wear, makeup was outlawed, men had to wear their hair short, and women had to cover their hair at all times.  Dancing was taboo, and people who had sex outside of marriage were fined and publicly humiliated.  Attending Sunday worship was mandatory, as was fasting for a full day once a month.

Puritan punishment often meant public humiliation:  One man’s legs are in the stocks – a restraining device – and the man on the right is being whipped.

People were encouraged to report each other’s transgressions to the authorities, and many – some gleefully – did.

For the people of England, life as they’d known it was over.

My point?

It takes less than we think to topple a government and upend lives, no matter how long that government has been around.

It won’t happen here, in our republic…

If we can keep it.

This Playwright Can’t Catch A Break

I’ve never written a play, but I imagine it’s like all creative writing.

You put your heart – you put you – into it.

Then you put it – you put you – out there for the world the judge.

Sometimes the world accepts and applauds your play…

And you.

But most times…

It doesn’t.

Like this fiasco:

When the world does accept and applaud your play, it’s a dream come true.

Your dream has become a reality, on a stage, with a director and a producer and actors and costumes and scenery.

And an audience.


If that audience is applauding your play at the La Jolla Playhouse…

You’ve made it.


La Jolla is seaside neighborhood within the city of San Diego, CA:

The population is around 47,000, and proudly claims actor Gregory Peck (1916-2003) as a native son.  In 1947 Peck, along with fellow actors Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, founded the La Jolla Playhouse.  Years later Peck’s son, Anthony, said,

Peck won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in the 1962 film, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I believe the idea of opening a playhouse in La Jolla was his way to give back to the community that had been his home, as well as offering Hollywood actors a nearby place to stay in tune with theater.”

Since its founding, La Jolla Playhouse has won many honors, and hosted many productions that originated there and went on to find success on Broadway.

To have a play accepted by the prestigious La Jolla Playhouse is a playwright’s dream come true.

And it could be the start of something even BIGGER:

One such playwright is Lauren Yee.

Her play, Mother Russia, was on that path.

According to this 2019 article:

Yee’s Mother Russia was scheduled for the 2020/2021 season at La Jolla Playhouse. 

Here’s the press release announcing it:

The press release includes this description of Mother Russia:

“Welcome to St. Petersburg in the 1990s – the Berlin Wall has fallen, the Soviet Union has dissolved and opportunity abounds.  But barely-competent government surveillance workers Euvgeny and Dmitri find themselves lost in their strange new world of glasnost, perestroika and McDonald’s.

“When they’re assigned to track Katya, a fallen pop-star with international allure, a love triangle, mistaken identities and some really shoddy espionage tactics are set in motion.  It’s possible they might just make it out of this mess and find happiness – if only they could make a decision.  A world-premiere comedy about the curse of freedom and having to choose between the Filet-o-Fish and the Big Mac.”

Now, this wasn’t Yee’s first play – as her website lets you know, right up front:


And Yee does write plays, a number of which have been produced all over the U.S., in Canada and London.  And an earlier play – Cambodian Rock Band – was produced at La Jolla Playhouse in 2019. 

Lauren Yee.

Her website lists the many awards she’s won and grants she’s received.  Yee earned a B.A. at Yale and an M.F.A. at UC San Diego, and her website says she’s…

“…a playwright, screenwriter, and TV writer born and raised in San Francisco.  She currently lives in New York City.”

So the production of Mother Russia by La Jolla Playhouse in their 2020/2021 season wasn’t Yee’s first rodeo.

But still – she had to be excited.

La Jolla today…Broadway tomorrow?



March 2020:

Pandemic today…nowhere tomorrow.

Mother Russia’s world premier was postponed by the pandemic.

For two years.

Yee – and the rest of the world – waited.

Waited for some semblance of normalcy to return.

Current Story

Finally, in November 2021, La Jolla Playhouse announced its 2022/2023 season:

Mother Russia was scheduled for September/October 2022.

At last!

And then came this, on April 20, 2022:

“La Jolla Playhouse announced Wednesday that it is postponing its planned world premiere production of Lauren Yee’s play Mother Russia in light of Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.  It moves from its fall 2022 slot to the 2023-24 season.”

Postponed – again!

“La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley said the uncertainty of recent world events led to the theater’s decision to postpone.

“‘In consultation with the show’s creative team, the Playhouse has postponed the world premiere play Mother Russia in light of current events still unfolding,’ Ashley said in a statement.  ‘The production is currently planned for 2023, allowing the creative team additional time for reconsideration of certain script and production elements.  We remain excited to produce Lauren’s timely exploration of the ongoing political systems we find ourselves in.’”

Postponed by a pandemic. 

Postponed by a war.

What next?

You see why, in this post title, I suggest this playwright can’t catch a break.

But – perhaps I should have said the play can’t catch a break.

Especially since, in this 2021 story:

Yee was described as “on track to be the second most produced playwright in the country.”

In a profession where – according to one article – “playwrights on average earned $25,000 to $39,000 annually, and 62 percent earned under $40,000…”

Yee is an artist, but not a starving one.

So Yee doesn’t need my/our sympathy, but perhaps we can empathize with her frustration.

Or, perhaps Yee isn’t frustrated.  Perhaps she just shrugs and says,

I spent a fair amount of time on Yee’s website and couldn’t find a single mention of Mother Russia.

Maybe, out of fear of jinxing it, Yee has been waiting to list the play’s world premiere in 2020/2021, 2021/2022, 2022/2023, 2023/2024…

Waiting for a time when we’re not living in a…

Things That Go Bump In The Night In A Store

You may have heard the old idiom, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Meaning, what one person considers worthless could be highly valued by someone else.

For this story, I’ve paraphrased that old idiom:

One man’s rudeness is a woman’s treasure.

Here’s what happened:

Back in November 2021, LaQuedra Edwards was at a Von’s Supermarket in Tarzana, CA, about an hour northwest of Los Angeles:

Nothing unusual about that.

She was going to buy some Lottery tickets, her preferred selection of cheaper-priced favorites.

Nothing unusual about that.

She put $40 into the Von’s Lottery Scratchers vending machine was poised to start selecting which numbers she wanted.

Then a rude guy bumped into her. 

He just kept going, out the door, not bothering to apologize.

Nothing unusual about that – someone being rude.

That bump caused LaQuedra to accidentally push a wrong number on the machine. 

Down dropped a $30 200X Scratchers ticket that she had no intention of buying, and didn’t want:

Darn it! 

That left LaQuedra only $10 dollars to buy a much-reduced number of Lottery tickets.

LaQuedra was irritated, and who wouldn’t be?

LaQuedra collected her tickets, walked out to her car and decided that since she was stuck with that unwanted $30 200X Scratchers ticket, she might as well have a look.

