Why Wine?

I love wine. I spend time thinking about it, writing about it, and talking about it. But I wasn’t always into wine. It wasn’t too many years back that I knew nothing about wine and simply smiled politely as I drank a glass of bland “House Chardonnay,” imagining that mediocre Chardonnay was about as good as it was going to get. I was a little bored with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but what are you going to do? I thought those were the only two types of white wine that existed.  I liked red wine too and believed the two choices there included Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. End of story. Four choices in wine. Easy.

Model in sweater and jeans holding wineglass, girl with wineglass, high fashion look, sitting girl, beautiful girl, blonde girl, isolated, model in studio, girl wearing jeans and sweater, long hair, gray backgroundWho knew that “Chardonnay” and “Cabernet Sauvignon” were the names of grapes? I didn’t. I probably would have found it odd that grapes have such fancy names, and been amazed to learn that there are literally thousands of different types of grapes all over the world with elaborate monikers like Mourvedre, Zibbibo, and Viognier.  Such information never entered my radar.

I found wine vaguely intimidating. I couldn’t taste “fresh strawberries” or “tar” or “baking spices.” I could taste wine. It seemed obvious that a bunch of pretentious “experts” were simply pulling fanciful tasting notes out of a hat. Wasn’t it all just elevated fiction?

Sommeliers terrified me. The wine list in a restaurant was to be feared. People who claimed to know about wine arrogantly tossed around words like “tannins,” “legs,” and “acidity.” They could speak at length about a certain “earthiness” they perceived in their glass and argue with others about “minerality.”  It was like they were speaking Greek.

European wine bottles were extremely confusing. I stayed away from them even though I speak a few European languages. Wine from English-speaking countries seemed safer. French bottles often don’t say the name of the grape, so if you don’t know what’s produced in specific regions of France, you will not know what kind of wine is in the bottle you are holding. I could read all of the information on a French label and still not have a clue about what was inside. The world of wine was some sort of exclusive party and I was obviously not invited. I never gave it a second thought until my “aha!” moment.

That was the moment that wine suddenly became fascinating. It happened about eight years ago when I decided to throw a big holiday dinner celebration on Christmas Eve. In the Italian tradition, I decided to serve a lucky “Seven Fishes” dinner and planned my menu carefully, incorporating a festive medley of seafood. I was having a wonderful time until I came to including the wine for the event. I panicked.

What could I serve? What went with seafood? White wine, I guessed, but what if I wanted to serve some red too? Would that be unbelievably gauche? What would my price point be? I wanted to buy nice wines but not break my budget buying expensive wines in a futile attempt to impress my guests. I was at a loss until I learned that Shannon, one of my guests for the evening, had been a sommelier in Canada several years earlier. What luck! I was thrilled and called her immediately.

Stretched bottle and two glass goblets with red grape wine standing close to each other in studio isolated on white and grey backgroung, vertical pictureShannon was a delight and came to my house to discuss the details of my soiree. “Tell me your menu and your guest list,” she instructed. I gave her the names of our guests and details of the fish dinner, including the preparation of each dish. Shannon cheerfully launched into an elaborate monologue of recommendations.

“I would definitely go heavy on the white wine and you can split the difference with light, minerally whites like a Sauvignon Blanc, a Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Chablis, or maybe even a brut Champagne to start. We can go with a rounder, more full-bodied white like a white Burgundy, a California Chardonnay, or an Italian Vermentino to complement the main course. Of course, Michel and Dominique are coming. They’re French so they will want red wine. You should avoid big, tannic reds like Cabernet Sauvignon because that will make the fish taste metallic. Let’s go for a light Pinot Noir, a Grenache, or maybe a Beaujolais Cru.”

We went on to discuss dessert and the possibility of having a demi-sec (slightly sweet) Champagne, as the sugary crepes would make a brut Champagne taste bitter. As Shannon examined my glassware, she recounted the legend that the old-fashioned, flat, saucer-like Champagne glasses had been fashioned after Marie Antoinette’s breasts.

I was captivated by her knowledge. How did my smart, cool friend know so much about the snooty, seemingly unapproachable world of wine just off the top of her head? She laughed and told me she had the Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) out of London, England. She said the WSET had classes all over the world and surely I could find one in Los Angeles, if I were interested. Suddenly, I WAS interested. I wanted to learn more about this mysterious world of wine. Sure enough, a class was starting up in January. I signed up immediately and that’s where it all began.

Years of wine classes and academic degrees followed.  How wonderful it is to study a subject where you are required to drink! I met the most amazing set of wine enthusiasts along the way. I learned that snobby wine lovers usually have no idea what they’re talking about. Many simply have deep pockets so they know what they’re supposed to buy and what they’re supposed to say but not much more than that.  They like to impress people by buying what they perceive to be the “right” bottles of wine and can be rather tiresome. I’ve found that if you start throwing around terms like malolactic fermentation, tertiary characteristics, or autolytic complexity with authority, such characters tend to pipe down.

What is it about wine that we love? For me, it’s the opportunity to “visit” a country through its wine. Well-made wine reflects its country of origin. If the grapes are grown on volcanic soil, you can taste the smoke. If the grapes are grown on iron-rich soil, you can taste the minerals. If the grapes are grown overlooking the sea, you can taste the salt of the ocean breezes. That’s the beauty of wine and why each bottle of good wine is like a holiday in a bottle. If you can’t afford to fly to the warmth of a Sicilian island, taste the sunshine in a bottle of Sicilian wine!

