A Personal Remembrance of Neil Armstrong

By my calculations, the moon rose in the earth’s heavens roughly 15,730 times from the time Neil Armstrong first set foot on its surface until he died on August 25th of this year.  During those 43 years, I’d often look up at night and spot the Sea of Tranquility. A momentary thought would form, reflecting that man had walked upon it and the universe seemed a whole lot “smaller” as a result. It made me feel comfortable somehow, and proud to be an American.

Like all baby boomers, my formative years revolved around two great opposing national agendas, which were flip sides of the same “Cold War” coin. One was the Vietnam War, which polarized the nation in dramatic and often violent ways. The other was the “space race to the moon,” a grand competition for world technological dominance over communism, which unified the nation.

From the NASA space program arose a new crop of national heroes called astronauts, leading the charge with ever more daring exploits. Of these larger-than-life space jockeys with the “right stuff,” Neil Armstrong clearly occupied the top spot. A former naval aviator and civilian test pilot, he was the first human to walk on a planetary body other than earth. Many members of my generation hailed him as an icon for the ages. In hindsight, much of this adulation was crafted by NASA to keep its programs funded. But Armstrong didn’t buy into the hero label one bit despite the constant media and public adulation.

Neil’s quiet dignity reflected his solid mid-western values. These were rooted in the Great Depression and World War II eras, when the survival of democracy was under tremendous pressure and Americans worked together to achieve success. He was humble but determined to find the answers he sought. He believed that education and hard work are the keys to personal happiness and professional success.  There was also a dash of pocket-protector geek in him plus a dab of calculated risk-taking when he thought the rewards outweighed the risks.

Neil was a diehard aviation enthusiast. His heroes were pioneers from the early days of American aviation such as the Wright Brothers and Jimmy Doolittle.  As a youngster, he was enthralled with flying, and took his first flight in a Ford Trimotor before he turned six. Armstrong earned his flight certificate at age 15, before he had an automobile driver’s license. He was active in the Boy Scouts, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Neil graduated from Purdue University in 1955 with a Bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering and later was awarded a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California.

Armstrong initially served his nation as a naval aviator during the Korean War, flying 78 missions from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Essex. After the war, his career blossomed as a civilian test pilot for NACA (the predecessor to NASA) in the 1950’s, including seven flights in the supersonic X-15.

Finally, in 1962, he was selected in the second group of NASA astronauts and the first civilian. In 1966, Neil flew his first space mission in Gemini 8 as the Command Pilot.  He demonstrated his coolness under pressure by making a safe emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean when the space craft suffered a major in-flight malfunction.

Of course, in 1969, he was the Commander of the epic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission and became the first human to walk on the moon’s surface. His extraordinary composure under difficult circumstances saved the mission. As the lunar module was descending into a boulder-strewn area, Neil manually took control of the ungainly craft and made a safe landing with only seconds of fuel to spare. Hundreds of millions of people around the world breathlessly watched TV on July 20, 1969 as the Eagle landed on the moon and Neil calmly set foot on its surface. We didn’t exhale until four days later when the spacecraft Columbia splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, and was recovered by the USS Hornet. He was overwhelmed by the outpouring of public demand for his presence.  Instead of embracing the trappings of wealth, he chose to become a college teacher.

My connection to Neil Armstrong begins with the USS Hornet Museum in 2008, while writing the book called Hornet Plus Three. I needed information that could only be provided by one of the astronauts inside the spacecraft as it descended into the earth’s atmosphere. I mailed a letter to Neil’s “generic” post office box in Lebanon, Ohio, seeking clarification on a specific issue about the Apollo 11 flight.

I waited many days for a reply, sometimes taking the mail directly from the hands of the postman. On May 6 (my 60th birthday), I turned my computer on in the morning and did a casual glance through the emails. Lo and behold – there was one from Neil Armstrong! I was as excited as a small child on Christmas morning and could hardly wait to open it:

“Hello Bob –

The recovery, from my point of view, went extremely well.  The command module had come to rest in the “stable 2” (inverted) position, so we had the experience of going through the procedure to bring it to an upright position.  Clancy and his gang did an excellent job of securing the CM, getting us safely out of the spacecraft, completing all the procedures for safeguarding earth from lunar pathogens, and getting us into the basket to be lifted up to the recovery helicopter. The helicopter gave us an excellent ride and smooth landing on the Hornet.  And the welcome by the Hornet and its crew, and the welcome by President Nixon, was memorable. We were convinced it had been a perfect recovery.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t remember that the return to Pearl was 2 and 1/2 days.  Dr. Carpentier took good care of us, the food and drink was excellent (compared to our rations during the flight) and we had a great deal of work to do (getting our thoughts recorded as preparation for all the post-flight debriefings for which we were obligated).

The quarantine (in Houston) was a necessary nuisance but valuable for providing an atmosphere conducive to completing all our post-flight paperwork and interaction with later Apollo flight crews, systems specialists, flight controllers, etc. The quarantine process, while a nuisance, provided us the opportunity to do the work that needed to be done.  In view of the intense public interest in the flight, that would have been very difficult without the quarantine requirement. And the quarantine was a constant reminder that Apollo 11 had been a success in reaching the national goal of landing men on the surface of the moon and returning them safely to earth.

All the best, Neil”

From that day on, Neil generously gave his time in helping me understand the flight and recovery issues of Apollo 11. He shared a significant amount of personal information, only asking that I respect his privacy and not give out his personal contact information. He even volunteered to write the foreword for the book, but pressing issues about new Orion spacecraft caused him to just write a cover blurb.