She scratched.

She saw.

She saw that she’d won…

So verifies this April 6 press release from the California Lottery:

I love stories like this.

According to this article in the Washington Post:

“The odds of winning $10 million – the top prize – playing the 200X Scratchers are 1 in more than 3 million, according to the statistics from the state lottery.”

Add to that the odds of someone bumping into you just at the moment you were going to touch a number, and the odds of your finger just happening to land on the wrong number, and the odds of that wrong number instead just happening to turn out to be the right number…

Love it.

It’s no wonder LaQuedra said this, as quoted in the Lottery press release:

“I didn’t really believe it at first, but I got on the 405 freeway and kept looking down at (the ticket), and I almost crashed my car,” Edwards joked.  “I pulled over, looked at it again and again, scanned it with my (California Lottery mobile) app, and I just kept thinking this can’t be right,” she said.

“I’m still in shock,” she told officials.  “All I remember saying once I found out how much I just won was, ‘I’m rich!’”

LaQuedra is, indeed, rich.

The release also said that LaQuedra plans to use her winnings to buy a house and launch a nonprofit organization.

I hope that whatever LaQuedra does with her winnings, it works out well for her.

For so many, it doesn’t.  The media is full of stories about people who are big Lottery winners and turn into big Life losers, like in these recent articles:

And here’s a sad statistic from this recent article:

“…about 70 percent of lotto winners lose or spend all that money in five years or less.”

I also hope LaQuedra isn’t besieged at the front door of that new house by family members and strangers and others…

Who all suddenly want to be best friend$$$$$$.

And that guy who bumped into LaQuedra?

I hope someday he learns that his rude, worthless behavior…

Turned into a woman’s treasure.

And that LaQuedra experiences only good things from…

Things That Go Bump In The Night In A Store.

Darn It!  I Missed My Opportunity To Spend $300+ For ONE Dinner And Freeze My BLEEP Off At The Same Time!

There it was, a full-page article in my Friday San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper:

That was April 15, and the event featured in the article wasn’t until April 21, so I figured, “No hurry!  Plenty of time!”

But a few days later, when I went to the event website:

“Sales Ended”!

I missed my opportunity to spend $300+ for one dinner and freeze my BLEEP off at the same time!

The event is tomorrow…

And I won’t be there.

I won’t be at the 2022 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner @ The Flower Fields, Carlsbad, CA:

What is the 2022 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner @ The Flower Fields, Carlsbad, CA?

Let’s unpack this:

First, here are The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA:

According to

“The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch is a fifty-acre dazzling rainbow of beautiful ranunculus flowers set on a hillside overlooking the striking Carlsbad, California coastline.”

In case you’re not familiar with ranunculus flowers, here they are:

Second:  The 2022 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner.

According to

The Field to Vase Dinner is an…

“…award winning series of intimate, must-attend gatherings that place seasonal, local and sustainable American Grown Flowers and Foliage at the center of the table.  Enjoy locally grown food, beer and wine expertly prepared and served by our celebrated farm-to-table chefs.  Each artisan-style dinner is held at unique, breathtaking venues – American floral farms, where you can experience the art and science of growing the flowers and foliages we love.”


This event is “intimate”!

Although I fail to see how “intimate” applies to sitting cheek-by-jowl with a bunch of strangers at a table that appears to stretch into infinity…


This event is a “must-attend”!

Yes, if you feel like parting with the money for tickets that start – start, mind you – at $300.

Per person.

And what does one get for their $300+?

According to the ticket-selling website – which is no longer selling tickets:

“Your dinner experience will include a feast for the eyes, thanks to the innovative tablescapes featuring all local flowers and foliage designed by renowned American event designer, Shawna Yamamoto of Shawna Yamamoto Event Design.

“You’ll also enjoy a multi-course artisan meal prepared by the chefs of Crown Point Catering using only fresh and seasonal ingredients.  Each course will be expertly paired with wines from the nearby Temecula Valley Winegrowers.” 


“You’re paying $300 or more per person and don’t know what you’ll be eating.”

I’ve read about events like this before – where you pay a copious amount of money for a mystery dinner.

And let’s be honest here – the more expensive the meal, the more meager the portions, and the more likely that “multi-course artisan meal” will start with an amuse-bouche that looks like this:

And finish with a dessert that looks like this:

The event description continues:

“Not only will you leave the dinner table with an experience of a lifetime but you will be taking home an armful of American grown bouquets and other swag.”

Then comes this photo as evidence of attendees with their “bouquets and other swag”:

“Swag” being a slang term for “free stuff and giveaways.”

And if what these women are carrying is the extent of the swag…

I haven’t yet addressed the “Freeze My BLEEP Off” in this post’s title.

Carlsbad, CA is on the coast, about 35 miles north of San Diego:

So, yes, Southern California and yes, beautiful beaches:

Beaches that, at this time of year, sometimes look like this:

It’s called “coastal fog,” and it means the Carlsbad Flower Fields, located very near the beautiful beaches, can sometimes look like this:

But even if there’s no coastal fog tomorrow evening, the dinnertime temperature is going to be around 52 degrees. And since, in this photo:

I see no overhead space heaters, so that 52 degrees is going to feel less like dining al fresco and more like dining al freezo.

So…perhaps it’s just as well that I’m missing tomorrow’s 2022 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner @ The Flower Fields, Carlsbad, CA.

Perhaps I’ll take that $300 and spend it elsewhere.

And in Southern California, that $300 I didn’t spend on the mystery dinner will almost cover a week’s worth of this:

What’s Up?  And What’s “Up”?

A recent magazine article got me thinking about the word “up.”

Such a simple, two-letter word.

With a simple, straightforward meaning.

If someone says, “Look!  Up in the sky!” then we do this:

And if you walk up some stairs…

…it’s pretty clear which direction you’re going.

In cowboy movies, when the sheriff says, “Put your hands up!” the bad guys don’t look at each other and say,

Cowboy #1:  What does he mean, exactly, by “hands up”?
Cowboy #2:  “Up” is an existential thing.

Of course they don’t!

The bad guys put their hands up, just like the sheriff said:

Simple.  Straightforward.  Yes?


We use the word up in many ways that don’t mean up at all.

So many ways that our usage of up has become ubiquitous and nonsensical.

For example, why, when Gloria Swanson spoke that memorable line in the movie Sunset Boulevard

…why did she say, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup”?

I get the “close” part – this is where the camera focus moves into close range. 

But what’s the “up” part mean? 

“Up” where?

Why are we sometimes – regardless of our age – told to “grow up”?

“Up” where?

