Planting My Beer Garden

I’m sitting here at the Danville Brewing Company, waiting for a few friends to arrive for a much needed Guys Night Out (and Uber ride home), when I realized that I’ve written over 200 articles for Alive and not one has been about beer. This is an interesting fact because I really like beer. Truth be told, I’ve always liked beer, especially with pizza, but over the last couple of years I’ve grown to really appreciate a finely crafted brew. I’m mostly a wheat beer Hefeweizen kind of guy, but as a side effect of my mid-life crises, I’m starting to challenge my taste buds and venture out to try and enjoy an IPA, lager, pilsner, stout, and pale ale. I feel so mature.

My friends are such beer snobs. They tell me they’ll only drink craft brews.  I said to them, “If you like Kraft beer you’ll love their mac n’ cheese.” ~ Tony Camin, Comedian

While recently moving our daughters out of their freshman dorm rooms at the University of Colorado, a friend and I found an inviting food and libations establishment called Murphy’s Tap House in Louisville, Colorado. While engaged in a stimulating conversation with Matthew, the Master Brewer, we came to the realization that the brew pub has in some respects become a late afternoon/evening extension to the popular coffee establishments (Starbucks, Peet’s and Tully’s) as a trendy place to hang out and socialize with friends, neighbors and business associates. You need not look any further than Starbucks recent experiment adding beer on tap to their menu. Ultimately, either the idea of a wide-awake drunk or the Sumatra IPA didn’t pan out. Starbucks has more recently announced an end to the pilot program. 

The emergence of new beer emporiums is predicated on the demand from beer-happy patrons, anxious to experience the latest and greatest bold Belgians or Saisons, while others might prefer the hoppy greatness or dark and malty boldness of a flight or pint of ale from the states or abroad.  Let’s not forget the light and refreshing options of an occasional Sourhouse.  If I come off as a beer aficionado, it’s because I am considering becoming an uncertified beer cicerone, the equivalent of a wine sommelier.

My husband and I love visiting breweries and tap houses because they are a great place to socialize with friends and you get to try new beers. I don’t think the appeal will fade out as long as the brewers don’t run out of ideas/recipes and continue to brew high quality beer. ~ Michele Milz, Livermore.

If you’re a statistics nerd like me, you’ll appreciate that the National Brewers Association (the other “NBA”) reports that the U.S. consumed approximately $107.6 billion of beer last year of which $23.5 billion was craft beer. Overall craft beer consumption is up approximately 6.2% in the United States.

The Home Brewers Association (“HBA”) states that there are over 1.2 million home brewers in the United States. According to HBA statistics, two-thirds of the 1.2 million started brewing in 2005 or later, the average home brewer is 40 years old, 78% are married or in a domestic partnership, 68% have a college degree, and collectively, they produce over 2 million barrels of beer annually.

Geographically home brewers are spread across the country as follows; 31% in the West; 23% Midwest; 26% South; 17% North-East Coast. (For more information check out Hop Tech Home-brewing Supplies in Dublin.)

I like the science aspect of brewing beer and the social aspect of drinking beer. ~ Craig Nunn, home brewer.

Beer played an integral part in my social maturation in high school, er…I mean college, once I turned 21, of course. A Friday afternoon brew at the campus pub was a great way to wrap up an exhausting and stressful week of lectures, assignments, homework, essays, group projects, exams and pursuing coeds. I spent many a Sigma Chi fraternity party hanging around a keg, collaborating with my brothers on the merits of abolishing pledge hazing, the importance of themed sorority mixers, and the constant need to update our CSUN test and essay library. I was convinced that beer consumed responsibly and in moderation can be a great source of carbohydrates and nutrients. I don’t however recommend it as a substitute for meals.

Sadly, my limited college budget regulated my beer choices to Hamm’s, Pabst Blue Ribbon (aka “PBR”) Meister Brau, Schlitz, Olympia, Miller, Keystone, and Old Milwaukee. Splurging for the expensive stuff (to impress a sorority girl or her father) meant coughing up several more dollars a six-pack for the golden tastes of Lowenbrau, Molson, Fosters, St. Pauli Girl, Lone Star or the premium name at the time, Heineken.  I do find it amusing that several of my high-fluting bowling buddies casually refer to a few of the above mentioned brands as Satan’s urine. I bet they weren’t so pretentious when they were young, dumb and broke.

My introduction into a new form of “craft” beer began in the late 80s. These ales, were heavier, richer and a lot more flavorful than was my naïve palette had ever experienced. A variety of brands that included Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Rolling Rock. Anchor Steam, Redhook and Pete’s Wicked Ale brightened my previously dull beer-drinking repertoire. In 1987, the Tied House opened in downtown Mountain View, my hometown. The brainchild of Lou Jemison and Andreas Haller, it was fashioned after a microbrewery in Andreas’ hometown of Beden, Germany.  It took a little while to catch on, but once it did it became, and continues to be, the “go to” place by locals and visitors alike.  Sometime later, Stoddard’s Brewery in Sunnyvale opened, followed by Gordon Biersch in San Jose. 

Today, the choice of specialty and craft beer is almost immeasurable. Visit any BevMo or Trader Joes and your head will spin upon viewing the humongous selection.

As I am always open to trying something new, recommendations and/or gifts are encouraged. Please feel free to drop off a growler or six pack of your preferred brew at the Alive world headquarters in Alamo. Until then, I think I’ll work up a plan to plant my own beer garden. Octoberfest is right around the corner.

Favorite Home Town Brewery: The Tied House, Mountain View. I drop by whenever I’m in the old neighborhood.

Favorite Brewery Visit When Traveling North on I-5: Fall River Tap House, Redding, California. I drop by whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

Favorite Local BreweryDanville Brewing Company – try the Poke Nachos with any beer on the menu.  DBC is in my neighborhood.

Favorite Tri Valley Brewery: Altamont Beer Works, Livermore. Somewhat in the neighborhood.

Favorite Hole in the Wall Brewery: Schubros Brewery, San Ramon. Neighborhood.