The highlight of my museum career came a year later, shortly before we launched the new book (with fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldin aboard the Hornet Museum) when I unexpectedly found this email in my inbox:

“Hi Bob – I returned to my office from some travel and found HORNET PLUS THREE awaiting. I must say, it is an exceptional job. And it fills a gaping hole in the Apollo history. Dick did a fine job on the foreword. Thanks for your tenacity and perseverance. Well done !! Neil”

Occasionally, our conversations would stray into other areas. This past May, the Hornet Museum was planning a major event to pay tribute to General Jimmy Doolittle and his Tokyo Raiders. I emailed Neil to see if he would like to make a contribution to our event guide. He immediately responded:

“Thanks, Bob – I had the great pleasure of knowing and working with General Doolittle. In addition to his many military achievements in war and peace, he was, in intellect, character, thoughtfulness and wisdom, also four star. He was, by any measure, a great American.  My best, Neil”

After numerous emails and telephone conversations over the years, I finally met him in person at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on Capitol Hill in November 2011. He was a humble and caring individual with a very sharp mind, a true “grass roots American” who sloughed off all the fame and celebrity that everyone wanted to heap on him. Even though he was surrounded by the rich and powerful in Washington, his face lit up when he saw the USS Hornet recovery team and stole away to have a private moment with us.

I am proud to say that Neil Armstrong remains one of my heroes. He will be held in high esteem throughout human history, not because he was a celebrity but because he was a great human being who dared to explore new horizons in the service of mankind.

Godspeed, Neil.

On the Set and Backstage Memories

If the man pictured with Pat Boone in the previous story looks a little familiar, he just may have sold you an ad. Joe Redmond had been a Northern California resident since 1979, and after 20 years as a motion picture exhibitor and distributor, he worked as an advertising representative, mostly in the East Bay. Joe represented publications in the Alamo / Danville area, including for the magazine you are now reading—ALIVE.

Joe considers working at ALIVE, some of the best years of his life. “It was exciting to see the start of what I believe is the region’s most unique and yet, perhaps, underrated publication.”  We asked Joe to tell us about his previous sojourn in the movie business:

“This is far from a success story, but I wouldn’t trade my starving days in the movie / theatre world for anything. The only modicum of success was in the 70’s when I was a film booker and publicist for a major theatre corporation.

My dad, Joe Redmond Jr. was the real item. After acquiring a movie contract with Paramount Pictures in the early 1940’s, he also acquired a contract with Uncle Sam–dad got his draft notice the same week, which ended his aspirations of becoming the next Bing Crosby or Dick Haymes. After the war, he returned to the Midwest Kansas City, Missouri, where after 20 years, he became Vice-President in charge of Advertising for Fox Midwest Theatre Corporation.

I was hooked on the movies for as long as I can remember. When dad came home from work, I would race to his brief case to find the latest trade magazines that featured the news of the film world. Comic books took second place to Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice Magazine. After two years of college, and at the ripe old age of 20, with the bewilderment of my parents, I took the train to Los Angeles with about $250 in my pocket, along with  a couple of letters of introduction to some film acquaintances my Dad knew. Amazingly, it worked, for within a few nervous weeks, I was gainfully employed.   I worked as assistant to the manager for the Alex and Glendale Theatre in Glendale and soon after part time in the publicity department at Warner Brothers in Burbank.

This was a real coup, for there was a waiting list a mile long for the lowest job there. An old buddy of my Dad’s worked in the advertising department and I got on. It paid practically nothing, but it was a job everyone wanted because it was at a movie studio.  Actors, particularly would sell there soul for it. My ambitions were never the performing end of the business—I wanted to be the guy that came up with the way to sell the movie, after it was made.

Working there was akin to being a page at NBC. I was trained to give tours (mostly the TV part of the studio) to visiting VIPs.  But in the short time that I was there, I encountered some people and experienced some things that I will remember all my life.

As I said, most of the tours I gave had to do with the television productions that were being shot at the studio. The major feature films being shot were on closed sets, not open to visitors and quite restricted. The TV shows I visited with my audience of ten or twelve, were delighted to watch such shows being filmed like ” 77 Sunset Strip ”  Maverick”  (sorry no James Garrner, as he had already departed from the series, but Jack Kelly was there as brother Bart), Hawaaian Eye, with a young Robert Conrad, (who I later ran into in a grocery store in Arnold, California where I reminded him of our first encounter almost 50 years ago). All of these shows are now pretty much forgotten, but some show up on TV Land, from time to time.

Some of the real gems that I did on my own were really something….and with-out being too dramatic, were kind of historical…like having ice cream and cake with a six year old named Ronny—the  future award winning director, Ron Howard, at a birthday party for director Morton Da Costs, on the set of The Music Man.

During the Thanksgiving holidays in 1960, I was sent from the Alex Theatre in Glendale do be the temporary assistant at the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre—Fox’s flagship theatre, and still today, Hollywood’s number one tourist attraction. Everyday was a joy for this star-stuck kid—a far cry from my routine duties in Glendale. Besides my regular assignments, I had to police the famous courtyard, with its constant flow of camera- carrying tourists.