Pouring red wine in glass with rod isolated on whiteI am also drawn to wine for the incredible history behind it.  Wine has played a role in society since ancient times. Jugs of wine were buried with pharaohs in Egypt to be enjoyed in the afterlife. Wine is mentioned in famous works like The Iliad and The Odyssey. Wine plays a prominent role in many biblical stories. It’s been a part of man’s life since the beginning.

In many European cultures, wine is considered a food and regularly served at meals to adults and children alike, although the children usually enjoy their wine mixed with water.  A meal isn’t considered a meal unless wine is served with it. How very civilized.

Wine hasn’t always been a part of American culture. We didn’t grow up drinking it. We drank coca-cola and ate hamburgers in the classic American style. As illustrated on episodes of Mad Men, Americans have always enjoyed a cocktail. Beer has also been popular for centuries. Wine has been produced in the USA for years but never became part of the fabric of our society. Until now.

Immigrants from wine-producing countries brought European grapes and classic winemaking techniques to this country in the mid-1800s. After that, wine steadily gained in popularity but hit a wall in 1920 with the advent of Prohibition. Wine producers across the country were immediately put out of business and vineyards were plowed up to make way for other types of agriculture. Only a few vineyards survived under the auspices of providing wine for religious ceremonies.

By the time Prohibition was repealed, Americans had lost their taste for wine. Sweet, uninspired wines like Mateus and Blue Nun were enjoyed sparingly but wine consumption had lost its sheen. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that wine came back into vogue in the United States.

In 1976, two wines from Napa, a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and a Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, were entered into a French wine competition and had the nerve to win. The success of these two wines propelled Napa into the spotlight. From a sleepy, northern California town known more for its sanitarium than anything else, Napa was suddenly a bright star on the map and California has never looked back.

Today, Napa produces some of the best wine in the world and wine-producing areas all over California are revered for their quality. In the last 20 years, Oregon, Washington, and New York have all have become recognized in their own right for fine quality wine. In fact, every state in the union, including Alaska and Hawaii, produces wine. It may not be made from grapes, but wine it is! In fact, you may have already had the pleasure of sipping pineapple wine in Hawaii or rhubarb wine in Idaho.

But wine as a classical beverage is made from grapes, Vitis Vinifera, to be exact, although in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, interesting and delicious Lambrusco wines are made from Vitis Labrusca. The wines of today are better than they ever have been, and modern wine production is the most advanced it has ever been. Great wines have come out of all corners of the world – Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa – and they are delicious, beautiful wines worthy of world attention. The classic wines of Europe, like Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chianti, and Barolo, are still shining leaders in quality and popularity.

Why drink wine, you may ask. Why indeed? Drink wine because it is legendary. Drink it because it is a piece of history. Drink wine because such great effort and care is taken in producing it. Drink it because it is healthy. Drink it because it gives you the world in a glass. But most importantly, drink wine because you love it.





David Victor of Rock Stars & Stripes

Walnut Creek native and Northgate High School alumni, David Victor, is a bona-fide “Rock Star” as a former member of the legendary rock band BOSTON. Yes, that BOSTON. The More Than a Feeling, Don’t Look Back, Piece of Mind and Amanda BOSTON who dominated the AM/FM air waves from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s and are still a staple on classic rock radio playlists. Today, David is still “rocking out,” but also giving back through rock music.alive-media-magazine-david-victor-of-rock-stars-stripes-michael-copeland-band-concert-playing

David moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music after graduating from Cal State East Bay with a degree in Computer Science. After modest success with the band Velocity, David played with the BOSTON tribute band Smokin’, where he was discovered through a YouTube video by BOSTON’s founding member, Tom Scholz. David spent five years with the band, and was featured as the lead vocalist on their #1 classic-rock charting single Heaven on Earth from their 2014 album Life, Love & Hope. I caught up with him recently at Side Board in Danville to talk about his BOSTON experience, and to hear more about his current project, Rock Stars & Stripes.

Mike Copeland : What was it like playing with BOSTON? Did you do a big tour of large venues?

David Victor: I joined BOSTON in late 2009, and we did a couple of North American tours with the band in 2012 and 2014. We rehearsed in north Boston for several weeks before I did my first show in Hollywood, Florida in 2012. Rehearsing with the whole band was a trip. The lineup was not settled. I thought they were going to ship me out the first day. But I stuck around. One of my vivid memories was working with Tom Scholz who wrote Peace of Mind, my favorite BOSTON song ever. Of course, I learned way more than I ever could possibly have given back, most importantly exactly how the guitar parts went from the guy who wrote them!

The two tours I did were amazing, but the Boston Strong show was especially moving, because some of the survivors got up to talk about their recoveries, and it was very personal and a huge event. There were 20,000 people packed into the Boston Garden, and we opened the show with The Star Spangled Banner. It was practically a religious experience. All the Boston-area bands played, and then Aerosmith closed the show. My wife encouraged me to jump up on stage, and I actually got a chance at the mic with Steven Tyler singing Come Together.

MC: How was Rock Stars & Stripes conceived?alive-media-magazine-david-victor-of-rock-stars-stripes-michael-copeland-band-concert

DV: That Boston Strong event was obviously very moving. Seeing the unity and strength from the assembled people of Boston made me start to think about how we are all related to each other. And of course the fact that it was a big rock concert, well it kind of dawned on me: one common bond that many Americans share is their love of rock ‘n roll. This is not a show about our political or ideological differences; this is a show about music and our common bonds.