If someone is unhappy, why are they “broken up”?

What’s up about being broken?

Here are more ups we use without thinking about what we’re saying:

Grownup.  Throw up.  Fix-up and fixer-upper. 

Here’s another variation on that last one:

And how about this one:

The “meet” part, sure – it’s a website where you meet people.

But what’s up with the “up” part?

The list goes on:  Mixed up.  Wake up.  Speak up.  Look up (in the dictionary).  Write up (a report).  Back up (a car).  Stir up (trouble).  Think up (excuses).  End up (in jail). 

We make a distinction between being “dressed” and “dressed up,” but why does adding up make that distinction?

“Dressed” (left) and“ dressed up.”

And how about “makeup,” as in this stuff:

I guess we apply cosmetics to “make” a new face, but…

Why up?

Let’s consider a few more:  Dry up.  Clear up.  Shut up. 

But we don’t leave it at that.

No, we humans are creative.  So we take our ubiquitous and nonsensical use of up and add another word or two, like so:

Pick him up.

Wrap it up.

Please wipe that up.

Just make it up.

These examples, according to my research, are called “phrasal verbs,” and to qualify, the construction goes as follows:

Verb + pronoun + adverb.

So, “Pick him up.” Pick is the verb; him is the pronoun; up is the adverb.

If, declared one website, “the object is a pronoun, it must come before the adverb” to qualify as a phrasal verb.

And if you foolishly dare to mix things up, the grammar police will come after you…

But – since we’ve said these phrasal verbs for so long and in the same way, it’s unthinkable we’ll ever say them differently.

If someone said, “I’ll pick up him” or, “Just make up it,” we’d no doubt tell them that their grammar needs some cleanup.

So, that’s my take on up, a not-so-simple, two-letter word for which I found at least 21 definitions in the following categories:  adverb, preposition, adjective, verb, and noun (informal).

Enough said.

Time to wrap up this.

Can I Nominate Someone For The Next Version Of This Book?

My nominee – make that nominees – for the next Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest book are the people on a work crew from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The BLM is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior (DOI), which is responsible for administering federal lands.

Which means this story is about our tax dollars at work.

Here’s the BLM website:

You’ll notice that the BLM’s website doesn’t say anything about their mission including damaging “public lands.”

But that’s exactly what the BLM crew did in January 2022, though it became known only recently.

This crew had an assignment:  replace a boardwalk for viewing the dinosaur fossils in Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite in Utah.

Here’s Mill Canyon:

Here’s the BLM Mill Canyon website:

Here’s an example of a boardwalk:

I’m betting it’s pretty great to visit the Mill Canyon site, stand on a boardwalk and look down at dinosaur tracks like these:

And these:

And these:

And imagining the dinosaurs that were living in what we now call Utah.

Dinosaurs that, according to an April 5 article in the Washington Post, included “ankylosaurs and theropods” like some of these:

Yes, that would pretty great.

Unfortunately, according to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trailhead Interpretive Site website, “Access to the site is currently restricted”:

That’s the aforementioned boardwalk replacement project.

The project completion date is not mentioned on the website, because it’s unknown.

The completion date is unknown due to this:

“…in January, a construction crew working to replace a boardwalk for viewing the dinosaur fossils left marks of their own, damaging some of the specimens and even repeatedly driving over one of them, according to an assessment dated March 8 but made public last week by the Bureau of Land Management, which staffed the crew.”

This crew that did the damage wasn’t a bunch of know-nothing outside contractors hired by the BLM:

They were BLM employees.

Here’s that 14-page March 8, 2022 assessment by Brent H. Breithaupt, BLM Regional Paleontologist, Wyoming State Office:

Breithaupt notes that “…crews drove a truck, trailer and a backhoe with a forklift onto the site to disassemble the old boardwalk…” and, “…that a trace fossil left by a prehistoric crocodile ‘was repeatedly driven over,’ resulting in fractures.  At another area containing footprints from theropods, ornithopods and sauropods, there were tire tracks and signs of heavy foot traffic…”

According to this January 31 story on a Salt Lake City TV station:

The story says that on January 30, Salt Lake County resident Jeremy Roberts traveled to Moab to take photos of the damage – here are two of them:

A third Roberts photo shows one print believed to be more than 116 million years old, shattered:

“It lasted 116 million years until the BLM decided to drive on it,” Roberts said.

In his report, Breithaupt said “that because the BLM did not consult paleontologists on the plans, crew did not know which areas to avoid.”

Wait a minute.

“Did not consult paleontologists”?

Breithaupt works for the BLM.  He’s the BLM Regional Paleontologist in the Wyoming State Office.

And the BLM brainiacs who developed this project never thought to call Breithaupt and say, “We’re going out to the Mill Canyon site to replace a boardwalk and we’re bringing a truck, trailer and a backhoe with a forklift.  Do you maybe want to meet with the crew and, um…sort of point to what they shouldn’t to drive over and damage?”

Maybe the BLM figured Breithaupt was in Wyoming, too far away?

Well, how about calling Jim Kirkland, a Utah Geological Survey paleontologist?

Or how about calling the Lee Shenton, president of the Moab chapter of Utah Friends of Paleontology?  Utah has its own Friends of Paleontology, for Heaven’s sake!

Or maybe the BLM could have called their “Utah Featured Partners,” located right there on the BLM website:

Or – how about Jeremy Roberts, the Utah guy who took the above pictures of the damaged areas?  Jeremy’s 14-year-old son Kenyon was with him that day, and said,

“The only place on earth where we have running tracks of a dromaeosaur-type dinosaur – raptors.  It’s devastating what they have done.”

A 14-year-old knew better.

But that BLM crew didn’t.

So I vote for the BLM crew being included in the next edition of…

Why, some may be wondering, does the Mill Canyon damage matter?

Here’s what I learned from my research:

It matters because the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is one of the largest and most important Early Cretaceous (about 112 million years ago) tracksites in the world, with more than 200 tracks and trace fossils of at least 10 different animals.

It matters because theropods, sauropods, ornithopods (pictured), ankylosaurs, birds and crocodiles are some of the tracks and fossils.  Some of the animals were unknown to the area before being spotted here. 

It matters because the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is ranked as a top-10 dinosaur tracksite in the U.S.

And it matters because – as yet another expert who wasn’t consulted – put it:

“They’re not making any more dinosaurs, so these tracks in some ways are like an endangered species – and we really need to protect them like one.

Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity, summed this fiasco up succinctly:

“This careless disregard for these irreplaceable traces of the past is appalling.  It really calls into question the bureau’s competence as a land-management agency.”