The holiday attraction was a film called, “Let’s Make Love.” On the opening day of this attraction, for the first showing, I was asked to personally escort a very nondescript woman to a seat in the back of the theatre. I was told, at the risk of losing my job, not to breathe a word of who she was. I had no idea of who she was! It turned out that the woman was, none other than…Marilyn Monroe—with no make up, wearing denim overalls and scarf around her head. She hadn’t seen the picture she was the star of. It was the second to last movie she ever made.

On The Music Man sound stage, I watched Buddy Hackett, in rehearsal clothes, do the SHopoopie number, and Robert Preston and Shirley Jones in the cake walk dances. Best of all was two weeks later from a great vantage point , I actually watched the filming of the Seventy-Six Trombone-Parade.

During my time at the studio, I saw quite a few films being shot, but it’s very true it’s almost boring to spend anytime watching what’s taking place—first you don’t know what they’re doing and everything takes hours. One of the films I do remember was a highly publicized movie from a best selling book. It was called The Chapman Report. It had an all-star cast: Jane Fonda (then only 22years old), Shelley Winters, Claire Bloom, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and a slew of other well known people. Well, this all-star classic was so bad, to this day, no one will dare show it on television. I met practically everyone in it.  If it was any good, I’d be bragging about it today…come to think about it, I guess I am!

Because I now came into contact with a lot of people that worked in the industry, I was able to attend parties—not exactly the ones for the rich and famous, but fun to be sure.  I wrote home that I was hob-nobbing with the stars.  My mother responded by telling me to behave and stay away from wild parties. In reality, they were pretty tame, but exciting none-the-less. This was the early 60s, and pretty much before the sexual revolution (as they say), and drugs was not the norm The parties were on the week-ends and in apartments in the Hollywood hills and off Santa Monica and Sunset Blvd.

I pretty much met the ‘second tier’ of film people in the business. Some of the people I remember have maintained a career, even up to today. Most everyone was usually on their best behavior, because if they were working they had to be up at the crack of dawn.

I met people that only film buffs might be familiar with, and they would all be over 50 years old today—no superstars, but established actors, like, Jim Hutton (father of Timothy), John Saxon, Connie Stevens,  Dalores Hart (now, not only a nun, but a Mother Superior), Michael Callan, Fabian (Fabian Forte—then an Elvis hopeful), Duane Hickman (Dobie Gillis ), Nick Adams and many more. I’ll never forget talking to Johnny Mathis, in somebody’s kitchen—probably the most famous person at this particular party and too shy to go and mix with the other guests

When fate had me back in the mid-west, I was employed as a film booker for National General Theatres (formerly Fox). Oddly enough, I dealt with more film stars in Kansas City, Missouri, than all the time I spent in southern California. As a part of the film department, one of my duties was to take care of movie executives and celebrities at the theatre owners’ conventions. In Kansas City, at a convention called Show-A-Rama (today it’s known a s the National Theatre Owners Convention—NATO) the most popular motion picture stars receive awards voted by the theatre owners—the most promising new-comers, tributes to veteran luminaries, and most important, the male and female “Star of the Year.”

My duties at the conventions were to baby-sit, or better stated, see to the needs of the vip’s and celebrities, facilitate interviews (radio and television) and transport them from airport to hotels, etc.  It was at such conventions that I handled stars with which, even after 40 some years, most young people today would be familiar with. From the mid to late 60’s, I worked many of these events that put me with some of the biggest stars of the day.  Some were a bit difficult and a few were out and out stinkers, but for the most part, I met some terrific people that made it to the top of their profession.

Jack Lemmon was one of the ‘Star of the Year” recipients that stands out. Of all the big names I met, he, along with Pat Boone who I was with recently, are definitely two of the nicest. To use a line from Lemmon’s classic, “Some Like It Hot,” ‘Isn’t he a little bit of Terrific?’ Lemmon didn’t want people to make a fuss over him and seemed genuinely apologetic when people were nervous meeting him.

One year, I worked with Shirley MacLaine and at first was very intimidated because I heard she was a bit difficult and demanding, but after a few awkward hours, she turned out to be very nice and a lot of fun. Being very young, I was a little nervous around her, but she was very funny and candid and told some stories that were very surprising, like the fact that Dean Martin was more the family man and Jerry Lewis, was the real ‘ladies man.’  She even invited me to tag along with her entourage, to go see jazz great, Betty Carter, who was appearing locally.

The beautiful Natalie Wood, was sort of an enigma—shy and quiet, extremely polite and not a bit animated like some of her film roles. She was very sweet, but also kind of distant.

I then spent some time running guns in Ethiopia, fought in the Spanish Civil War, on the losing side…WAIT A MINUTE, that’s not me! I didn’t do that! That’s Casablanca!

Sorry, I’ve seen way too many movies.

Joe and America’s Sweetheart

If anyone was to ask me what was my most memorable time working and assisting the stars, it would have to be being assigned to take care of, at the time—America’s Sweetheart—Miss Debbie Reynolds.

In 1967 the ‘Star of the Year’ was Miss Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds was already a film veteran of over 15 years in Hollywood and most recently an Oscar nominee for one of her signature films, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

The convention always lasts from Monday morning to closing ceremonies on Thursday afternoon. Reynolds was scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning and was originally scheduled to receive her award that evening at the Muehlebach Hotel’s banquet ballroom.