Then it was just a matter of figuring out how to deliver that kind of a show, start to finish, in a compelling way. That led me to presenting the show as a “Rock ‘n Roll Road Trip across America” to tie all the great musical areas of the United States together into one show. I wanted the videos to relate directly to the music being performed, so that people got a sense of the areas we were traveling to, the people of those areas, and the music that was created there. We’re very gratified that the show is being extremely well-received.

MC: What do you enjoy most about these shows?

DV: No question, the great community vibe and unity that we generate. There’s much more to this presentation than just the musical journey. We also have a “Local Heroes” segment, in which we honor individuals for their positive contributions in their communities. We bring them on stage, tell the audience their story, and honor them with a special Rock Stars & Stripes medallion. We also have a Charity of the Evening, which is connected to the local community. It’s about paying respect to the communities in which we perform. People leave this show happy, entertained and even a little prouder to be Americans.

MC: Rock Stars & Stripes has a show at the Lesher Center in your hometown of Walnut Creek on November 12th, how is ARF involved?

DV: Obviously ARF has been part of the Walnut Creek scene for many years, and now has a national presence as well. I was checking out their website a few months back, and hit upon their “Pets for Vets” program, which meshes with our message perfectly; people doing good for their communities. Anyway, we asked them if they would be interested in being our Charity of the Evening for this Lesher show, and we were delighted they said “yes.” We are donating three wrapped Rock Stars & Stripes autographed guitars to ARF, one for auction, one for raffle that night, and one which will hang at the ARF HQ. We’ll also be selling customized show programs for this event, also to raise money for ARF and “Pets for Vets.”

MC: You’re a newlywed. Where did you meet your wife, Tamra?

DV: Tamra and I were introduced to each other by our mutual friend, Michael Brandon. We were both happily single, but wow, we just fell head over heels for each other! We were married just this past December 5th in Kona, Hawaii. So yes, we’re newlyweds.

In retrospect, I was really happy that I didn’t meet her at a show; instead we met in a much more natural way. It’s not exactly ‘keeping it real’ to first set eyes on someone when they’re performing on stage. As it turned out, once we were already a couple, the first show she saw me play was Boston Strong. I’m up there on a 75-foot Magnatron screen performing with BOSTON, in Boston, for the first time the band had played there in 20 years. Then I’m singing with Steven Tyler, and we’re meeting all these celebrities backstage. I told her “Honey, not every day is going to be like this!” And she’s good with that.

MC: What does the future hold for David Victor?

DV: Of course, we’re going to be working hard on booking shows for Rock Stars & Stripes as well as my other bands, which includes BOSTYX (a tribute to the music of BOSTON and Styx). I’m also planning on opening a music school in Danville in 2017 for private lessons, guest seminars and career education.alive-media-magazine-david-victor-of-rock-stars-stripes-michael-copeland-band-concert-playing-2

Today, David lives a suburban rock star life which includes encouraging his friends and neighbors to come out to his shows. I saw one of the very first Rock Stars & Stripes shows back in August at the Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton and was blown away by the music, the video and the great time had by people in the audience.

David is currently performing as the founding member and lead vocalist of Rock Stars & Stripes, a polished, high-impact live rock show with powerful and moving visuals celebrating some of the greatest American rocks artists and hits including music by: BOSTON, Styx, KISS, REO Speedwagon, The Eagles, The Cars, Billy Joel, LynyrdSkynyrd, Journey, ZZ Top, Night Ranger, and many more. The show takes the audience on a “rock and roll road trip” across the country with a positive, entertaining musical and visual experience. David fronts a seasoned group of All-Star musicians accompanied by an evocative video produced by Emmy and MTV award winning video editor Jeffrey Clark. Rock Stars & Stripes is a patriotic tribute to the people and music of America.

Feel free to “Friend” David on Facebook or visit his website at davidvictor.com. Tickets to the Lesher show can be purchase at the Lesher Box Office or through rockstarsandstripesshow.com


The Harmonica

The people’s instrument

If Volkswagen was once touted as the “People’s Car” then surely the Harmonica is the people’s instrument. Ironically, they are both of German ancestry.  No wonder it is the people’s instrument as it is generally played by everyday people, amateurs and professional musicians. It is quite inexpensive to buy and very transportable. The harmonica, also known as the French harp or mouth organ, is a rectangular metal box made of brass and steel. Most models can easily fit in a shirt pocket and taken anywhere but there are many types and sizes.

young adult playing the harmonicaThe harmonica is fairly easy to learn and usually comes with detailed instructions on how to play the instrument. You can learn to play it yourself but if one can afford lessons from a teacher, it is probably a better alternative. The harmonica is a very versatile instrument, to be enjoyed as a solo instrument or in a group ensemble.

Walt Schneider, a childhood friend, said, “When I followed instructions carefully, I could play Stephen Foster’s, Old Black Joe; what a feeling of accomplishment!”  In a few weeks he learned all the songs in the instruction book and said his feeling of satisfaction was very high. Schneider started playing the harmonica in the fourth grade and he actually got very good at it. As a young boy and young man I was in awe of his playing ability.


The ancient ancestors of the harmonica date back to before the time of Christ. Some researchers trace the origins of the harmonica to Laos and others to China. The ancients developed a crude rudimentary form of the instrument.

It took centuries before European craftsmen began to develop an instrument akin to the modern harmonica. In 1821-22, Friedirch Buschmann, a German from Berlin, made an experimental instrument.  In 1829, the manufacture of mouth-organs, as they are often called, started in Vienna, Austria. Also during 1829, Charles Wheatstone of London patented his version of the harmonica.