Favorite Brewery Vacation Spot: Bend, Oregon. Over 27 brewpubs are sprinkledthroughout the town. A bit of a drive to be in that neighborhood.

Favorite Six Pack for Parties: 805 by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company. A welcome addition to our neighborhood parties.

Favorite Beer Publication: THIRST, published and distributed in Colorado.



More Than a Feeling

Tri Valley resident, David Victor, former member of the mega-popular classic rock band Boston, is launching Strum & Spirits, a “guitar and sip” class for music lovers. The structure is similar to the popular“paint-and-sip” classes, only here the art is making music. The class is tailored for beginners and even the guitars are providedDavid will share the basics of the guitar, and take you step-by-step through the cord progression of a classic rock ‘n roll song. By the end of the class you will actually be playing along with everyone else.

Along the way, you enjoy wine or beer in a relaxed and social setting while David also entertains you with rock and roll stories of his time on the road and in the studio with Boston. Strum and Spirits is ideal for private parties, company functions, corporate/team building events and neighborhood socials. David recently inked a deal to produce his own line of acoustic guitars which he will be selling at shows and classes.

David says the classes are picking up momentum and he could even see franchising the idea one day. He has teamed with Carol Shelton Wines to use her Wild Thing line at several of his shows. Additionally he has been approached by a private chef to do in-home private parties consisting of food, spirits and music. 

Each class wraps up with an audience participation/play along and an acoustic performance of a few songs by David. Given David’s history of life in the studio and on the road with Boston, BOSTYX and Rock Stars & Stripes, this is a special chance to see him perform in an intimate setting.

Upcoming Strum & Spirit events open to the public include July 13thand August 17that the Grand Theater in Tracy, August 4th at We Olive in Walnut Creek and August 24that the Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton. These events are open to the public. To sign up, visit




I have been a dad for almost 20 years. Despite what you might have heard to the contrary from two Danville girls in their late teens, whose names rhyme with Banana and Bear, I’d like to think I’m a pretty good dad. There’s no question I have a few flaws; over protective, overly involved, and I like my eggs over easy, however, I try my best to overcompensate for my weaknesses by not being hypocritical or judgmental. Instead, I’ve always tried to be patient, understanding, compassionate, empathetic, and always loving. Like every father/daughter relations, we have our share of arguments, disagreements and general conflict, but there are a lot more good days than bad, (roughly a 29:1 ratio most months).

If you’re the emotional type and cry easily, feel free to pause and grab a tissue before continuing with the rest of this article. You see, the two greatest days of my roughly 19,692 days on Earth, were the days Hannah and Claire were born, followed closely by the day I made First-Team All-League my senior year of high school football. But seriously, I truly love being a dad and the time I get to spend with these two smart, funny, beautiful, creative, clever, compassionate, strong, amazing young women.

In past articles, I’ve declared that being a dad is the greatest job in the world, but in reality, being a dad isn’t a job at all. There’s no pay, no regular hours and no personal time off or paid vacation. The dad job doesn’t offer stock options, a 401K or even an expense account. Despite the fact that I am somewhat of a family CEO, I don’t get any of the fancy CEO perks like a car allowance, Giants season tickets, or even my own designated parking stall. It’s been a big “DAD” adjustment with Hannah now being away at the University of Colorado and Claire getting ready to attend the University of Oklahoma in the fall. I’ll soon be coming to grips with the reality of the “empty nest syndrome.” Where are my tissues?

As a dad, part of my “job” description includes inspiring and lifting up my children whenever possible. Ever since my girls were presented with a Danville-required smart phone, immediately following their 5th grade promotion ceremony, I have sent them periodic text messages that I thought were profound, topical, motivational,encouraging and, dare I say, inspirational. I come across these jewels in books, songs, and my friends’ Facebook posts. Occasionally, I also make one up. I like to call them Dadisms. Please allow me to share a sampling of my Dadisms with you now. Again, keep the tissues close.

  • If you can’t be good, be careful.
  • Forget all the reasons why it won’t work and believe the one reason why it will.
  • Pay attention to your gut No matter how good something looks, if it doesn’t feel right, walk away.
  • Be nice to someone for no reason. You never know when you’ll need someone to be nice to you.
  • Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t give up.
  • Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.
  • Don’t chase people. Be an example. Attract them. The people who belong in your life will come find you and stay. Just be yourself and do your thing.
  • A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.
  • When you see something beautiful in someone, tell them! It may take seconds to say, but for them, it could last a lifetime.
  • If someone treats you like crap, just remember that there’s something wrong with them, not you. Don’t go around destroying other people.
  • Think before you speak. Is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary and is it kind?
  • Who to spend time with: Those who make you better, those who want to see you grow, those who see the greatness in you, those who are good for your mental health, those who are inspired, excited and grateful, and those who force you to push yourself up a level.
  • Don’t be impressed by: money, followers, degrees and titles. Be impressed by: kindness, integrity, humility and generosity.
  • Rules of Action: If you do not go after what you want, you will never get If you do not ask, the answer will always be “NO.” If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.
  • Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.
  • Beauty isn’t about having a pretty face, it’s about having a kind heart, an accepting mind and a beautiful soul.
  • We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.
  • Life lessons are rarely inexpensive or painless.
  • Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.
  • If you stumble, make it part of the dance.
  • There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right and pray for the ones who don’t. Life it too short to be anything but happy.
  • 10 Things that require zero talent; Being on time, work ethic, body language, a positive attitude, passion, being coachable, effort, extra effort, being prepared and listening.
  • Take pride in how far you’ve come and have faith in how far you can go.
  • You either get better or you get bitter. It’s that simple. You either deal with what life has dealt you and allow it to make you a better person or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.
  • Having real friends is better than having many friends.
  • Successful people build each other up. They motivate, inspire and encourage each other. Unsuccessful people just hate, blame and complain.
  • No matter how educated, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people tells all. Integrity is everything.
  • Pick your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.
  • Other ways to say “I love you”… I miss you; Sweet dreams; Are you hungry? How’s your day going? Drive careful; Call me when you get there so I know you’re safe; I hope you’ re feeling better; Be careful; Don’t worry; I’ll take care of it for you; Do you need a hug? You don’t have to hear the words I Love You to know you’re loved. Listen carefully. People speak from the heart in more ways than one.
  • Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed. If you persevere, you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.
  • Life is amazing and then it’s awful, and then it’s amazing again. In between amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living our heartbreaking, healing, amazing, awful, ordinary lives and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful.
  • Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of simple embarrassing bravery and I promise you something great can come of it.