Somebody goofed up the agenda, big time, and the Wednesday evening banquet had such a full program that the Reynolds ‘Star of the Year’ ceremony was pushed back and now scheduled for the following day at the closing luncheon. The film company, Columbia Pictures, and the people representing the film that Reynolds was there to promote were livid—upset that they and Miss Reynolds were stuck in Kansas City a full 24 hours, before the presentation. Everyone was mad—everyone, that is, but Debbie Reynolds. Professional that she was, she told everyone to cool it, and stated, “Hell, I’ve never seen Kansas City before.”

I was scheduled to pick up various film people as early as seven in the morning that Wednesday, and after picking up Mike Frankovich, then president of Columbia Pictures and depositing him at The Muelbach Hotel, I was then told to pick up the Reynolds party at the airport next, which I did.  It was when they arrived at the hotel that they learned of the one-day-early mistake.

I thought that was the end of my participation with the Reynolds situation,  but no,  the frantic convention people passed the buck, and wanting to distance themselves from the problem, simply said, “Have Joe Redmond entertain Debbie Reynolds, what else can we do?”

When I was informed of what they wanted me to do, I said, “Sure,” but in reality, I was scared to death. At the time, I was pretty capable in my work, but I was very young, star- struck and naïve—to put it mildly, I was petrified. What was I to do?

Among the Reynolds’ entourage was an advertising man from Columbia Pictures, (the film being promoted was, Divorce American Style, co-starring Dick Van Dyke), along with Reynolds and thankfully for me, and a celebrity in his own right, Sidney Guilaroff, MGM’s chief hair stylist, who was there as a traveling companion to Debbie (they were close friends).

As it turned out, Sidney Guilaroff was an antique and history buff and fascinated with the architecture and buildings in the Midwest. This was my hook. I took that knowledge and ran with it. So not knowing what I was really doing, and certainly making it up as I went along, I drove the party to every antique store I could think of, and toured Kansas City’s most attractive real estate (after Paris, believe it or not, it’s called the Second City of Fountains), and also a trip to the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

Being a native of KC, I was able to pull this off and they must have thought I knew what I was doing because they were genuinely interested and told me no one had ever done this for them before. Most of the time there was laughter coming from the back of the Cadillac all afternoon. I was either very entertaining or so odd that this was all very amusing for them. I like to think it was the former.  I’ll never forget the reaction of so many Missouri retailers when we walked in to all the places with ‘Tammy’ herself.

After returning to the hotel, some three or four later, I said good-bye and thought I had done my duty.  Exhausted, but at the same time a bit exhilarated, I planned to relax and enjoy the convention with my wife, who was there as a guest. Flash forward to 7:30 pm.  I’m sitting at a table, preparing to have dinner along with a ballroom full of people, waiting for the evening’s entertainment and the Wednesday banquet, I referred to earlier.

All of a sudden, I heard my name being paged to go to the convention headquarters table.

Debbie Reynolds and party were about to leave for dinner at Kansas City’s most elegant restaurant, Putch’s 210, on the Country Club Plaza. I was informed that she (Debbie), would not go unless ‘that nice young man’ would drive them and dines with them. I went back to my banquet table, and a little dazed, say good-bye to my wife and friends, and returned to the lobby to leave for the restaurant. Then Debbie said to me, ‘Where’s your wife you’ve been talking about so much?  What’s wrong with you? Go right back and get her!’

So, my wife now retrieved, we piled into the limo and were on our way to dinner with Debbie and company. After driving for about 10 minutes from downtown…I’m out of gas. Oh no! Incredible as it seems now, I ran out of gas right in front of a service station. With the help of an attendant, I proceeded to get some gas—I was only a few feet from the pump. After this near disaster, there was again more laughter from the back seat, and again, Debbie was as sweet as can be. A few years later, Debbie was to make a movie with James Garner called, ‘How Sweet It Is.’ It should have been called ‘How Sweet She Is.’ We arrived at the restaurant and I recovered a bit of my wounded dignity by having the violinist at the establishment, play us in to the strains of the song ‘Tammy’ –a little corny, to be sure, but it worked.

After a wonderful meal, wine and laughing, of course, (Debbie even danced to ‘Zorba the Greek’) with the amazing coincidence that she and my wife, Annette, had the same gym teacher in high school in Burbank and who was also married to a friend of hers. This coincidence made the evening even more memorable.

Over the years when I was near a Debbie Reynolds appearance, whether in Las Vegas or other venues, I’ve wanted to try and see her and possibly visit. She has appeared in places close to me, but I never got the chance to make the event. I never got the chance, that is until recently, when I got my ‘second date’ with Debbie.

She was in Omaha last year for a showing of one of her milestone films, ‘Singing in the Rain.’  We had that visit and she certainly remembered that ‘nice young man who ran out of gas,” so many years ago in Kansas City, Missouri.

As far as I’m concerned she’s still “America’s Sweetheart”.

Washington Welcomed Tri-Valley Winners to Bath Ruth World Series

The Tri-Valley Babe Ruth 13-year olds are still reeling from the All-star Baseball team’s incredible winning streak through the Northern California Pacific Southwest Regionals, and the World Series Championship. Under the guidance of Manager Sean Venezia and Coaches Rick Fryer and Todd Moore, the team competed in the Babe Ruth World Series in Washington.

Adhering to the Babe Ruth League prerequisite since 1961, 120 boys from nine regional teams spent the week with local host families. As guests in local homes, it added a new dimension for the boys; banqueting at the Suquamish Indian Reservation, a Naval Museum visit and a Mariners game. Some went fishing in saltwater Puget Sound, rich with giant crab and salmon.