The modern prototype harmonica was invented in 1857 by Matthias Hohner of Trossingen, Germany. The Hohner Harmonica Company is still one of the leading makers of harmonicas and has continually been in business since 1857. The Hohner harmonicas feature duel-action reeds that enable players to activate different notes or pitches while blowing or exhaling into the instrument. Notes are also produced by a second set of reeds when the player inhales or draws air back through the instrument.


During the time of the American Civil War, the harmonica became very popular.  Because it was small and easy to learn, soldiers on both sides – the Union and the Confederates – used the instrument as a source of entertainment along with singing songs popular on both sides of the conflict.

After the war the harmonica became part of American folk-lore and the folk music scene – its popularity soared.  It was a real challenge for the Hohner Harmonica Company to keep up with orders, especially from America.

The popularity of harmonicas during wartime did not stop with the Civil War. The Golden Age of the mouth-organ in America was the years between the two world wars. World War I soldiers on both British and German sides used harmonicas as they went off to war.

By World War II harmonica imports were virtually stopped because of the embargo placed on German products. After the war, normal production was gradually returned.

John Philip Sousa, noted composer and band director, wrote a march called, The Harmonica Wizard, after he heard the Philadelphia Harmonica Band in concert. During the last two thirds of the 20th Century, the harmonica’s popularity became worldwide in many musical genres. It gained favor in blues, jazz, classical music, country music, rock and roll, and other modern forms of popular music. Some popular musicians that included harmonicas in their music were Creedance Clearwater, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Billy Joel and others.

Before the modern era, numerous players reached Virtuoso status, including Buddy Green, Charlie McCoy, and Borrah Minevitch, who formed the group, Harmonica Rascals.  One of the most famous and endearing players was Johnny Paleo, a comedian who dressed in funny costumes and had a group called, The Harmonica Gang. One of the most famous groups was the very popular Harmonicats. These groups reveled in slapstick comedy but excelled in fantastic harmonica technique and musicianship.

In decades past, the harmonica has been featured in Western movies with singing cowboy groups, including Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and The Sons of the Pioneers.  Likewise, movies depicting the South and old-time plantation scenes often show the harmonica in scenes of musical entertainment.

Even though it is a small, simple instrument, the harmonica has been enjoyed by people for centuries and will likely continue to be enjoyed for centuries to come.  Found in many homes throughout the world, it is loved by millions. The harmonica will always be the people’s instrument.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector0@comcast.net Visit our website at danville.org  for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.       




Now Look What You’ve Done

It’s likely that by the time you have this issue of ALIVE in hand, we will have a new president.—baring, that is, another “hanging chad” fiasco like the one we endured in 2000.

Illustration showing Republican Donald Trump versus Democrat Hillary Clinto face-off for American president with USA flag in background done in low polygon art style.Like many Americans, I was feeling queasy about this election early on, and now that it’s “over” (maybe), I can’t say I’m feeling much better. Emotions have been running high—so much so that people on both sides were predicting “violent uprisings” if the result wasn’t as they intended. Regardless of the outcome, roughly half the country is upset right about now—some, perhaps, to the point of downright despair or even anger. And Americans are more divided than ever on many critical issues. Veritable chasms exist in opinions on everything from immigration and healthcare, to abortion and energy. Looking back over the past ten presidential elections, I don’t recall it ever being like this.

It’s all deeply troubling.  How did we end up here? Who’s to blame for this? Maybe we all should take a good look into that shiny, flat surface on the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and say, “Hello, Knucklehead. Now look what you’ve done!” We are all to blame to one degree or another. Either we’ve been too “busy” to pay attention, or we didn’t “believe” it made any difference, so we just didn’t care. But beyond these reasons, we have another serious problem in America—ignorance.

By and large, far too many Americans have little or no understanding about the role of government and the intended limits placed upon our leaders by the Constitution. As a result, we make bad choices then fail to hold our leaders accountable because we don’t even know the limits of their jobs ourselves. The fact that the final contest came down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump bears witness to my point.

In the last debate for example, when asked by Chris Wallace how they would go about selecting a Supreme Court Justice, Hillary said, “I’d choose someone with ‘life experience,’” never even uttering the word “Constitution” in her reply. What does “life experience” have to do with the law and interpreting the Constitution?  And Trump’s reply wasn’t much better. He rambled on about choosing “someone like the late Justice, Antonin Scalia,” offering scant evidence that he fully understands the issue. On the basis of their answers to this one question alone, neither candidate appears fit to serve as our Chief Executive. 

The first and most important obligation of the President of the United States is stated in their oath of office: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

If Americans had been well informed on this point all along, it’s likely neither Clinton nor Trump would be our president.


Pass Me the Drumstick

I am a leg man! I love me some legs. What? I am referring to the turkey leg (aka drumstick) when it comes to our Thanksgiving Day entree. Did you think I was going the way of Donald Trump and Billy Bush in a hot mic ACCESS HOLLYWOOD motorhome conversation? This is a holiday piece for a nice family magazine. I really do like the turkey leg and usually spend most our holiday meal gnawing on the dark meat filled drumsticks like I’m an overweight European Baron from some Elizabethan romance novel. “Serving wench, what do you mean there’s no Cool Whip for the pumpkin pie latte? Off with her head!”