Back in late January, when the Salt Lake City TV station asked the BLM about the damage, the BLM responded with a statement that said in part,

“During that effort, heavy equipment is on location, but it is absolutely not used in the protected area.”

Then, on February 9, according to this and other articles:

The BLM walked back their late January statement as follows:

“A BLM regional paleontologist conducted a site assessment of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite and is finishing a final report.  He has preliminarily determined that some damage occurred to dinosaur footprints at the project site, and this is unacceptable.  Work is stopped at the site until the final paleontological site assessment report is complete, which is expected in three weeks.”

You know what’s “unacceptable?”


The article also said,

“The Bureau of Land Management used one of its own construction engineers in the Moab area to conduct the work and apparently did not flag the site and tracks, which was a provision required under its own analysis.”

Dinosaur fossils that survived for 112 million or more years…

Damaged – some, perhaps, destroyed – in a matter of hours by humans from BLM who apparently ignored the BLM’s “own analysis.”

Cost to us taxpayers?


Cost to the Mills Canyon Tracksite?


It’s small no comfort that the BLM also said it would take public input and work with paleontologists before resuming construction of the new boardwalk.

Now, after the damage has been done and made public…

Now, the BLM will work with paleontologists on a paleontological site!

Heads-up to the BLM:

Before your crew starts rolling into Mills Canyon again with their truck, trailer and a backhoe with a forklift…

Call Kenyon Roberts.

He’s 14, but clearly has more brains than all of you put together:

Described as a “dinosaur fanatic,” Kenyon Roberts in 2017, holding a model of an Allosaurus claw in his dinosaur-themed room.

Book Review:  The Third Time’s The Charm

Publication date:  January 2022

Category:  Women’s Friendship Fiction

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

I recently read a novel that was the third – all within a month – that featured young women in what I would call unusual circumstances.

The first was Shoulder Season, about a 19-year-old American woman who becomes a Playboy bunny in 1981.  I thought it was dreadful and didn’t finish it.

The second was The Show Girl, about an 18-year-old American woman in 1927 who joins the Ziegfeld Follies.  I thought it, too, was dreadful, but I finished it because I was running out of books to read.

I was beginning to think novels about young women in what I would call unusual circumstances and I were not a good match.

London debutantes in the 1950s – another night out on the town.

The third was The Last Dance of the Debutante, about an 18-year-old English woman in 1958 who is among the select few to be presented to the queen as a debutante – the last time this antiquated ritual would take place.

This I not only finished, but I enjoyed it – very much.

Though not at first.

We meet “bookish” Lily Nicholls whose very distant Mummy and very critical Grandmama insist that she have a “season.”  In Great Britain that meant a presentation to the queen, followed by endless rounds of parties (called “drinks”) and balls where Lily will meet other debutantes and more importantly, meet eligible bachelors (because the whole point of the season is to find a husband, preferably titled and rich).

Lily would rather not.  Lily would rather be preparing for taking her entrance exams to attend Cambridge University.

But – she feels obligated to please Mummy and Grandmama, for reasons that will become clear. 

So we join Lily on her introduction to “Society with a capital S,” as described in this article:

“These royal parties had once been the entire raison d’être of the London Season, that period between April and August when the elite and would-be elite came together at a glittering array of social and sporting occasions from opera to Ascot.  

“A debutante’s presentation at court – the queuing, the nerves, the sovereign acknowledging the practiced curtsey with a glimmer of a smile before the deb was quickly moved on so that the performance could be repeated with the next girl, and the next, and the next – this was what marked a young woman’s coming out into Society with a capital S, her arrival on the marriage market, her transition to adulthood, and her admission to a privileged elite.”

From page one, I experienced two strong feelings:

One – how trivial all this debutante stuff was.  I had to keep reminding myself the story was taking place 64 years ago, and to not view events of 1958 with my 2022 mindset. 

May 1950:  Debutantes at the Queen Charlotte’s Ball, where they were required to bow to a large cake!

Second – I disliked how Lily acquiesced to everything her mother and grandmother demanded.  “Grow a spine!” I kept thinking.

But Lily didn’t need to grow a spine – she already had one.  She just needed to use it.  And when she does, she doesn’t hold back.

Part way into the Season, when her mother orders her not to associate with Leana, a new friend, Lily says:

“I’ve been presented.  I’m going to teas and luncheons and drinks and dances.  I’ll have the same conversations with the same people night after night.  I’ll do whatever you and Grandmama ask of me to help advance myself as a debutante, but I will not stop seeing Leana Hartford…because I’m a woman now.  I should be able to choose my own friends.”

Take that, Mama!

Lily’s journey through Society takes her on an unintended journey into her past, where she discovers things that shock her – and surprised me.  I’m rarely surprised by plot twists, so when I am, it’s a definite plus.

Another plus – as I approached the denouement in The Last Dance of the Debutante, I couldn’t stop reading.  As the saying goes, “I couldn’t put it down!”

I don’t remember the last time I felt that way about a book.

Hope you feel the same.

“No Center Line” – This Is A Good Idea…

Take a look at this image:

It’s a common sight – two very different vehicles sharing the road, one a car and one a bicycle.

What’s the difference between these two vehicles, aside from the obvious car and bike?

In California, to operate their car the owner must pay a vehicle registration fee which includes money for road repair and maintenance.

But to operate their vehicle, the bike owner pays…


Car and bike owners using the same roads, but only car owners pay a vehicle registration fee for the roads.

Now, every state requires owners of motor vehicles to pay a vehicle registration.  But since I live in California, and this story takes place in California, my focus is here.

In California it’s expensive to register a car – we’re the 10th highest in the country.  And that got more expensive in 2018, when the state legislature passed a new “Transportation Improvement Fee (TIF)” based on the value of the vehicle:

The purpose of the TIF is “to provide additional resources for the state to repair infrastructure and for road maintenance.”

And – no surprise here – the TIF is set up to increase every year.

OK, I get that.  As an automobile driver, I use the roads.  I want the roads maintained and improved and made safer, and since I use the roads, I accept paying for that.

Bicyclists also use the roads, and the bike owners pay…


Including no Transportation Improvement Fee.

And yet, in California – and elsewhere – in recent years there’s been a huge and expensive effort to add or upgrade bike lanes for, we’re told, the safety of both bicyclists and motorists.

And I’m all for the safety of both bicyclists and motorists.

But I think this has gotten out of hand.

Here’s one local example that began in 2013:

And by 2021 the cost had morphed into this:

“One thing not in question about bike lanes is the eye-popping nature of the latest estimated cost of the planned 77-mile, regionwide network.  The price tag was once $200 million.  Now…the cost has more than doubled to $446 million.”

“More than one person has done the math:  The new estimate brings the cost of the bike network to $5.79 million per mile.”