The first night kick-off of the Babe Ruth World Series started with a parade in host city Poulsbo. The grand marshal was Jim Lefebvre, former Dodgers 1965 National League Rookie of the Year, and Seattle Mariner and Chicago Cubs manager.

The champion baseball teams were presented at the World Series opening ceremonies, attended by dignitaries and U.S. Navy personnel. Planes flew overhead, and skydivers with red-white-and-blue parachutes delivered the game balls to the Gene Lobe Field. It was an exciting start to a week of the best of the best youth baseball.

The Babe Ruth League founded in 1951 in Trenton, New Jersey, was sanctioned by Claire Ruth herself. “Babe Ruth loved children and baseball; my late husband could receive no greater tribute than lend his name to a youth baseball program…”

Nationally, the league has about a million players on over 56,000 teams. Among the Babe Ruth League’s star alumni are; Nolan Ryan, Mike Trout and Alamo’s Joe Morgan. Tri-Valley Babe Ruth alumni include SF Giant’s shortstop Brandon Crawford, and two 2012 First Round Major League draft picks; Mark Appel and Stephen Piscotty.

The Tri-Valley Babe Ruth League was formed in 1990 with Dublin’s Camp Parks as home field, and has earned national recognition with ten World Series appearances and five World Series Championships.

This year the TVBR 13YO lineup boasts some of the league’s best players from Pleasanton National and Foothill, San Ramon, Tassajara, and includes several Danville Little League All-Stars who clinched the Nor-Cal Championships two years in a row. The 2012 World Series players are Dante Albanese, Ryan Bowman, James Cowick, Jared Dawson, Clark Eder, Jack Fryer, Darroch Koel, Jack Maloon, Max Moore, Jack Morgan, Matt Neswick, Josh Ott, Saiki Roy, Nicholas Venezia and Nathan White.

The team’s streak took them all the way to the Washington World Series Semi-Finals, before being knocked out by Greenville, North Carolina, who in turn yielded the championship to the Bryant, Arkansas team. The Tri-Valley All-stars are champs; they are our Boys of Summer.

Are You a “Highly Sensitive Person”?

When it comes to being in an environment with loud noises, strong scents, or bright lights…are you sensitive? Furthermore, do you feel overwhelmed and frazzled when you have too much to do—in a limited amount of time? In a school setting or at work, do you have difficulty performing while being watched?
If so, then you may benefit from learning more about the traits of a “highly sensitive person” (HSP). Psychologist Dr. Elaine N. Aron coined the term “highly sensitive person” in 1996. Since then, she has written four books on this fascinating topic (she’s a “highly sensitive person” herself).

According to Dr. Aron, and other clinical researchers, about a fifth of the population are highly sensitive people who process “sensory data”—sounds, sights, smells, and physical sensations—deeply and thoroughly. As a result, the thorough sensory data processing style of HSPs may trigger over-stimulation of the nervous system…that can lead to stressful feelings of overwhelm.
Now, on the other hand, there are plenty of positive traits that result from being an HSP. For example, “highly sensitive people” are often:

  • Creative
  • Intelligent
  • Intuitive & empathic
  • Deep “thinkers” & “feelers”

Okay, now that I’ve accentuated numerous positive traits of HSPs, I’ll admit that I am a “highly sensitive person.” Yep, I found out that I shared many of the associated traits when I attended one of Dr. Aron’s lectures and book-signing events back in the nineties.

Meanwhile, in a world that appears to thrive more and more on intensity — it’s important to maintain balance. It’s vital that HSPs have access to “self-care tools.” For example, planning ahead regarding how to handle sensory-intense situations and to protect themselves from feeling over-stimulated by their surroundings …is important for HSPs.

~ Three TIPS for “Highly Sensitive People” ~

  1. When in Large Groups—Take Frequent Breaks                                                                                                                                                         Because HSP nervous systems are prone to hyper-arousal in groups—due to high levels of sensory stimulation—a short break can be a good self-care strategy. For instance, a “bathroom break” is an opportunity for HSPs to not only use the facilities, but also to splash cool water on their faces, and relax by taking slow, deep breaths. Bringing their focus back to themselves (and the present moment) in a less-stimulating environment is one great way to momentarily… retreat and recharge!
  2. Divide Large Tasks into Small Steps                                                                                                                                                                                        To avoid feeling overwhelmed by a long “To-Do” list, HSPs should divide large tasks into small steps. Then, they can prioritize the asks. To make the tasks even more manageable, they can create two separate lists. Next, they should focus only on the first list and take small steps to achieve completion of each task. Whittling down one manageable “To-Do” list at a time may help the HSP avoid a stress-induced “freeze response” (aka: “analysis paralysis”). That way, productivity and personal satisfaction…will keep flowing.
  3. Carry a Pair of Earplugs*                                                                                                                                                                                                          HSPs often feel stress-levels rise when they are in noisy environments. So, carrying a pair of earplugs is another great “self-care” strategy. For example, at movie theatres or live concerts, sometimes the high-tech sound systems are turned up to a volume that’s “a bit too much” for an HSP’s ears. That’s when reaching for a pair of foam earplugs can be a blessing. Adjusting the foam inside the ears can help to control how much sound is received. As a result, HSPs can “dial down” auditory intensity…and “dial up” enjoyment!