Flat modern design with shadow Icon chicken legsI suppose it’s more refined to dine on the finely carved white or dark meat of a Tom Turkey, but I’m not some snooty overdressed English Pilgrim trying to hook-up with one of the hot looking Native American squaws. I’m all about calorie consumption and a taste bud orgasm. For what it’s worth, I also enjoy the drumsticks from the Turkey’s less prestigious cousin, the chicken. I was practically raised on fried, baked, barbequed and KFC’d chicken drumsticks. Like my father before me, referenced in last month’s article on frugal spending, we like our reasonably priced bird meals. Come to think of it, I believe I’ve had drumsticks from squab, duck and pheasants, to name just a few other edible birds. I’ve had an ostrich burger at Fuddruckers, but that’s one drumstick even beyond my comfort level.

This Thanksgiving Day holiday, a lot of us will be welcoming home our college freshmen for the first time since they departed on their quest for higher education. For most of these kids, it will be the first time sleeping in their beds, arguing with their siblings and adhering to Mom and Dad’s rules since they departed for college approximately twelve weeks ago. My independent living collegiate daughter best not have acquired a taste for turkey drumsticks while away at school or she can enjoy her holiday meal at the university dining commons. I may extend her curfew and let her sleep in until the crack of noon, but the drumstick thing is non-negotiable.  I’ve heard that it takes both parents and their college freshman children about three months to acclimate to their new life and routine. That’s roughly the time period from the start of school at most universities until Thanksgiving break. Their new found lifestyle does potentially raise some issues when the kids return home and have to follow house rules again and curtail their partying ways. They’ll also be driving again and having to avoid all the wild turkeys that populate the greater Mt. Diablo landscape. Trust me, they don’t taste near as good as a Butterball turkey from Lunardi’s in Danville.

By the time this article hits the stands, we’ll have elected a new POTUS (President of the United States) with a new FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) or FHFPOTUS (First Husband Former President of the United States). I can only speculate on who won, but what’s the point, the American public has likely lost. It doesn’t matter if either candidate likes the drumstick or not, they both have so many character flaws that their fowl anatomy choices don’t override the scary direction their constant indiscretions may lead our country. As I am a liberal conservative and my wife is a conservative liberal, we usually either agree on a candidate or we cancel out each other’s votes. I wish there had been a realistic write-in candidate this year, but neither Condoleezza Rice nor Paul Ryan wanted the job bad enough to give it a go. Well if nothing else, it gives me, and the equally talented writers at Saturday Night Live, plenty of material to work with the next four years.

The month of November is special for more than just Thanksgiving and an occasional insignificant election. This is a month with more going on than most people realize. There’s No-Shave November (all month), National Men Make Dinner Day (November 3rd), National Donut Day (November 5th), the official birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps (November 10th), Veteran’s Day (November 11th), Mickey Mouse’s birthday (November 18th), The anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (November 19th) Black Friday (the last Friday of the month), Small Business Saturday (the last Saturday of the month) and College Football Rivalry Week including; Sunflower Showdown – Kansas vs. Kansas State, Iron Bowl – Auburn vs. Alabama, Civil War – Oregon vs. Oregon State, The Game – Michigan vs. Ohio State (Jim Harbaugh vs. Urban Meyer—should be awesome!), Duel in the Desert – Arizona vs. Arizona State, and The Jeweled Shillelagh – USC vs. Notre Dame. There is so much happening in this mid to late fall month that if I didn’t have so much leaf raking to do (thanks to the occasional galeforce winds), I might be able to enjoy more than just a delicious drumstick.  

Happy Thanksgiving.

Hire a Coach for Endurance Sport Training

At Tri-Active Endurance, I work with athletes of all levels, from Elite-level Ironman athletes, middle of the pack “age-groupers”, ultra runners, and those just coming off the couch in pursuit of their first 5k. Unique in their own right and each presenting a different set of strengths as well as challenges, they share a common bond: to be a little bit better today than they were yesterday.

GALWAY - SEPTEMBER 4: Unidentified athlets compete at first Edition of Galway Iron Man Triathlon on September 4, 2011 in Galway, IrelandAs a coach, my priority for my athletes and personal training clients is to help them not only meet, but exceed their goals in a manner that encourages them to take another bite of the apple while still maintaining their life’s primary obligations such as family and work. Oftentimes, age group athletes struggle with time management in this regard.

Over the years, I’ve learned that it is important to design a program that fits into an athlete’s lifestyle, versus falling into the trap of making their lifestyle fit into a training schedule. For serious “type A” personalities, this is often a struggle as priorities can become blurred when performance begins to increase. I have two absolute rules when it comes to training athletes. The first is: Family first. Period. This is non-negotiable. The second rule is: Give your best effort for that day at any given session.

I am also adamant that athletes know their “why.” When an athlete approaches me about coaching, I invite them to interview me and I, in turn, ask many questions, the most important of which is, “What’s your why?” If a person is not clear about why they have chosen to engage in the endurance and/or fitness world, they are more prone to struggle and perhaps will even give up on themselves during key and/or difficult sessions, leaving them to question their ability. I firmly believe we all have it inside, we just need to be clear about what our motivating factor is and make that work for us.

At Tri-Active Endurance, my philosophy is simple, and because of my background as a therapist/practitioner, I’ve found that I am able to help athletes be clear about their “why,” and keep the fire lit when necessary.

Performance means many things to different people. At the end of the day, it comes down to two things: It has to make sense to the individual (fit into the lifestyle), and it has to fit under the umbrella of overall health and wellness. I don’t think that sacrificing this for a single performance goal is sustainable, and for most, pursuit of endurance sports is much more than a one-off adventure, it a lifestyle that can give you more in return than you could have imagined.

Rob Reinhard welcomes you for a free consultation to discuss your triathlon, run, cycle, swim, endurance, or general fitness goals.