The SANDAG headline above says the funding for this is coming “from local sales tax as well as state and federal governments.”

And sure, bicyclists pay those taxes.

So bicyclists are helping to pay for the “77 miles of bikeways.”

I also pay those taxes.

I, however, in my vehicle, cannot use many of those bikeways, when they look like this:

But my taxes help pay for them.

Now let’s go to the story I mentioned earlier, this time about a scaled-down local example of bike lane mania.  I’ve been unable to find a cost for this, but that’s OK, because what I’m focused on is the stupidity of it.

This story is about a road, and bike lanes, and an arrangement not seen before in San Diego:

Now, we’re used to seeing yellow road signs – there are all sorts of yellow signs out there:

But I’m betting you’ve never seen one that says, “No Center Line.”

This contradicts what we learned in driver’s ed, and from our own driving experience:

Two-way roads are divided by center lines:

Broken, double or solid, the lines tell us this is my side of the road, and the other side is for oncoming traffic.

In this case, having a yellow sign that says “No Center Line” means there’s one lane for vehicles coming from both directions.

It’s the same as having a sign like this:

So, where is this road with “No Center Line” and why doesn’t it have one?

It’s in Mira Mesa, a community and neighborhood in San Diego:

Specifically here, and it’s a four-block stretch of Gold Coast Drive:

The yellow “No Center Line” sign is perched atop another, even scarier sign:

“Vehicles Share Center Lane”???

What is this – a city-sanctioned invitation to play chicken in our cars?

Vehicles Share Center Lane???

Well…it’s all to accommodate people on…guess what…


Here’s the sign in full:

According to a Gold Coast Drive resident, prior to the new signs and paint job on the street:

“We didn’t have a problem.  The bicycle lane [was] in the middle.”

What the resident was referring to is called “sharrows”:

So this four-block stretch of Gold Coast Drive had bike lanes and a divided street. 

Then it all changed.

The new lines – and the signs – suddenly appeared “unannounced,” as this April 4 story put it:

The story was accompanied by a video which shows the – as promised – “No Center Line”:

And residents on this stretch of Gold Coast Drive were, as the above headline suggested, frustrated and confused.

And fearful, according to this April 4 story:

The people who live on this stretch have plenty of reasons to “fear a horrific crash is coming.”

Drivers have plenty of reasons to be fearful, as well.

And so do bicyclists.

In fact, one guy on his bike saw the crew from CBS and said:

“This is fricken asinine!  With distracted drivers, now you have people that have to drive head-on toward each other in cars.  They have to play bumper cars at the last minute to get away.  This is utter lunacy!”

Even a bicyclist thinks this is crazy.

Let’s go back and look at the full sign again:

Now let’s say you’re not familiar with the area and you’re driving on that stretch of Gold Coast Drive.  We all know that for safety’s sake, your eyes shouldn’t leave the road for more than one second, two at most.

You see a road sign that you’ve never seen before.

In that one or two seconds you’re supposed to read, comprehend, and react as needed to a two-part sign with two colors, three messages, and seven images.

And the images indicate that if an oncoming car is sharing your single center lane, you must move to the bike lane unless there’s a bicyclist in the bike lane in which case you’re supposed to drop behind the bicyclist but by the way watch out for those parked cars!

Did you take all that in, in the one to two seconds you spent looking at the sign?

Me, neither.

In this article – speaking of playing chicken – we learned that this setup is called “advisory bike lanes”:

So nobody who lives there knew this was coming, and they aren’t the only ones:

“‘We thought it was a mistake by the striping crew,’ said Councilman Chris Cate who represents the area.  ‘I have never seen these lanes in my life.  I have never been briefed on it, told about it.’”

But it turns out that lots of people knew about the advisory bike lanes.

And when the residents started complaining and the media started doing stories, those people-in-the-know started responding.

They were very-sort-of-not-really sorry they hadn’t bothered to give the residents a heads-up about the change.

In fact, all sorts of people were leapfrogging over each other to offer either apologies or sort-of-not-really apologies. 

Here’s one:

“This is the first time advisory bike lanes have been installed in San Diego.  As such, we acknowledge that more robust community outreach should have been done far sooner to inform neighbors in Mira Mesa about the plans and how the road is used.”  – City Spokesperson Anna Vacchi Hill

Here’s another:

“The Director of Transportation, Jorge Riveros, apologized for not notifying neighbors before last week’s restriping.  He announced all similar bike lane projects are being put on hold.  

“‘I completely understand the frustration that it wasn’t rolled out with a good education and outreach program.  We’re owning that,’ Riveros said.”

This last was from the Director of Transportation.  Then then whole damn Transportation Department apologized in a statement:

“We are sorry.  We neglected to do proper outreach and to seek feedback in advance of this installation.  We will do better.  Signage has been posted and our teams are working to provide more transparency in our process.  Thank you for the opportunity to explain.  We want to collaborate with you.”

Here’s another one:

“CBS 8 asked him [a city spokesperson] how someone could drop the ball on something as important as notifying neighbors that drivers will suddenly being heading straight at each other. “You’re right,” said Jose Ysea. “It’s a major miscommunication.’”

“Ysea says the transportation department was supposed to notify residents before the striping happened, but somehow that slipped through the cracks.”

I love that “somehow slipped through the cracks.”  What he’s actually saying is, “Not my fault!”

Here’s yet another:

And another:

“Mayor Todd Gloria also released a statement to FOX 5 apologizing for the city’s lack of communication and saying in part:

“‘I have directed the transportation department to halt the deployment of this new type of bike treatment until we can appropriately convey what criteria are being used to site these advisory lanes and how residents can be engaged and educated on how to use them safely.’”

You see what I mean about “sort-of-not-really apologies.”

And then there was this guy, whom I really wanted to smack:

“I think it certainly is warranted to say this is – its paint and thermoplastic so there is the option to return if we do find that conditions aren’t right for this particular treatment,” transportation department spokesperson Everett Hauser said.

“We know that humans make mistakes.  There will be crashes, but what we hope is that they are of a slower speed that they are not severe or fatal for any of the participants.”

Heads-up, Everett.  I want you to write this on the blackboard 100 times:

For now, it looks like Mira Mesa and the residents of this stretch of Gold Coast Drive are stuck with this:

And this:

But…we “hope” …

Not this:

In the meantime, remember the TIF – Transportation Improvement Fee for cars?

I recommend that California require a vehicle registration for all bicyclists, and institute a TIF for bicycle operators.

But instead of the amounts being based on the value of their vehicles, let’s make the amounts based on the number of their infractions:


On April 8 the City of San Diego announced they “will be removing the advisory bike lane recently installed on Gold Coast Drive.  The street will be restriped to its original lane design with bicycle ‘sharrows.’”