Finally, due to sharing the gifts—and the challenges—of being a “highly sensitive person,” I have lots of great tools to offer my clients. If you resonate with the HSP traits that I’ve described, then, feel free to call me…and strengthen your important “self-care” strategies.
*Foam earplugs housed in a handy carrying case (on a keychain) are available online from a company called Flents: Key’p It Quiet.
Join Trina and attend her Walnut Creek workshop for women and men: Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating—John Muir Women’s Health Center: Wednesday, October 17, 6:30-8:30 pm. Cost: $40. Seats are limited—register today for this inspiring workshop: (925) 941-7900 option 3. For more info, go to www.TrinaSwerdlow.com & click on “Private Sessions & Workshops.”
Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal. She currently has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.

Opportunity in Emerging Markets

I believe that investors would be well served to continue to hold and add to emerging market positions for the long term. The reward may not come overnight, but in my opinion, emerging market equities appear to be undervalued and provide a very attractive risk-return profile for patient investors. This guidance does require a leap of faith and a willingness to be temporarily wrong. After all, economic growth rates in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies have certainly cooled and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has continued to under perform the S&P 500 Index so far this year.1

This recent slowdown and underperformance has created an opportunity. Much of the economic slowdown in developing nations has been as a result of policy tightening in an intentional response to inflationary pressures. While rates here at home have remained historically low, many emerging markets were raising rates the last couple years. Now we are starting to see this trend reverse. Since the beginning of this year Brazil, India, and China have cut interest rates. This trend is not just in the BRIC nations. At least 17 other emerging markets have cut rates in 2012, from larger economies like Chile and Indonesia, to smaller economies like Kazakhstan and the Philippines.2

So what could go wrong? It will take time for this policy stimulus to work through these economies. There is always a lag between interest rates cuts and an economic pickup. In the meantime, we also have the risk of an overall global business slowdown, a distinct possibility right now. And of course there is Europe, where continued progress on their debt crisis will need to be made before investors regain an appetite for riskier assets like emerging market stocks. Never a shortage of things to worry about … and I did not even mention our pending elections and the looming “fiscal cliff.”

Despite these concerns there is much to be positive about. Growth in many emerging markets continues to outpace that of the developed world. We are also seeing a significant structural change in emerging market economies. This is especially evident in China. Many emerging markets are increasingly shifting economic growth away from exports to the developed world and into internal demand and trade with other emerging markets. The market volatility we have seen lately, especially in response to the Eurozone crisis, has driven emerging market valuations to well below their historical averages. An attractive opportunity may well be at hand in emerging markets. Forward looking, long term, and most importantly, patient investors have a chance to build exposure to this dynamic asset class while it is on sale… and who doesn’t like a sale?

  1. Cetera Financial Group, Dailey Market Briefing, 9-10-1
  2. Oppenheimer Funds, Capital Markets Quarterly Market Outlook, Q3 2012

 Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and a principal of Walnut Creek Wealth Management. Opinions expressed are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. 

 All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results. Additional risks are associated with international investing, such as currency fluctuations, Political and economic stability and differences in accounting standards. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP®. Your comments are welcome. Damien can be reached at 925-280-1800 x101 or Damien@WalnutCreekWealth.com.

Designing for the Little Ones

One of the most exciting parts of having a new baby is decorating his or her room in anticipation for the big homecoming day. Designing children’s rooms has become more than just picking pink or blue paint and calling it a day. This will be a room where your child’s imagination and mind will grow quickly. With the help from a designer, your child’s room will become a place where you both can learn and explore together.

Theme rooms are great and can be started with newborns. Boys can delve into the wonders of the ocean or jungle with the help of murals, stuffed animals, vibrant paints, and fun fabrics. Disney Princesses or a floral garden for girls can include colorful wallpaper, decorative light fixtures, plush fabrics, and rugs.

Life stages progress quickly and an extravagantly themed room can be easily converted into a playtime getaway for growing children by simply changing the paint or wall coverings. Rugs have an added benefit of providing warmth and interest while protecting floors from toys! Bedding will need to be added with the introduction of a new bed and can stay until the child is in their early teens.

A child’s room needs to be able to adapt from a crib to big boy or girl bed with a few easy changes. Window treatments can go from fun and themed to simple and sophisticated by adding panels, without having to change the hardware. A comfortable rocking chair is the most important, aside from the crib. The crib should be both fun and functional; for example, heightened corner posts for a princess or castle themed room, or fish and seaweed painted on the rails for an underwater feel. The changing table will coordinate with the crib and can also serve as a dresser or other storage unit.

Turn Back the Clock to a More Youthful, Fit You

Even in the “olden days” people wanted to stay young. In 1513, legend has it that Ponce de León landed in what is now Florida, searching for the fountain of youth. The Spaniard had no luck finding the restorative waters, but his name is forever associated with the quest for youth and longevity. In modern times we are seemingly all Ponce de Leóns- seekers of youth who spend crazy money on creams and plastic surgery and antioxidant packed beverages. We are looking in the wrong place.

One of the best ways to get a body that can hold out against the nastiest side effects of aging is not found in a jar or on a table. It’s being active and maintaining lean muscle tissue. Koko Smartraining will help you feel like you’ve turned back the clock by building and maintaining the muscle that slows down the effects of time on your body.

You might not want to hear it, but here are some cold, hard facts about your aging body:

If you aren’t doing something about it, your body loses a half a pound of lean muscle tissue every year after the age of 25.  Your body is losing its most critical mass. Rapidly. This is bad. Lean muscle tissue is what keeps your metabolism high, burning lots of calories, keeping your weight under control and giving you strength and energy to go about your life.