There are more, but I don’t want to lose my audience. For those of you still awake, I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my “sensitive dad” soul.  When I’m not being deep, I occasionally send something light-hearted such as this gem:

“I often look at my children and can’t see me in them. Then they open their mouth and say something sarcastic and I’m like…’Oh, there I am.’”

If you think your son or daughter could benefit from receiving one of these nuggets above, please feel free to pass them along as your own Dadism or Momism.

With the house soon to be very quiet, I may finally have to find a hobby that pays more than writing magazine articles. Perhaps I’ll create my own Dadisms App. I’ve already got the copyright#dadisms and the domain name, Don’t forget Father’s Day is June 18th.



The Music in Me

I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but I have always loved music. As a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I would listen to Elvis records on my portable record player, playing air guitar and lip-syncing before it was called air guitar and lip-syncing. When I was a little older, I longed to be a member of the Partridge Family or Osmond Brothers. As a teen, I dreamt—actually dreamt—of starting my own band, cutting records and touring the world. My fictitious band name was Gigolo, and I even designed the t-shirts and posters we would sell at our concerts.

Sadly, or some might say unfairly, I can’t play any instrument. I certainly can’t sing, and despite having a little bit of rhythm, I can’t even dance.  I’ve taken guitar, drum, bass, saxophone and tambourine lessons and can’t play a note. Some days, I have trouble just playing the radio. Maybe this hard to admit truth is why I’ve always been so drawn to musicians. Not drawn in a sexual way, although certain members of the Go-Gos and Bangles were pretty hot in their day, and don’t even get me started on Nancy Wilson of Heart.

Due in large part to my lack of talent, I’ve been inspired to assist my musician friends by promoting their talents through some of my magical resources. In the early 1990s, I started a booking agency and helped line up gigs for the likes of Floyd’s Ordeal, Blue House, The Del Toros, Paul Blote, The Marina Towers Band, Gary Tackett and a little known country artist named Paul Jaqua.

Since that time, I’ve gone on to organize and promote club shows (Suburban Slow Death, Replica, Tyler Stimpson) and produce music fundraisers (MdK, Jeff Campbell, Courtney Randall, Pine & Battery and Heather Combs). I’ve also written numerous profiles on the likes of Michelle Maeso, Floyd Killen, Paul Jefferson, David Victor, Steve Albin and Suzanna Spring.

It’s not much, but if I was a roof-raising rocker or cerebral coffee house singer/songwriter, I would truly appreciate it if someone would help me generate some much-needed attention for my mad musical skills by penning a feature article on me or inviting me to play a show.  

I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone with less musical ability than Mike Copeland. ~ John Floyd Killen, Founding Member of Floyd’s Ordeal

I am a fan of every musical genre, however despite meeting Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire at the Viper Room in West Hollywood, I’ve had more luck meeting rock musicians than country, R&B, or hip-hop artists. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet a few true blue rock stars such as Eddie Money, Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, James Hatfield of Metallica and the late/great Ronnie Montrose. I’ve even separately met four members of one of my favorite bands, Journey – Steve Perry (Scoma’s in Sausalito), Jonathan Cain (Caesars Casino , Lake Tahoe), Ross Valory (Bank of America, San Ramon) and Neal Schon (Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View).  I was once in a Las Vegas strip club (doing research) at the same time as Axl Rose and Duff McKagan of Guns & Roses, however, they were much too preoccupied for me to drop by to say hello. 

Of those who I actually engaged in a conversation with, most were cordial yet distant. Steve Perry was hands down the nicest and most congenial and even invited me to join him for a short time at his table. I got the impression that he had a lot of free time on his hands.

Many have heard my story that during my sophomore year of college, at California State University, Northridge, I lived next door to a fun and charismatic girl named Paula Abdul. She was working as the choreographer for the Laker Girls and had aspirations of staging dance shows in Las Vegas.  We hung out a fair amount, never dated, but were good friends for over a year.

Several years later, I was listening to a catchy pop song “Straight Up”on the radio and just about drove off the road when I heard the artist was none other than Paula Abdul. Upon reading her story in People magazine and being blown away by her physical makeover, I wrote her a couple of letters (±200) congratulating her on her success and wishing her well.  Alas, there was never a response.  Despite the restraining order, I did catch one of her shows and enjoyed it immensely.  The boy band, Color Me Badd, opened for her just in case you were wondering. That’s Badd with two d’s.

In the summer of 2008, my wife and I made a pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. We spent close to six hours roaming the halls and I could easily have spent six more just wandering all six levels of the 150,000 square foot cathedral. Highlights of our trip included the U2 3D concert film, the Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd exhibits and the numerous displays and concert footage. Recently, I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and thoroughly enjoyed that experience too. There was a fantastic Songwriter in the Round event with Pat Alger who wrote countless country songs with or for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton and Crystal Gayle. Alger performed many of his biggest hits and fielded questions from the audience, mostly me. To be honest, I enjoyed those two museums more than any Smithsonian in D.C.

I’ve seen close to 100 concerts at venues that ranging from the Cow Palace to Circle Star Theater to the old Winterland Ballroom. I’ve also been to the Hollywood Palladium, Irvine Meadows Amphitheater and Whiskey-a-GoGo in Southern California. I’ve seen U2, The Police and attended a Day on the Green at the Oakland Coliseum and enjoyed Pablo Cruise, Marc Cohn and Bobby Kendal of Toto at the intimate Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton.