Mayor Todd Gloria said,

“Going forward, for other locations in other parts of the city, we need to sit down.  We need to have the conversation to explain it and hopefully come to agreement and support.  In certain cases where that doesn’t happen at least people will be informed.”

Translation:  If residents and drivers and bicyclists don’t like it the new arrangements…

Tough shit.

And when this happens…


Earlier in this post I said I’d been unable to find a cost for this fiasco, but that was OK because my focus was on the stupidity of it.

Now I was wondering about the cost of the doing and undoing and redoing.

I contacted the City of San Diego Department of Transportation and talked to an unidentified staff member who was unauthorized to speak about this event, but did share this contractor invoice:

Some People Like To Make Recipes.  I Like To Make FUN Of Recipes.  Especially When They Have Headlines Like This:

On a weekly basis, my newspaper’s Section C is devoted to food.

As am I, on a daily basis.

I enjoy looking at my newspaper’s color photos of various dishes, and imagining these goodies magically transitioning from page to plate.

My plate.

I also enjoy chortling over the occasional misnomers, like the headline above.

“A little work”?

Let’s see what “a little work” looks like.

I suspect there’s going to be a big difference between what the recipe author calls “a little work…”

And what I call “a little work.”

Here comes the Spicy Chicken Parm, with this caveat…

“Parm” stands for either:

  1. Parmesan cheese
  2. Persistent AntiRadiation Missile (pictured)

How about we all agree that in this instance, we’ll go with #1?

Good.  Here’s the image:

The article starts with an almost-500-word essay – including four bulleted items – about why we should try this recipe, and includes words like “easy” and “friendly.” 

My idea of “easy” is unscrewing a wine bottle cap.

My idea of “friendly” is drinking the wine.

So that’s the why.

Now comes the what – the recipe – and this required a 103-word introduction that reiterated the why, and noted “this recipe can be easily scaled up to feed a crowd.”

A “crowd”?

My idea of feeding a “crowd” is unscrewing several wine bottle caps.

The recipe introduction is followed by the list of ingredients.

There are 21 of them.

Twenty-one ingredients in this “easy” and “friendly” recipe.

I don’t have 21 ingredients in my entire kitchen, unless you count individual packets of sweet-sour sauce.

Now comes the how – how to make Spicy Chicken Parm.

Another 500 words.  After this you can honestly say, “I’ve spent the day reading!”

The how is divided as follows:

For the Chicken
For the Sauce
For the Assembly

For crying out loud!

But before we can start “For the Chicken” et cetera, I see that the author snuck a bunch of verbs into the ingredients list that must come first. 

That can of tomatoes?  They have to be “coarsely crushed by hand.”  The pepper has to be “freshly ground,” the egg has to be “beaten,” and the basil leaves have to be “torn.”  And not just torn, but “torn into small pieces.”

This is work before you start the work.

The how is awash with verbs, all denoting work – I counted eight just in the first paragraph:  cut, separate, trim, discard, pound, repeat, pat, and season.

Hey – if I’d wanted a workout, I’d have gone to the gym.

Not that I’ve ever wanted a workout.

The how also that assumes that your kitchen is as well-stocked with cooking accoutrements as a stage set on a food competition show, starting with a “meat tenderizer.”

Is this a meat tenderizer?

I use this thing only for breaking up the ice in my freezer.

The accoutrements list continues:  A food processor.  Plastic wrap.  A pepper grinder.  An instant-read thermometer.  A baking sheet.  A large nonstick skillet.  A wide spatula. 

What if my only large skillet is sticky?  And my only spatula is narrow?

Sure, this Spicy Chicken Parm looks good.

But to sum it up, if I were to make this Spicy Chicken Parm, for just the prep work I’m figuring three days: 

Day 1:  Read entire article.  Take a nap.
Day 2:  Shop for all 21 ingredients.  Take a nap.
Day 3:  Shop for the kitchen accoutrements I’ll need, which is all of them.  Take a nap.

All this, for a Chicken Parm recipe the author described as “a little work”?


This is “a little work”:

Nice Kitty.  Now, Go Away, Kitty.  Far, Far Away…

The City of Irvine, CA is about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles and has a population of 304,408.

Make that 304,409.

Here’s the newest resident:

In late March on a nice spring day around 1pm, according to this story and many others:

The mountain lion – they’re also known as cougars – prowled the parking lot, and strolled past these outdoor diners…

…who, instead of looking for a place to hide, stood up like they were at a football game watching their team score the winning touchdown.

At one point an officer shot the cougar with a taser gun…

…but the cougar just kept going and going and going.

Eventually it walked in through the open door of a business and past this employee…

…who survived the encounter unscathed.  The employee had just arrived from Great Britain, and I’m betting he couldn’t wait to get back there.

The mountain lion was a 200-pound male.  Animal control officers were able to sedate him:

The officers took the big cat to a vet whose procedure include this glamour shot:

And lest you have any doubt about how big this cat was:

The mountain lion was pronounced the healthy, and the next day:

He was released back into the wild.

Going back to Tuesday, after the mountain lion was caught, the Irvine Police Department (IPD) – whose motto is “Serve, Protect, and Produce Awful Puns” – crafted this for Facebook:

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Bowling

Last Thursday evening a new sitcom debuted on CBS called How We Roll.

The only reason I knew this was because it was the cover story of my TV Weekly:

When I opened the magazine there was a story about How We Roll, and the first sentence began:

“In 2008, Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Michigan…

That caught my eye, because I’m from Michigan.

In case you’re wondering, Saginaw’s population is around 47,500, and it’s located here:

I continued reading about How We Roll and learned that:

  • The TV show is based on a real person.
  • That person is an underdog – a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest.
  • This underdog doesn’t stay an underdog.

These are a few of my favorite things.

I love true stories about underdogs, dark horses, longshots – whatever name we call them. 

They’re people – or in some cases, animals – whom everybody knows can’t make it to the top.

But they do.

It turns out that Tom Smallwood from Saginaw, Michigan (pictured) is just such a story.

You saw the TV Weekly cover above – the guy is holding a bowling ball.

Bowling is not an interest of mine, but I’ve been aware of it since I was a kid.  My brothers liked to bowl, at one time to the level of owning their own bowling balls and bowling shoes. 

I tagged along once, and remember those long, smooth wooden lanes, the heavy, dark balls landing on the wood with a loud thud, the rattle as the bowling pins split and scattered.

And the elation bowlers felt when all the pins fell on a first throw:

And the contortions bowlers go through in the process:

And the frustration when things don’t go well:

This bowler’s dad told him to get a regular job or he’d end up in the gutter.  Looks like his dad was right.