Tri-Active Endurance has a State-of-the-Art indoor cycling studio offering fully coached Computrainer sessions (using Perf Pro, Trainer Road, Zwift, & KICKr), coached group run workouts, 1:1 run video analysis ,Trueform running, individualized swim stroke video analysis and group swim sessions, TRX ,VIPr training, and more. Rob is USA Triathlon Certified, Ironman University Certified, eNRG Performance Institute Advisory Board Member, Metabolic Efficiency Testing Specialist, Level I (METS I), a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)and has an M.Ed Psychology. You can reach Rob at rob@triactiveendurance.com. Mention ALIVE Magazine and receive a free drop-in class.





Robert Reinhard, Owner, Head Coach

USA Triathlon Certified

Tri-Active Endurance, LLC

2221 Commerce Ave, Suite G

Concord, CA 94520

T 925-588-9219


“Reach Your Peak”


2017 Kia Cadenza

Upscale Comfort and Style!

Comfort, style and performance are the makings of what so many of us want in a sedan. We are not looking for a car that looks like the vehicle next door; instead, a car that makes the neighbors fill with envy. There are many options in the mid-size sedan class, yet in the large car category, there is only a handful. One make and model that is rising up on the charts is the 2017 Kia Cadenza.

2017 CadenzaKia created the Cadenza for their customers who longed for a vehicle that was slightly larger than their very successful mid-size Optima model. The Cadenza was originally launched in 2010 and remodeled in 2016. With the redesign, the Cadenza has grown in both wheelbase and width which results in a roomier cabin.

For 2017, the Cadenza is available in three flavors: Premium, Technology, and SXL. Underneath the hood is a revised version of Kia’s 3.3-liter V6 engine, which has been retuned for improved fuel economy.  With an estimated 290 hp on tap (about three horses less than last year), the engine sends power to the front wheels via Kia’s first FWD-based 8-speed automatic transmission.  

The newly-developed transmission is highly efficient, making up for the few clicks down in horsepower, and provides quick and crisp shifts for a more enjoyable driving experience.  Despite having two extra cogs, the 8-speed transmission, which was designed in-house, is lighter than the one in the outgoing model.

The styling of the 2017 Cadenza really stands out from its rivals with a single contour line that runs the full length of the car, helping to create a couple-like profile. The updated design incorporates Kia’s trademark quad-LED setup with the lower front grille. A walk-around of the vehicle has you taking notice of the sharp attention to style presented in all forms of lights, from the headlights to the taillights.

The interior is crafted for luxury, with high quality materials and high-tech features. Soft-touch interior surfaces, real stitching available (Nappa leather with quilted seat bolsters accented by diamond-shaped stitching) dresses up the Cadenza’s already-attractive cabin. The driver’s seat has been lowered for a sportier, more stable feeling, while engineers extended the seat cushion slightly and developed an innovative cushion extension mechanism that slides and rotates, making it easier for drivers to find their comfort zone behind the wheel.  The heating elements used for the seat warmers have been reengineered to more evenly distribute warmth, and as a Kia first, the seat heaters now utilize a smart control system to automatically lower the heater-operating mode after a certain period of time.

2017 CadenzaCool Features:

  • Heads Up Display which shows key driver information such as speed and turn-by-turn navigation directions on the windshield directly in the driver’s line of sight
  • Surround View that gives the driver a clearer birds-eye view of the area around the vehicle
  • Smart Trunk, which conveniently opens the trunk lid if the sensor detects the key fob for more than three seconds
  • Wireless smartphone charger
  • Available Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™

Safety on the 2017 Kia Cadenza is built upon a strong foundation with a body structure composed of more than 50 percent Advanced High Strength Steel. Cutting-edge driver assistance features include an Advanced Smart Cruise Control with stop-and-go functionality, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, and Lane Departure Warning.  Another Kia first is the Smart Blind Spot Detection System which senses unintentional drifting toward an adjacent vehicle and automatically brakes the opposite side front wheel to help maintain the vehicle’s intended course.

In Summary: The 2017 Kia Cadenza blends the features of a sports sedan with the comfort of a luxury sedan. It carries on the beautiful styling of its little brother, the Optima, while adding technology features found in more expensive vehicles. It is comfortable, handles well, and delivers the performance you need to propel a large vehicle. Kia has paid attention to what buyers want in styling, features and reliability. It is definitely worth placing the Cadenza on your list of purchases to make.


2017 Kia Cadenza SXL

Base price:                  Expected range: $32,000 – $44,000

Engine:                       3.3 Liter V6-cylinder DOHC

Horsepower:             290 @ 6,400 RPM

Torque:                       253 @ 5,200 RPM

Transmission:            8-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          FWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           37.2 feet

Cargo space:              16 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3633 pounds

Fuel capacity:             18.5 gallons     

EPA mileage:             City 20/Hwy 28

Wheel Base:                112.4 inches

Warranty:                   10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Buick La Cross, BMW 5 Series, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus,

                                      and Toyota Avalon


Giving Thanks

The holiday season kicks into high gear this month, commencing with a very special meal on Thursday, November 24. There are no greeting cards to mail or gifts to buy—we simply gather together for a higher purpose. That’s what makes this day an American favorite.

Whether hosting your own extravaganza or simply providing a potluck dish, Thanksgiving preparations generally abide by the “old school rule” to showcase California’s bounty. This is no time to go hunting in the frozen foods aisle of your supermarket to grab an icy bag of some ho-hum product manufactured in parts unknown. Memories are not made from frozen pumpkin pie. We are better than that.