I’ve sat in the first few rows for shows by Bon Jovi, The Who, Luther Vandross, Bryan Adams, Journey, Kiss, Ray Charles, Hall and Oats, Kenny Loggins, Kenny G, Foreigner, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Train, Maroon Five and Madonna.  I’ve also sat in nose blood seats for shows by AC/DC, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Earth Wind & Fire, ELO, The Commodores, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Buffet, Alabama and Bruno Mars. There were also unforgettable shows by Prince, Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Jackson Five, and Van Morrison. You should’ve seen my concert t-shirt collection back in the day. 

I, long ago, gave up hope that I would ever hear the words, “See you at band practice,” or that I would perform on a stage in front of a live audience. However, thanks to the video game Guitar Hero, and living vicariously through my musician friends, there will always be music in me. #supportlivemusic.

It’s a Dog’s Life

I recently saw the movie, A Dog’s Purpose. It follows a dog as he is reincarnated as different breeds belonging to various owners. Over the course of several lifetimes, the dog’s existence intersects with that of a young boy who rescued him in 1962. Yes, it did make me cry, but that’s not the point. The thought of dog reincarnation got me to thinking. What if a human was reincarnated as a dog? Could we live the life and be content? Given the dogs I know, I’m pretty sure a dog’s life would be just fine by me.

We are a two dog household. Trudy is a 13 year old Terrier mix and Molly, soon to be five, is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. For those of you unfamiliar with dogs, they are a carnivorous domesticated mammal, also known as a canine, pooch, hound, or mutt. Trudy spends most of her time napping and Molly, being more active, spends her days running around the back yard barking at birds, the wind, squirrels, undetectable sounds or the subtle shift of the earth’s axis. She eats everything she encounters (i.e.; dried animal poop, dead lizards and discarded Kleenex), in addition to some gross stuff. In Dogville, life is pretty much a revolving cycle of eat, drink, lick, poop, sleep, repeat. That is the life.

The closest resemblance to a dog’s life that we humans can relate to is probably that of a rock star. I bet Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Pit Bull (see what I did there?) all spend their days much like Molly when they’re not in the studio or on the road touring.

If I was reincarnated as a dog, I could scratch myself, clean myself, pee and poop wherever I wanted, drink from the toilet, sniff human crotches, sniff my friend’s behinds (it’s like shaking hands), bark/howl/growl until my throat hurt and sleep, sleep, sleep. Did I also mention that dogs don’t get married? That’s right, they “hook-up.” I don’t judge them. In fact, I appreciate their animalistic approach to relationships. They take care of their primal instinct/physical urges and yet don’t feel the need to comply with the institution of marriage.

That’s not to say that if I were a dog I would forgo my fatherly duties. I would undoubtedly want to be there for the delivery of my litter and would stick around to help raise my pups, but that whole marriage thing just isn’t part of dog’s life. In this dog fantasy world, I would have a neighborhood full of female “dog friends with benefits.” That is until my owners took the responsible action of having me neutered. Oh, the shame. Come to think of it, once that happened, I would probably settle down with a nice Collie.

If I was a dog, I would like to be a German shepherd. Not because I’m of German decent. If human heritage was the determining factor in breed, I would be an Irish Setter/English Bulldog half-breed. German Shepherds are by nature, protective, strong, brave and intelligent. All of those qualities are admirable if you’re describing a dog or fraternity brother. Growing up, my family had a pure white German shepherd we named Snowy. I have so many good memories of times spent with that dog. Summer sleep outs in the back yard, playing fetch (him not me) at the park and long walks where we would talk about girls, baseball and girls. Snowy was deep, yet simplistic. He assessed everything he came into contact with as Friend, Foe or Food. I try and do the same in my line of work as a writer. Food is pretty easy to identify, however friend or foe can be tricky sometimes.

History is filled with famous dogs in every form of art, athletics and literature. The painting of dogs playing poker is a masterpiece. While dog fighting makes me sick, dog racing has been around since early Egyptian times. Racing the incredibly fast and agile Greyhounds is immensely popular while watching dachshunds (aka wiener dogs) is just delightfully amusing. Since 1974, there have been 62 movies, grossing over $2 billion dollars, with a dog as the central character. Dog actors, such as Lassie, Old Yeller, Rin Tin Tin, Toto, Benji, Air Bud and the Shaggy D.A. haven’t won any Academy Award (yet), but they have made significant contributions to some wonderful movies.

There have been dogs on television going back 50 years, starting with Pete, Spanky’s Pit Bull on the Little Rascals, Tiger, a sheep dog who lived with the Brady Bunch, Buck, also a sheep dog who housed with the Bundy’s on Married with Children and finally Eddie, the cute little Jack Russell terrier on Frasier. Many of us can all recall commercial pitch dogs like Loren Green’s dog, Duke, chasing sticks for Alpo as well as The Taco Bell Chihuahua and Budweiser’s Spuds Mackenzie. There are also the always entertaining comic strip and cartoon dogs including Marmaduke, Scooby Doo, Under Dog, Lady and the Tramp, Clifford – The Big Red Dog, Bolt and, of course, Snoopy.

Finally, in literature, who could forget Shiloh, White Fang or Cujo?  However, to truly understand dogs, take the time to read the beautifully crafted book, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. The story is told in the words/thoughts of Enzo, a Golden Retriever. If you ever wondered what a dog was thinking, this book provides you with an enlightening notion.

I’m not saying everything about a dog’s life is ideal. Dogs can’t get a job, pay bills, drive carpool, vote, invest for retirement, clean the house, “Tweet”, shop, mow the lawn or dance. Who am I kidding?  I don’t like to do any of those things. Dogs don’t need materialistic possessions or stressful responsibilities. Sure, they might bark from time to time, but that’s just to be heard and acknowledged. Similar to when I raise my voice (aka bark).

Given the possibility of reincarnation, maybe I should request to be a dog in my next life. Years from now, hopefully many years from now, I could see myself as a happy little mutt living with a nice family in the suburbs. My name might be Buddy or Champ and I’ll wag my tail, sit and even learn how to shake my paw. If someone will occasionally throw me a Frisbee and rub my belly this dog’s life would be good.