Over the years I came to understand that while I didn’t care for bowling, many people did, and do.  According to this article:

“Bowling is the number one recreational activity in the U.S.!  A recent study showed that 67 million people bowled at least once in the prior year.”

Another article said,

“According to The Bowling Foundation, more than 25 percent of Americans bowl each year, making it the nation’s largest participation sport.  Today, bowling is a $4 billion industry with nearly 3,000 bowling centers in the United States.”

And I’ve learned that bowling is big business – show business and money business. 

Show business:  One example – an article on said “The 2020 PBA (Professional Bowlers Association) Tournament of Champions TV finals on FOX drew an average of 1,464,000 viewers…”

Money business:  According to this article:

The average top pro bowlers with PBA memberships “clear around $250,000 to $300,00 a year,” not including sponsorships.

Which brings us back to Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Michigan.

Tom wasn’t earning his living bowling.  He liked to bowl and had since he was a kid.  He bowled in college, then in bowling leagues in and around Saginaw, and he dreamed of bowling professionally. 

But Tom was also a realist. 

His bio on Wikipedia says,

“Smallwood found a job at a metal shop since his then-girlfriend (now wife) Jennifer would not marry a man without a regular paycheck.  At age 30, Tom had decided he was ‘done’ with trying to be a full-time bowler.  He then got a job at the General Motors Pontiac East Assembly Plant in the spring of 2008.”

As this article put it:

“…he was able to get a job installing screws into seat belt assemblies on Chevy Silverados, twisting in 1,200 screws a day on 400 Silverados for $16 an hour.”

In 2008 Tom had a wife and a child and a job at GM.

On December 23, 2008 he was laid off from his GM job.

On December 13, 2009 he won the PBA World Championship:

As this 2010 Sports Illustrated article put it:

“From the assembly line to the unemployment line to the PBA championship”

Of course, Tom didn’t just hop from underdog to top dog.

Again, according to the Michigan Live article, after Tom lost his job:

“He sent resumes to Lowe’s and Home Depot.  While waiting for a response, Smallwood practiced [bowling] hour after hour, day after day at State Lanes in Saginaw, working his way toward the May PBA trials and hoping to finish in the Top 8 and earn a PBA exemption for the upcoming season.

“He was third.”

Of course I didn’t know what a PBA exemption was, so I looked online:

“Bowlers want to earn exemptions because it means they can bowl in all PBA events for the length of their exemptions without having to go through the Tour Qualifying Round (TQR).  An exempt bowler can pick and choose any PBA Tour events and is guaranteed a spot.”

I’m not sure I understand that, but there’s a lot I don’t understand about a sport where getting three strikes in a row is a “turkey,” four strikes in a row is a “four-bagger,” and a “boomer” is a bowler who throws a hooking ball.

Whatever that is.

Since that 2009 championship Tom, now 44, has three PBA Tour titles, two of which are majors.  He’s finished runner-up in two other PBA major championships and won more than $600,000.

And I’ve gotten two very strong impressions from the many articles I’ve read about Tom.

First:  The loving support Tom got – and continues to get – from his wife Jennifer is a huge part of why his dream came true.  I’m sure it helps that she’s a bowler, too – in fact, they “began their romance in a bowling alley,” according to this 2010 article:

It took time for Tom to qualify for that 2009 PBA World Championship, and then time to get to the event in Wichita, Kansas – driving, the article notes, “for 15 hours, with 31 bowling balls in his car.”

Tom came, he bowled, he conquered.

“For him to be an assembly worker,” said Jennifer, “and fall back on a talent that has been there and to work hard and have another door open for us – it’s wonderful.”

My second strong impression?

That after all the titles and wins and money and media coverage – and now, a TV show based on his success – Tom is still a modest, unassuming guy who doesn’t take his success for granted.  In the many articles I’ve read, he’s consistently, refreshlingly modest:

On winning that 2009 PBA World Championship:

“‘Every emotion you could possibly imagine went through my head.  [I] tried to fight back tears, I mean, because this is a dream.  I mean, to hold that trophy…it’s a dream come true.’”  – Michigan Live, December 14, 2009

In 2013, on winning the Scorpion Championship for his second PBA Tour title:

“‘I thought if I ever made another show and won, I’d bawl like a baby, but I was so emotionally drained, I didn’t have any emotions left.’

“‘It’s amazing.  I never dreamed in my life I’d have one (title), so to have two?  As a kid, all I ever wanted was a chance to be there.  I watched these guys on TV forever.’”  –, 11/3/13

About his 2022 season:

“‘It’s been a so-so season so far.  I’ve been bowling OK, but there’s definitely room for improvement.”  – Michigan Live, March 29, 2022

Finally, here’s another great quote – this from the CBS description of How We Roll:

“Here’s the thing Tom Smallwood knows about bowling:  You get two chances.  No matter what you do with the first ball, you get another roll to make it right.  A story of the ultimate second chance…”

A Hero Named Halvorsen

I have an acquaintance, Karin, who emigrated to San Diego from Germany in the 1970s.  She was born in Berlin during World War II – not a good place to be. 

According to my research, during the war Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, was attacked with 363 air raids – by Great Britain, the U.S., France and the Soviets:

Berlin, post World War II.

Among the memories Karin has shared with me is one from after the war ended in 1945:  of U.S. planes flying over West Berlin and dropping candy, the first candy ever tasted by many Berlin children.

A sweet memory out of so many bad.

Her story came to mind when I read this article:

After World War II, Gail Halvorsen became known as the “Candy Bomber,” and he may even have been the pilot who dropped the candy that Karin had savored and still remembered.

Halvorsen (pictured) was part of a huge post-war effort:  the Berlin Airlift. It began in June 1948 with planes from the U.S. and Great Britain making nearly 300,000 flights to bring supplies to the more than two million starving people in West Berlin. 

World War II had officially ended in 1945, so why the need for the Berlin Airlift in 1948?

I’d heard of the Berlin Airlift and wondered about it, and now it was time to go for some semblance of understanding.  I went to many websites, crosschecking information, and here’s how I’ve summed it up for myself.

Caveat:  For my own understanding, I’ve simplified.  This is no more than the bare bones of a very complex chapter in our history.

The Berlin Airlift Began with an End – the End of World War II

It’s hard to believe – especially in these current times – that the Soviet Union was the ally of the U.S. and Great Britain during World War II.

It didn’t start out that way.  In August 1939, shortly before the war broke out in Europe, Nazi Germany (led by Adolph Hitler) and the Soviet Union (led by Joseph Stalin) signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, in which the two countries agreed to take no military action against each other for the next 10 years.