To get the freshest and the best from neighboring counties, shopping at the Danville farmers’ market this month makes more sense than ever. It is also the most meaningful way to show gratitude to the people who grow the food we eat throughout the year.

The farmers’ market is about as low-tech as it gets, yet you are sure to find the best selection of must-haves for your holiday feast. As you explore your Inner Pilgrim, there are no massive carts to maneuver through crowded aisles. No empty shelves to aggravate you. No fluorescent lights to blind your eyes. And best of all, no Muzak to rattle your nerves.

There is a gamut of just-picked greens, and local olive oil for salads; sweet potatoes to bake; russet and Yukon Gold potatoes to mash; onions, celery, and artisan breads for homemade stuffing; Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, acorn squash, and plenty of other seasonal veggies for stellar side dishes; and freshly harvested walnuts and almonds to add crunch to everything from appetizers to desserts. For a touch of natural sweetness, look for local honey, plump raisins, and California dried apricots and cherries. All right there, in the crisp November air.

Circassian walnut isolated on white background

For those with dessert on the mind there’s a plethora of sugar pumpkins, as well as rosy pomegranates, fiery orange persimmons, creamy pears, and a rainbow of newly picked apples. For the aspiring home decorator (or very thoughtful guest), there is a staggering variety of Indian corn and gourds, along with locally-grown flowers, plants, and wreaths—fresh as can be, and often priced at a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere.

With all there is to do this time of year, advance prep is a must. I always like to keep some sort of nuts on hand to serve along with drinks, or to package in cellophane bags as a thoughtful gift for holiday hosts. Recipes for herbed, candied, or spiced nuts abound, but this one is my current favorite. (And judging from the number of times I’ve been asked for the recipe, others seem to like them, too.) These can be made well in advance, and—as an added bonus—smell wonderful as they bake.

The key here is to use fresh nuts—not some limp or rancid ones that have been languishing on a shelf for years. At the farmers’ market, rest assured you will buy only the latest snapping-fresh crop from California.

                                                         Spiced Praline Walnuts

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 tablespoons water

1 pound California walnut halves and pieces (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar*

1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a half-sheet pan with a silicone baking mat, parchment, or foil and spray with no-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and water until foamy.  Add the walnuts, stirring gently to coat well. Scrape the mixture into a colander in the sink and let drain for 5 minutes. Wipe the mixing bowl dry with paper towels.
  2. In the same bowl, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to blend. Add the walnuts and vanilla and toss to coat well.
  3. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring 3 or 4 times, until fragrant and nicely browned, about 30 minutes. (Watch carefully so they do not burn.) Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack. If any of the nuts are stuck together, carefully use a fork to separate them. Let the nuts cool completely. Serve at once, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. Makes about 4 cups.

* It is best to use only pure cane sugar here. Less expensive store brands are often blended with beet sugar that makes the caramelization process difficult, if not downright impossible.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!



Giving Thanks for Old Memories

The number of people who affect our lives can be quite large, although it will vary from person to person. Parents, siblings, other family members, clergy, teachers all contribute to whom we become in our adult lives.  Many change our lives, for better or worse, in such small increments that we may not even be aware of them. Often they too are unaware that they have initiated change in people they barely know, may have totally forgotten, or, indeed, never even met. 

Derelict old photographs being sold at an antique shop in Istanbul, indifferent memories.

I should like to pay homage to some who affected my life in ways that they probably never knew.

JIMMY GRIGGS:  Because Jimmy also would be in his mid-eighties and we have not seen each other for seventy plus years, I seriously doubt that he would remember me. While his contribution to my life was not a major life changer, it was important and perhaps even profound. I was small for my age in the pre-teen years, but Jimmy was even smaller. While I could outrun just about anyone and could use my sense of humor against just about everyone, Jimmy just had to act tough, so quite often he would chase me home after school, never catching me, but letting me know what would happen if he did catch me.

Third Street in Sunbury, PA, is an unusual street. The Pennsylvania Railroad (we called it “The Pennsy”)  tracks run through the middle of the street, southbound on the west or river side, and northbound of the east side, with sidewalks on either side of the tracks. Jimmy and I were twelve or thirteen and he was chasing me north on the east sidewalk when I decided I had had enough running. With no real plan of attack, I was neither fighter nor lover at twelve, I turned, made a stern face, held my clenched fists shoulder high, and started to move toward Jimmy. Drum rolls, organ music, and flashing colored lights are appropriate here because, you got it, Jimmy, my nemesis, turned and ran away from me.

He had taught me a lesson about bullies that I never forgot. Nor was I ever afraid of such people again. Better yet, never did I ever have to fight anyone.  Although my mouth occasionally got me into trouble, it never failed to bail me out from bullies. Thank you, Jimmy!

MRS. MADVIG:  Mrs. Madvig was my final senior semester English teacher at Washington High School in Los Angeles. She was, in my opinion, a fine teacher and person, so I did good work in her class. Doing good work in class was not my usual modus operandi. Indeed, I did not do much good or even poor work in most classes unless I liked the teacher and subject.  I, like many teens, was lazy, angry, sullen, withdrawn, and, unlike others, with a sharp sense of humor that was often mean spirited. I had just three interests: baseball, basketball, and looking at girls (while scared out of my wits that they might look back).

One day in class Mrs. M. had us do a read around of some work long forgotten. When we finished, she said, “Edwin, may I see you after class?”  When the bell rang, I went up to her desk where she said, “They are having auditions for a play in room 201 after school today. I think you should tryout.”  The guys would play ball without me that day while I “tried out.”  The play was an old-fashioned melodrama with two acts one hundred and fifty years apart, so only the vampire appeared in both acts.  Guess who got the part of the vampire?  Come on, guess! 