Sidebar: If you’re considering adding a dog to your family, visiting the local area animal shelters in hopes of finding a compatible canine is actually quite enjoyable. We found Trudy at the SPCA in Dublin. The SPCA has a beautiful facility, qualified staff, educational classes and a very nice collection of mature adult dogs. Our area also supports other organizations such as ARF and East Bay Animal Shelter. Adopted dogs are wonderful in large part due to their appreciative attitude having been given a second lease (or leash) on life. I suppose knowing that if you aren’t adopted you may be chasing Frisbees in Heaven makes rescue dogs inherently grateful.


Suzanna Spring: Music and Yoga

Country singer-songwriter and yoga instructor Suzanna Spring strongly believes that there is a definite connection between her two passions. “In every element of life there are moments of unpredictability. Music and yoga are harmonious, combining elements of breathing, movement and focus,” Suzanna states. “They are both a dance of grace and strength that unexpectedly brings the mind in tune with the heart,” says the charming green-eyed red head I initially met through a mutual friend.

Born in Oakpark, Illinois, Suzanna moved around a lot as the daughter of a commercial pilot. The family eventually settled in the Livermore Valley where she graduated from Livermore High School before attending U.C. Davis, studying fine art and design. She began playing the French horn at the age of eight, but it was her mother, a member of a three-piece country band, who taught her to sing and play guitar. “Stylistically, it was my mother who exposed me to the classic country singers.” Suzanna’s style, in songs and voice, trended more toward the likes of Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Townes Van Zandt as she played in a series to bands during her college years.

After graduation, her graphic arts career kept her busy and moving around the country, however performing was still a big part of her life.  By 1987, she relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a graduate degree at Cal Arts when an opportunity presented itself to join an all-female band called The Mustangs, a country version of the successful alternative band, The Bangles.

During their seven-year run, The Mustangs toured extensively in the western United States, and toured Europe and Scandinavia. Highlights of her tours included appearances at the famed Palomino Club, Los AngelesCountry Fest, SXSW (South by Southwest), the Powerhaus in London, the Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark, and the International Country Music Festival in Zurich.

Nominated by the California Country Music Association as “Vocal Group of the Year,” the Mustangs were featured performers at the Jimmy Dale Gilmore & Friends Show in Austin. Suzanna says there are talks going on currently about a possible Mustangs reunion.

As one of the primary songwriters for the band, Suzanna submitted several songs to a Nashville music magazine as the band was starting to come apart in the mid 1990s. The magazine’s editor forwarded the songs to a music producer who encouraged Suzanna to move to Nashville and record with Cary Richard Beare of Riverdogs. Suzanna later secured a publishing deal with EMI as a staff writer before ultimately finding a home at Bluewater Music as a writer and artist. “I loved writing songs, knowing that my job was to let my imagination soar and play music. The time in spent in recording studios was just magic. All of us who lived that lifestyle felt the camaraderie, the mutual appreciation that comes from recognizing a great song when you hear it.”

Her first solo CD, She’s Got Your Heart, won Music Row’s DISCovery Award and her performances have included Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Café, NPR’s World & Music Program, Nashville Folk Festival, WPLN’s Songwriter Sessions, Nashville’s Independent Music Festival, SXSW Music Festival in Austin, and shows in Boston and New York City.

“Suzanna has a beautiful voice, a quick wit and is a gifted songwriter.”~ Paul Jefferson, Nashville recording artist and acclaimed songwriter.

It was during this period in her life when she also discovered yoga at a Nashville gym frequented by many musicians. “Yoga gave my life balance,” says Suzanna. After studying at studios around town she was one day asked to fillin as an instructor, which turned out to be the beginning of a new love and passion. Today, she is a 500-hour certified E-RYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher).

Following the release of her song, Time, as a radio single for country recording artist Doug Stone, she retuned to California in 2007 to find her home town of Livermore had become a popular wine region and burgeoning music/film community. She was introduced to vintner/musician Karl Wente who invited her to join in on jam sessions on the front porch of his home. After months of jamming with a host of talented musicians, together they formed The Front Porch Band, which played regularly at the summer Home Grown concert series along with a succession of club dates and local gigs. “Playing with a rotating collection of amazing musicians, eventually led me to start my own band, The South Livermore Boys Club band, aka The Surly Jackasses—a name coined by my band mates,” Suzanna went on to explain.

Suzanna was again a featured artist at SXSW in 2013 and invited to play with her band on the Sony City Independent Artists Stage. The band also performed at Craneway Pavilion in 2016 for the Bay Area’s largest yoga fundraiser, Yoga Reaches Out, benefiting cancer research and treatment.

Around this same time, Suzanna also began teaching yoga at studios in the East Bay. Three years ago, she and two other yoga instructors, Laurie Johnson Gallagher and Stacy McGinty, teamed-up to open DragonflyYoga + Wellness LLC in Downtown Livermore. Suzanna and Stacy have continued as owners, while Laurie remains an active instructor. Their highly successful studio resembles a grand ballroom complete with large windows, high ceilings and good acoustics for music. “It has great energy,” says the immensely popular instructor.

When Suzanna teaches there is a magical calmness to the room. Her voice guides me into that peaceful place while her movement inspires fluidity and breathing to create a unique vibration. She cares about every person’s comfort and has the skill to make adjustment suggestions without judgment. She is a true gift.” ~ Pam Clemmons.

At present, Suzanna is on a hiatus with her band while she writes and performs acoustically. During the holidays, she was the feature act for a holiday showcase at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton, performing an amazing acoustic set along with SLBC guitarist Art Thompson. She has also expanded her yoga to include a teacher’s collective called the Tonic of Wilderness, the name inspired by a quotation from writer/naturalist Henry David Thoreau. The group offers yoga and nature retreats and has taken students on trips from Calistoga and New England to Costas Rica, Tuscany and Bali. This year she has yoga excursions planned to Yosemite and Spain. “Creating a yoga community has been such a gift. The practice of yoga gives people the tools to face life’s ever changing circumstances.”

Suzanna’s path is limitless as evidenced by her legions of devoted music and yoga followers.