Stalin, left, and Hitler.

Then, in June 1941, Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union, and the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact fell apart.

The Soviet Union became a U.S. ally, and the three great Allied powers – Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union – formed a Grand Alliance that was the key to victory.

But when it came to Stalin, no one ever confused “ally” with “friend.”

Despite their wartime alliance, tensions between the Soviet Union, and the United States/Great Britain, intensified rapidly as the war came to a close and the leaders discussed what to do with Germany.  Post-war negotiations took place at two conferences in 1945, one before the official end of the war, and one after.  These conferences set the stage for the beginning of the Cold War and a divided Europe.

The first conference was in February 1945 Yalta, Crimea.  Though the war hadn’t ended, the Allies were confident of a victory, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Stalin met to discuss the reorganization of post-WWII Europe:  

Front row, left to right: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin.

A number of outcomes emerged from the conference, and the one I’m focused on is this:

Unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, the division of Germany and Berlin into four occupational zones controlled by the United states, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, ending the war in Europe.

The second conference was in July 1945 in Potsdam, Germany.  There was a change in the conference participants:  Roosevelt had died in April, so his successor, President Harry Truman, represented the United States.  Churchill returned to represent Great Britain, but his government was defeated midway through the conference and newly elected Prime Minister Clement Attlee took over.  Stalin returned as well:

Front row, left to right: Attlee, Truman, and Stalin.

Here are the two outcomes I’m focused on:

The decentralization, demilitarization, denazification and democratization of Germany.

The division of Germany and Berlin, and Austria and Vienna into the four occupations zones outlined at the Yalta Conference.

So the Allies divided Germany into occupational zones controlled by the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union:

Here’s one of the many problems:

Berlin, the capital of Germany, was located in the Soviet Zone.

So the powers also divided Berlin into four zones:

And there we have post-war Germany: 

A Divided City, a Divided Country and the Beginning of the Cold War

The term “cold war” was coined by presidential advisor Bernard Baruch in 1947.  He was giving a speech in the South Carolina House of Representatives about industrial labor problems in the country, but the media picked up on the phrase as an apt description of the situation between the United States and the Soviet Union:  a war without fighting or bloodshed, but a battle nonetheless.

In Berlin – the divided city in the divided country – relations between the Western powers and the Soviet Union had gone from allies to hostile.  There was great worry about whether the western occupation zones in Berlin would remain under Western Allied control or whether Stalin would absorb the whole city into Soviet-controlled eastern Germany.

This led to the first Berlin crisis of the Cold War:  In an attempt to squeeze the U.S., Britain and France out of the capital city within Soviet-occupied eastern Germany, on June 24, 1948, Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to Allied-controlled areas of Berlin.  The Soviets cited the cause as “technical difficulties.” 

The only way for the Allies to get food, fuel and other necessities into those Allied-controlled areas of Berlin was by airlift from Allied airbases in western Germany.

We call this magnificent effort…

The Berlin Airlift

The United States launched “Operation Vittles” on June 26, 1948 when 36 U.S. cargo planes laden with milk, flour, and medicine took off for Berlin.  The United Kingdom followed suit two days later with “Operation Plainfare.”

For 18 months, American and British aircrews literally flew around the clock bringing coal, food, medicine, and all the other necessities of life to the two million+ inhabitants of war-ravaged West Berlin:

By prior arrangement before the Soviet blockade, the U.S., Britain, and France had secured air rights to three narrow 20-mile-wide corridors over east Germany into Berlin.  The shortest was 110 miles long.  Aircraft were flown into Berlin along the northern and southern corridors.  All planes leaving the city used the central corridor:

To the immense relief of the Western powers, the Soviets made no effort to shoot the aircraft down.  The only resistance they offered was occasional harassment – like sending fighters to “buzz” the cargo planes, flying close to them in an effort to frighten the pilots.

Shipments during the first week were light, averaging no more than 90 tons of supplies per day.  By the second week, they had increased to an average of 1,000 tons per day.  The number of planes assigned to the airlift steadily grew during the summer, so that by mid-August, the supplies reaching West Berlin had reached an average of 4,500 tons daily.

Gail Halvorsen – The Candy Bomber

I talked about Gail Halvorsen earlier on in this post.

He was one of the Berlin Airlift pilots.

According to the AP article at the top of this post:

“After the United States entered World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Halvorsen trained as a fighter pilot and served as a transport pilot in the south Atlantic during World War II before flying food and other supplies to West Berlin as part of the airlift.”

Halvorsen had mixed feelings about the mission to help the United States’ former enemy after losing friends during the war, but that changed when he met a group of children behind a fence at Tempelhof airport in West Berlin:

“He offered them the two pieces of gum that he had, broken in half, and was touched to see those who got the gum sharing pieces of the wrapper with the other children, who smelled the paper.  He promised to drop enough for all of them the following day as he flew, wiggling the wings of his plane as he flew over the airport, Halvorsen recalled.

“He started doing so regularly, using his own candy ration, with handkerchiefs as parachutes to carry them to the ground.  Soon other pilots and crews joined in what would be dubbed ‘Operation Little Vittles.’”

Then-Lt. Gail Halvorsen demonstrates how handkerchief parachutes were used to drop sweets (at an interview in New York in 1949).

“Allied pilots flew 278,000 flights to Berlin, carrying about 2.3 million tons of food, coal, medicine and other supplies.

“Finally, on May 12, 1949, the Soviets realized the blockade was futile and lifted their barricades.  The airlift continued for several more months, however, as a precaution in case the Soviets changed their minds.”

After returning home in January 1949, Halvorsen remained in the Air Force and retired in 1974.

Halvorsen won numerous awards and international acclaim, and was beloved and venerated in Berlin.  He last visited in 2019 when the city celebrated the 70th anniversary of the day the Soviets lifted their post-World War II blockade cutting off supplies to West Berlin with a big party at the former Tempelhof airport in the German capital.

Throughout his retirement he continued to lead an active life, including as founding director of the Gail S. Halvorsen Foundation starting in 2016:

The foundation was organized by a group of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) members in Utah to promote the Candy Bomber story to future generations and to encourage interest in aviation.  CAP and the foundation share a common interest:  to help children gain a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

I was particularly struck by this image from the website, with numbers from both “Operation Vittles” and “Operation Little Vittles”:

Halvorsen died from respiratory failure in Provo, UT on February 16, 2022, at the age of 101.

So now I know the bare bones of the Berlin Airlift – the who, what, where, when and why.

I also know that Gail Halvorsen would be pleased that my acquaintance Karin, a child from post-war Berlin, fondly remembers and still talks about the American “candy bombers.”

A sweet memory out of so many bad.