I not only got the part, but I found I could make people laugh without hurting anyone. I discovered the recognition as a person that I longed for.  Through my teacher’s simple request to try out, I found my lifelong passion.  For the next fifty years plus I studied theater, acted in well over fifty plays, compiled two readers theater full length plays, directed and produced many plays, and, most important, taught theater in high schools for eleven years and in universities for over thirty. Through Mrs. Madvig’s simple request, this poor, unfocused kid experienced a profound, life changing path that led to a productive, positive, and enjoyable life and career. I am sure she had no idea, but thank you, Mrs. Madvig, from the bottom of my cothurni!  (Look it up.)

STEVE ALLEN:  Mr. Allen and I never met or even corresponded. To the great star of television, I was just another of the tens of millions of dedicated, unknown fans. Yet he too, or his old radio program in Los Angeles, had a real and positive influence on my life, an influence that began long before he was a nationally known star.

In the spring of 1948 my parents and I were living in Carlsbad, California then a small village along the Southern California seacoast—not the fine, well populated resort it has become. I was seventeen and in my junior year at Oceanside-Carlsbad High School. One evening a buddy and I walked the two miles to Oceanside to see a movie. By the time the movie was over, we had some doughnuts, and walked back to Carlsbad, it was well after eleven o’clock.

When I entered our apartment, my father was sound asleep, but my mother was doing something strange in those pre-television days: staying up and listening to the radio. I, of course, asked what she was listening to and was surprised by her answer:  “This young guy claims to be a disc jockey, but he doesn’t play records. He plays the piano, interviews Hollywood celebrities plus the audience, and he is really, really funny.”  She was referring, of course, to a quite young, unknown except locally, Steve Allen, and his late night radio show “Breaking All Records.”  Both Mom and I, late risers and sleepers, became fans instantly and followed him through his rise to fame and success.

At that time Al Jolson reigned as the leading entertainer in the U.S. and probably the world. He appeared one night on Allen’s show, and in the course of the interview remarked that he had been to the Hollywood Ranch Market the night before and bought a bunch of bananas.  While it may not sound so astounding to adults who have experienced television and the internet virtually all their lives, it was a moment of wonder for a seventeen year old naïve and unworldly kid. AL JOLSON, A DEMI-GOD OF SHOW BUSINESS, WENT TO THE MARKET TO BUY BANANAS! He was an ordinary human being just like all the rest of us. Wow!

That summer my family moved to Los Angeles, I entered my senior year of high school, and discovered that on Friday nights Allen would fill the Jack Benny radio studio and do his show from there with a real audience. In high school and community college it become almost a pilgrimage after the Friday night football games to drive to Hollywood and be part of his audience. One night Allen had two young performers on the same show. The first was a radio actor who talked about the new police show that he was developing. His new program would show police life as it really was, not through romantic Private Investigators. The actor’s name was Jack Webb, and the show “Dragnet,” which soon radically changed the picture of police work on radio and television.  “All I want are the facts, Ma‘am.”

Allen then interviewed a young, rather small but highly energetic Black man who sang, played drums, tapped danced, and did imitations that were spot on.  The young man just was beginning to get a reputation in “the business.”  He and his father appeared with his uncle’s jazz band, The Will Mastin Trio. The father’s name was Sammy Davis, Senior.   (I wonder what ever happened to “Junior“?)  

If we take the insight that performers were simply people with special talents and combine it with the newly acquired passion I received from Mrs. Madvig’s simple request, one can easily understand the effect on an impressionable teenager, an impression that has lasted a lifetime. Thank you, Mrs. M.!  Thank you, Steverino!

BASEBALL:  Through the ups and downs of my life (thankfully a lot more ups than downs) my family and baseball remained the rocks and constants in my life. How can I say it?  I can’t. Instead, please listen to James Earle Jones’ speech before he ventures into the cornfield in “Field of Dreams.” He says it all, and with that unique voice.  (Sadly, we cannot capture that magnificent sound on paper.)

I give bundles of thanks to those listed above, to my family, and to the countless others who contributed to whatever constitutes the person known today as  “Edwin Cohen“.





Favorite Broadway Musicals

Sitting around with contemporaries over morning coffee leads to long discussions on matters in the distant past. This morning, for example, we discussed our favorite Broadway musicals. It is no surprise to anyone that we did not speak of “Hamilton” or “Book of Mormon.” No, we spoke of older chestnuts. Thankfully, modern audiences enjoy these shows too, since they are constantly restaged for modern audiences. Bet you, most of you will know these.

  1. My favorite is “My Fair Lady.” What song writing team wrote the music and lyrics for this timeless classic?
  1. My friend’s favorite is “Guys and Dolls.” I love it too. The words and music were crafted by a prolific tunesmith of movies, radio and stage. Who was he?
  1. “Gypsy” is another show that pops up every few years to feature veteran actresses who love playing Mama Rose. Who wrote the music and what young prodigy wrote the lyrics for this timeless score?
  1. Musicals of the 20s and 30s do not come around often, but “Anything Goes” is a delightful exception. Who was the composer of this great score?
  1. Rogers and Hammerstein are responsible for so many of the great musicals. The sources of the stories will vary greatly. “The King and I” is based on a movie of the late 40s. What was that movie?
  1. “The Music Man” was an original story that resulted in a great hit of the late 50s. The words and music were the brain work of a musician who had been better known as the backup band for a couple radio shows. Who was he?