You’re not a Millennial if;

Wikipedia, not me, defines Millennials (also known as Generation Y, Generation Me, Echo Boomers and Peter Pan Generation) as the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort (they used that word twice) starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early1980s as starting birth years and ending birth years ranging from the late-1990s. This puts the average Millennial in the age range of 20 to 36 years old.  The term was apparently coined in 1987, by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, likely as a way to identify a subculture of soon to be tech savvy, coffee consuming, battery car driving, designer label wearing, EDM festival raging, hair product jellying, no body fat trending, self absorbed narcissists. Don’t get me wrong, I have alot of friends and business associates who identify as Millennials. For gosh sakes, my niece and nephews are the “M” word, but if you want to know the truth, as a whole, Millennials can be really annoying.

Personally, I’m a hybrid of two intersecting generations, the tail end of the Baby Boomers and the beginning of Generation X. “Boomers” described again by the people at Wikipedia, are the demographic group born during the post–World War II baby boom, approximately between the years 1946 and 1962. As a group, Baby Boomers were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to the era in which they arrived, and were amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Whereby, Gen X, are Wiki-defined as children who were raised during a time of shifting societal values and as children were sometimes called the “latchkey generation,” due to reduced adult supervision compared to previous generations, a result of increasing divorce rates and increased maternal participation in the workforce, prior to widespread availability of childcare options outside of the home.

Research describes Gen X adults (1963 – 1982) as active, happy, and as achieving a work-life balance. The cohort has been credited with entrepreneurial tendencies. I’m not saying that both the “Boomers” and “Gen Xers” don’t have their share of losers, but as a whole, our Gen-blend has accomplished some cool stuff. Perhaps you’ve heard of Jon Stewart, Garth Brooks, Paula Abdul, Jerry Rice, Kate Spade, Steve Carell, Bo Jackson, Tom Cruise, John Bon Jovi, MC Hammer, Jodie Foster, Bobcat Goldthwait and Chris Christie.  Like me, all were born in 1962.

Getting back to the Millennial generation, I’ve made a few observations about this demographic and come to the conclusion that;

You’re Not a Millennial if …..

You work in an industry other than tech, international finance, sports entertainment, craft brewing or “growing.”

You aren’t on a first name basis with your barista.

Your coffee order has less than three words.

You’ve ever made a pot of coffee.

Your preferred mode of transportation doesn’t involve a Clipper Card.

You wear glasses because they help you see.

You don’t consider playing X Box participating a sport.

You go home from the club before last call.

You’ve ever washed your own car.

You’ve actually “popped the hood” of a car.

You mow your own lawn.

You have a lawn.

Your definition of being a “Gamer” involves a bowling league.

Your favorite vacation destination involves an RV.

Hydrating your body means something other than upping your “shots” count on  

a Friday night.

Your music collection consists of anything besides obscure European EDM DJs.

Your hope of a new car is something other than an Uber XL Max.

You prefer to be at home as opposed to the office.

You don’t consider your smart phone a physical appendage to your body.

You use your smart phone mostly for phone calls.

You spend more than the three major holidays (Thanksgiving,

Christmas/Hanukah and Easter/Passover) and a few birthdays with your immediate family.

You can easily go to bed without one last look at your inbox.

You don’t suffer withdrawals if you haven’t downloaded anything in more than

a day.

You haven’t taken a Selfie at a wedding, funeral or during a medical procedure.

My father was part of The Greatest Generation (The Greatest Generation is the title of a 1998 book by American journalist Tom Brokaw, which popularized the term “Greatest Generation” to describe those who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II). USN Chief Petty Officer Steven Copeland would roll over in his grave if he saw how millennials seem to lack common everyday life skills because most are so driven to create the next (totally unnecessary) mobile app designed for gamers that will appeal to a VC with aspirations of taking it public, that they’re too busy to learn how to change a tire.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate them Millennial generation for the advancements they will likely bring to our future. It will probably be a Millennial who invents the affordable flying car, recreational time travel and a cure for cancer. It might also be a Millennial who organizes a Friends reunion show featuring the entire cast. If David Schwimmer doesn’t attend, it’s not a full cast!

Each generation in our country has offered something different to our cultural landscape, our American fabric or the structure of our lives. How we define their contributions is immaterial. If the Millennial generation ends up kicking-ass on The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X, then good for them because as a country we win. That said, I wish they would try to be a little less annoying in the process.

Mika’s Houseboat Ark

As I keyboard away on my monthly piece for Alive, I might be overstating the obvious when I report that it’s been raining a lot lately. For days and days, there has been an abundance of precipitation in our ecosystem. It makes one wonder if it will ever stop. In fact, it reminds me of that story about a man that, at the request of God, built a really big boat and stocked it with a bunch of animals before hitting the high seas for a joyous family cruise. You know the one I’m referring to, Mika’s Ark. Please allow me to tell the tale.

Their once lived a ruggedly handsome/athletically built, yet humble man who we’ll call Mika (the Hebrew name for Michael or one who is like God—really). By day, Mika was a moderately successful commercial real estate agent, but at night he spread the good word. By good word I mean he wrote a monthly magazine column consisting of sophomoric humor and occasionally funny observations of life. This story is full of undeniable coincidences. One day, while completely sober because it was still early, he heard a voice. The voice provided Mika with a long-term weather report and instructions on building an ark. The voice, presumed to be God and not Al Roker, didn’t take into account that Mika wasn’t very skilled when it came to hammering nails or sawing wood stuff. Consequently, Mika chose to honor this divine intervention by visiting a houseboat showroom and placing an order for the biggest baddest boat in the company’s inventory.  

For the houseboat aficionados in the audience, both of you, the majestic Titan is one of the grandest models in the entire houseboat fleet. This triple deck, 65-foot vessel offers the finest in comfort and entertainment. A widescreen TV, home theater system with surround sound, tracking satellite for TV, fireplace and full wet bar with a temperature-controlled wine cabinet integrated in the main salon. Relax in the sunken hot tub or take an exhilarating ride down the enclosed spiral tube waterslide, both located on the spectacular sky deck.