The good news is that with strength training, you can turn back the clock. You can gain back what you’ve lost and rev up that sluggish metabolism. You can also build more lean muscle tissue than you’ve lost. A 60 year old man with the same muscle mass as an average 25 year-old, will have the metabolism of an average 25 year old. Isn’t that incredible? Three 30 minute trips on the Koko Smartrainer each week, consistently, is all it takes. All it takes to turn back the clock

Koko FitClub Danville is owned and operated by Val and Mike Rogers, local Danville residents. Koko FitClub is conveniently located in downtown Danville at the Iron Horse Trail Crossing.

I’ll Have What He’s Having: Pho

Allow me a moment to appropriately generalize: As Americans we love Asian Culture foods, and for very good reason. Tradition and trends prove my point. In the late 80’s Chinese restaurants dotted the Tri Valley like Starbucks do today, and in the 2000s Sushi establishments became more common than the cold. What I have found that I feel better after a good Asian meal. You know that “better full” rather than the “red-meat covered in gravy” full.

Lately, a new trend has arisen. Like many other wonderful trends, it came on subtly until our eyes and minds were forced to recognize the fact that there sure were a lot of Pho places opening, and oh yeah, what is Pho?

Simply put, Pho is Vietnamese noodle bowl. A simple concoction of the freshest possible ingredients submerged in a broth that takes forever to make. I say “forever” because these recipes, like so many other traditional recipes, have been handed down from generation to generation. In some cases they have outlasted even family names, surviving as a treasured heirloom.

I have been partaking of this “death-row” meal for the past ten years and am only able to properly write about it after returning from Vietnam earlier last month. My only reference of this holy bowl of goodness came from American soil and not the “real deal.” Sure I had my favorite place to get it (once a week) but until last month I didn’t realize that Pho Saigon is the “real deal”.

They have taken the often street side in Vietnam prepared dish and reproduced it perfectly for all of us to enjoy at tables and booths! The separation in the broth left in the bowl of tiny fatty oil bubbles and the dark cloudy liquid that screams of time, love and flavor properly allow me to now know, this is real. This came from Vietnam.

So here is the presentation: I order a number seven. Number seven is simply rare brisket, tripe, and tendon. Please note that you do not have to go the way of organ meats; it’s just highly recommended. Brisket and beef or chicken is a very valid option for the less than adventurous.

The bowl comes quickly with your cloudy, seasoned, piping-hot broth, filled with rice noodles and your meat selection. The point is that the broth is so hot, it cooks your meat. Brilliant in its simplicity. The coup de grâce is the plate of fresh—very fresh—veggies. Sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, jalapenos and lime wedges arrive with the bowl for your adding pleasure.

The set-up, to be done in the lengthy five minutes you wait for your food, is your place setting. A shallow cup of Sriracha Hot Sauce and Hoisin Sauce with the consistency of molasses, lie in wait next to your Asian soup spoon and chopsticks to be loaded up per bite.

The magical thing about Pho is that it is the cure to what ails you. Need to scrape the wool off your tongue from a late night previous, or stop a head cold at first symptoms? You need Pho!

I have been to many Pho places since my addiction began, but have yet to find anything as complete and authentic than Pho Saigon. Located in Walnut Creek and Dublin and the recently added Ipho (cute) in Danville, they offer plenty of opportunity to indulge. The key is to not be afraid of new things. They are very customer oriented and ready to teach the novice how to consume this treasure.

There are only a couple of places we go on a regular basis and Pho Saigon on 11560 Newell Ave in Walnut Creek is one one of them.

If you really want what I’m having, you can start with Pho.



Why Do I Have Every Thyroid Symptom if My Lab Tests are Normal?

Thyroid hormone is a major player in our health and in determining how we feel in general. It turns out that not only is it important in our overall function, but according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), about 1 in 8 women from 35 to 65 years of age has low thyroid function, as does 1 in 5 over 65. What’s more, this is the tip of the iceberg because about half of the 13 million Americans who have a thyroid disorder don’t know it.

If you have hypothyroidism and are taking a prescription for thyroid hormone, it may not be enough or the right kind of treatment to actually keep your symptoms at bay. Unfortunately, in traditional western medicine there are no treatment options beyond thyroid replacement. If you are still having thyroid symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, hair loss, brain fog, and constipation, then your only option is to take additional drugs for each and every symptom.  This could include antidepressants, sleeping pills and stool softeners that don’t add to your well-being, and certainly don’t do anything to improve the function of your thyroid.

Everything in the body affects everything else. In order to properly treat and manage any chronically sick or ill patient you must look at EVERYTHING, all at once. I have low thyroid myself, and know that to effectively manage your ‘thyroid’ condition we have to look at the entire body. We call this a whole-person functional approach. There’s a night and day difference between treating a symptom, or a diagnosis, and treating the PERSON. Treating the person requires understanding the whole body — the brain & nervous system, the immune system, gastrointestinal system, hormones.