The Titan boasts eight HD, flat screen TVs and four refrigerators! Sixteen people, and/or some animals, can be served at the spacious dinette, and the couches convert into two full sized beds. The main deck also has four private staterooms and two full baths.

A sliding glass door on the starboard side of the vessel provides convenient access to and from your small boat or dock. The second story, created to offer privacy and space, provides one private stateroom and one master suite with its own entertainment system, coffee maker, fridge, microwave and private deck area. The bunkroom can accommodate six people in two double and two single bunks. For convenience, an additional full bath is on the second deck.

The aft observation counter is an ideal spot for dining, relaxing and taking in the view. Located on the Titan’s third deck is a designer wet bar with a fridge, propane barbecue, TV, crows nest dining area and another aft observation counter. Obviously, some modifications will be made for the animals.

According to Genesis, the Book of not the awesome 80’s rock band featuring Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, God gave Mika a blueprint for building the ark. It is presumed that God also gave Mike a Home Depot gift card because ark building ain’t cheap. Given that Mika strategically choose to purchase the Titan ark instead of building one, he used the gift card for a top-of-the-line BBQ, a really cool riding mower, an assortment of Ralph Lauren paints and a lot of doggie doors.

Seven days before the deluge, God told Mika to enter the ark with his household (family) and pairs of animals. With that, Mika and his daughters started rounding up neighborhood pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and roaming bands of Mt. Diablo wild turkeys. Pets were easy enough to come by, but the tigers, gorillas and anacondas were a little tougher to find in the suburbs. Ultimately he found a three-legged coyote, a blind skunk and couple of squirrels and called it a day. Fortunately he was able to pack, excuse me, load, a few extra cows and chickens, just in case the kids got tired of fish, veggies and gummy bears.

As most people know, the rains lasted 40 days and 40 nights and the ark was afloat for a total of 150 days before coming to rest on the top of Mt. Diablo upon the eventual receding of the waters. Once everyone did eventually disembark, Mika grabbed a latte at Peet’s Coffee and Tea and life resumed—just somewhat soggier. 

It is written that God caused the flood because he saw great wickedness in the people of Danville and Alamo. No big surprise there, however rumor has it that Mika did ask a few of his friends and neighbors to join he and his family on the houseboat ark, but most people thought he was a 72-hour hold candidate at the Contra Costa County Psych Ward or a 5150 – police code for “CRAZY”.

When it comes to movies about Noah’s Ark (Noah being Mika’s 2nd cousin once removed by a divorce), there’s Noah starring Russell Crowe, which was released in 2014 and Evan Almighty, starring Steve Carell released in 2007. Both have an interesting take on the whole Ark controversy and Mika appreciated each film for it’s artistic beauty. At the risk of being a “buzzkill,” technically, there is no scientific evidence for a global flood, and despite many expeditions, no evidence of the ark has been found. The challenges associated with housing all living animal types would likely have made building the ark a practical impossibility.

It won’t be until the spring that we know how much rain we got this year, but given how the year has started we may be looking to the heavens to account for this deluge. In the meantime, you might want to consider building a little dingy or looking into a used Master Craft. 

One Writer’s Voice

My #1 New Year’s Resolution is to watch fewer singing competitions on television. Is it cheesy to admit that I like The Voice, American Idol and The Sing-Off?  Actually, only the Voice is still on, but I resolve to stop watching that incredibly entertaining NBC reality singing show where the winner goes on to do absolutely nothing with their career except to occasionally pop up on the next season of The Voice to promote a CD we’ll never buy.

The truth is, after eleven seasons, there’s never been a Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson or even a Chris Daughtry (American Idols) in the entire Voice bunch. That’s probably a little unfair. I’m confident the past winners have sung their share of National Anthems at minor league ballparks and monster truck rallies. I bet there’s been the occasional ribbon cutting at a Piggly-Wiggly grand opening. Then, of course, there’s the prestigious gig of being the celebrity judge at a bowling alley karaoke competition.  Sadly, I don’t think I’ve heard so much as a single single on the radio by any of the past winners from The Voice.

That said, I still like the show for a variety of reasons. For those of you keeping score, the past winners look a little something like this;


I remember every single one of those past winners, except maybe Jermaine, Danielle and Josh, but that’s because I’m into this stuff. Seeing an actual show taping is high (#4) on my bucket list and I’m not getting any younger. Just for the record, I have actually seen two alumni of The Voice perform live and in concert.  season eight winner, Sawyer Fredericks, played a corporate event at Bishop Ranch and I took my daughter to see Matt McAndrew (season seven runner-up) open for the Plain White T’s last year at Slim’s in San Francisco. My review? Matt had very strong vocals and was very entertaining and Sawyer was inexperienced and slightly off-key. My favorite contender of all time, you ask? That was Will Champlin. He got robbed and finished third in season five. I don’t know what he’s doing today, but I hope he’s got a microphone in his hand and not a specula.

I’m actually watching the Season Eleven finale as I bang out this article on my lap top. Season Eleven has been a good one and I think it’s safe to say that I like this season’s Final Four as much as any other Final Four I’ve seen in the past. I’m avoiding choosing a favorite because, based on past experience, it’s too emotionally draining, filled with an exhausting array of the cheers and tears.  I wish all the contestants’ good luck as I know I will never see any of them again.

Fast forward to the next night, and your Season Eleven winner is…wait for it…Sundance Head. There is an overwhelming abundance of applause and fanfare as the winner’s family rushes the stage. Mr. Head does his best to perform his soon to be released single, available on iTunes, as confetti rains down on the stage. Despite this winning singer having a name more suited for the adult film industry, he’s actually a charming and talented country troubadour. It was nice knowing you Sundance.

Speaking of reality shows, it’s hard to believe the former star of The Apprentice will be our next president. What? I think Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, judges on the Voice, should run in 2020. They could represent the Music-tarian ticket. Why not, the reality President precedent has been set.

I find it hilarious that Donald Trump prepared for being leader of the free world by evaluating B-list celebrity’s business abilities with the tag line, You’re Fired! That was after he and his spawn humiliated them in the board room. I’m also amused by how upset The Donald gets at Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live immediately followed by a Twitter-Tantrum.