Thyroid related illnesses are more often than not diagnosed and treated in a simplistic fashion. For instance, the number one cause of low thyroid function in the United States is “Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroid.” Yet, this is rarely the correct focus by your primary doctor. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune problem, and it’s not a thyroid specific issue, in that the thyroid is not functioning because it is sick, but the immune system is overactive and attacks the thyroid, slowly destroying it cell by cell over time. No thyroid medication will do anything for this attack. If you address the autoimmune side of things as well as support the thyroid gland you can really feel good again. With autoimmune thyroid we support the immune system and the organs that function with the thyroid. That is why we test extensively to see if, for instance, you have an autoimmune condition (thyroid antibodies) or if your gut function is faulty (Gastrointestinal ecology profile), or if the adrenal glands are producing enough cortisol or DHEA hormone (Adrenal Salivary Index) or if glucose levels are surging (Fasting glucose and Hemoglobin A1c) and if liver function is up to par (liver enzyme blood tests). All of these will significantly affect your thyroid function. Commonly, the nervous system is eventually affected and we’ll do neurological testing and Brain Based Therapy (BBT) to address brain fog, balance disorders or decreased memory.

Rarely is the thyroid gland and thyroid metabolic physiology understood to clinically assess complete thyroid dysfunction. In today’s five-minute-doctor-visit-world, and with the insufficient thyroid panels that have become “standard”, the underlying cause of thyroid dysfunction is ignored or simply dismissed. Since the thyroid gland is connected to so many other systems like gastrointestinal dysfunction, immune function, adrenal hormone metabolism, stomach acid production, brain chemistry changes, and liver detoxification, its dysfunction can contribute to clinical symptoms throughout the body. These must all be addressed to lead to significant lasting improvement.


Dr. Don Davis, D.C., DACNB is a BOARD CERTIFIED CHIROPRACTIC NEUROLOGIST in Walnut Creek.  He has been serving individuals with chronic pain for 30 years. For information about how you can get a free consultation with Dr. Davis, call (925) 279-4324 (HEAL).  Visit us at WalnutCreekHealth.com or WalnutCreekThyroidInstitute.com

Blood Alkalinity Can Change Your Life

Eating and breathing are basic functions. Everyone knows that. As it turns out, the two best ways to control your blood alkalinity, and therefore your health, are proper diet and proper breathing.

The Nobel Prize was awarded to Dr. Otto Warburg in 1931 for discovering that acid blood could be one of the major causes of cancer. He also found that low blood oxygen also caused cancer. Low oxygen and acid blood go hand in hand. Dr. Colon Dong more recently found that other diseases could be related to blood pH and developed a diet that arrested arthritis and went on to control diabetes. Dr. Dong was responsible for arresting more than 10,000 cases of arthritis with diet alone.

A terrific way to maintain proper blood chemistry is through proper breathing. Occasionally obese patients and chronic pain patients will acquire a habit of breathing in their chest. You can even see them raise their shoulders as they inhale. The result of this practice is a decrease in the level of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is, among other things, responsible for three very important functions.

First, the production of bicarbonates which contribute to the alkalinity of the blood; second, the control of breathing by stimulating the carotid sinuses; and third, the stimulation of the release of oxygen from the hemoglobin which is the major source of oxygen. If you have ever experienced altitude sickness and corrected it by breathing into a bag, you just had a demonstration of increasing the carbon dioxide to stimulate the release of oxygen.

Of course, doctors must appraise patients holistically. When was the last time a professional checked your breathing or your diet? I mean really checked? Just these two factors alone can severely affect your health and address symptoms that are usually covered with prescriptions. A holistic exam will address your blood alkalinity, or pH, and it turns out that there are two major ways of controlling your blood alkalinity, diet and proper breathing.

Recently I wrote a column on the Paleo Diet. Properly done this is the perfect alkaline diet. The Alkaline diet, requires a minimal intake of foods that contain high levels of protein (meat), dairy, grains (gluten) and sugar, plus no processed (read convenience) foods.

If you would like to grow the most magnificent cancer, first get your blood acid up (your jewelry will tell you when your skin turns black under copper or silver). Eat a lot of carbohydrate and sugar (cancer loves sugar as well as the bacteria love it as they use up any oxygen in their area). Remember low oxygen causes cancer.

Now you are ready. All you have to do is smoke, eat fried foods in bad oil or get exposed to radiation (if you are really good at bad eating, the sun is enough). If cancer were caused by the sun alone, we would not be here. It’s diet!

Now, if you would prefer to avoid cancer, here are a few suggestions to include in your meals: vegetables like artichokes, cabbage, carrots, kale, celery, spinach, garlic and onions, plus fruits like avocado, peaches, lemons, grapes, grapefruit, melons, berries and apples. You can also add nuts and seeds; sesame, flax, lentils, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Fats and oils like olive oil, flax seed oil, and coconut oil will help improve your blood. Drinks should primarily consist of water, soy milk, almond milk, vegetable juice, grapefruit juice and herbal tea.

You can go on the Internet for more alkaline diet suggestions. By the way, while you are there you will find the typical pill pushers and alkaline water pushers who create alkaline blood while leaving out the nutrition and the anti aging as well as health benefits. Ignore those people. If you already have cancer, hyper oxygenated water and alkaline water could help enhance your chemotherapy. The more advanced clinics are aware of this and do much more.

One of my practices is dedicated to helping patients out of head and neck pain. I have experienced it myself before I changed my habits. I find so much enjoyment giving my patients their life back. When they follow all my instructions the rewards are incredible. In my own case I was a very athletic young man suffering many broken bones with the resulting arthritis. When I corrected my nutrition everything changed. I would never go back. And you can have the same results if you receive holistic care and are disciplined with your diet and pay attention to your breathing.

Robert Brown, DDS has a TMJ and sleep apnea practice in Danville and thoroughly enjoys discussing holistic medicine. You can contact him at 925-837-8048, at info@aodtc.com, or visit his web site at www.aodtc.com.