Here’s some Presidential advice from a guy who was once President of the Crow Canyon Swim Team: Stop watching SNL. When I knew someone didn’t like how I was running the swim country, I avoided that person at every swim meet and social event. I never read their emails and I certainly didn’t pick up my mobile phone, thanks to Caller I.D. I intentionally bumped more than one kid into the pool just to create a momentary distraction enabling me to escape a possible confrontation. Hopefully President Trump will be too busy not upsetting China to watch late night sketch comedy once he takes office, but I digress.

I have this reoccurring dream that I am a contestant on The Voice. I have this really cool Justin Bieber-meets-Sammy Hagar-type voice and of course I get a “four chair” turn. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the show, a four chair turn is pretty much the most awesome thing that can happen during your blind audition.  Anyway, I choose Miley Cyrus to be my coach, just because my daughters loved Hannah Montana growing up and I was a fan of her Wrecking Ball video. Creepy, I know. Sadly, I don’t end up winning The Voice in my dream, but that’s okay, because I didn’t want to vanish into singing obscurity anyway.


I’m already living a life in writing obscurity and a guy can only take so much obscurity. The New Year means another season of my favorite show and I can hardly wait for The Voice to resume… If I was going to watch it… which I’m not, because I never break a NY resolution.

The White Elephant Gift Exchange

At our family White Elephant Gift Exchange this holiday season, I ended up with an actual white elephant. Excuse me, an albino pachyderm to be more politically correct. I was a little distraught to say the least when my name was drawn last and the only gift still under the menorah tree was a two-ton elephant calf. Who knew someone could actually buy a “white elephant” for a White Elephant gift exchange? That gift, that was apparently ordered through Amazon, came by way of my out of work, over tattooed, legalize pot voting niece.  I thought we had a $50.00 limit? Now, in addition to a costly wellness visit to Blackhawk Veterinary, I should probably be expecting a hefty HOA fine next quarter for housing a pet the size of a recreational vehicle in my home.

African elephant with santa's cap delivering christmas gifts.The folks at Wikipedia tell me the term “white elephant” refers to an extravagant but burdensome gift that cannot be easily disposed of, based on the legend of the King of Siam gifting rare albino elephants to courtiers who had displeased him, that they might be ruined by the animals’ upkeep costs. Last year, my White Elephant present was a gift card to Fuddruckers. I love Fuddruckers! What are the chances I can re-gift my elephant between now and Christmas? I do have an office party coming up.

Our family transitioned to a White Elephant gift exchange format after years of going into debt buying presents for every niece/nephew, brother/sister, aunt/ uncle, grandparent, grandchild, step child and second cousin twice removed by a divorce or annulment. I was buying gifts for relatives I never knew I had, assuming they were actually my relatives. I once bought a tie for a guy who was either my half brother-in-law or the young man who delivers our Contra Costa Times paper in the morning. Why do we do this? I don’t see a lot of these family members except during the holidays and I certainly don’t feel overly close to most of them. To be totally honest, I’m more emotionally connected to Hazel in the Costco photo-mat, Rob, a teller at Wells Fargo, and Donna, my favorite checker at Draeger’s, than I am to my sister’s third boyfriend (following her legal separation) and his five children.  Granted, it’s the spirit of the season and it’s better to give then to receive, but do we need to “give”ourselves into the poorhouse? 

I don’t want to come off as a more handsome and athletic version of Ebenezer Scrooge, however, it seems to me that families should place more emphasis on connecting throughout the year and not stress so much about what to get each other on this one specific day. I truly don’t need any of my friends or relatives spending their hard earned money on another gift basket from Cost Plus World Market, complete with an inexpensive red wine, assorted international cheeses and chocolate covered expresso beans simply out of obligation. It’s bad enough that every gift our privileged kids want today is a real life adaptation of the popular Dr. Suess novel, The Grinch that Stole My Holiday Paycheck.  There’s no such thing as an inexpensive i-anything. Even elephant toys are grossly overpriced.

Getting back to my pachyderm predicament, here are some of my concerns when it comes to raising an elephant in my suburban enclave;

Apparently elephants love to cuddle. My Lazy-Boy recliner isn’t that big or that sturdy.

Apparently elephants have bad eye site, but a keen sense of smell.  Great, I can hide the peanut butter cookies, but he’ll probably sniff them out.

Apparently elephants can live to be 70 years old. That’s 70 people years. I’ll be lucky if I live to be 70 given that I have an elephant to take care of now.

Apparently elephants laugh, cry, play and have incredible memories. So do my neighbor’s kids, less the includible memories.

Apparently elephants love to swim and use their trunks like a snorkel in deep water. What’s the leash policy at Oak Hill Park in Danville?

Apparently elephants are herbivores, spending 16 hours a day collecting plant food. Their diet is at least 50% grasses, supplemented with leaves, bamboo, twigs, bark, roots, and small amounts of fruits, seeds and flowers. Great, there goes my newly landscaped backyard. If only she just liked an occasional sandwich, our neighborhood has enough wild turkeys and gophers to last her a few years.

Apparently elephants are one of the few four legged animals who can’t run or jump. That must explain the weight issue. Scratch the Frisbee idea.

Apparently an elephant’s trunk has more than 40,000 muscles in it and no bones, which give it the flexibility. However, the trunk can get very heavy at times. So, the elephants are seen to rest it on nearby objects. I better not catch her resting that big old thing on our horribly expensive BBQ Island or she can spell home, S-P-C-A.

If any of my loyal readers thought I actually got a real live elephant at a White Elephant holiday gift exchange then we’ll have to ask your attendants to take away your paste and crayons for the day. You know how I like to tease. The annual White Elephant family, friends, neighbors, office, club or cellmates gift exchange is a delightful holiday tradition. Sadly, now that I’m finally out of Alive and Chillin’ books, I may actually have to go out and buy something this year. Maybe I can find a white elephant carved out of actual ivory? Something about that idea doesn’t sound ethical, but it’s a start. Happy holidays.