Blame it on Baskin Robbins

Blame it on Baskin Robbins

I am sure that having way too many choices began in my favorite ice cream store as a teenager. I suspect you have all had the experience of waiting behind three teenagers who had to try 11 flavors with the little spoon, before they settled in on Triple Chocolate Banana Walnut Fudge Ripple.

Sometimes over—choice is no choice at all. I yearn for the TV days of three networks. Now on my cable TV, I have 600–some choices and I use only about five. Probably once a week, a family member or friend will say, “Are you watching ‘Ted Lasso’, or ‘Succession’or perhaps the 56 episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’? Again I will say “over—choice is no choice at all”. LALALALALALALALALALALALALA….

Today I went with a friend to Parlor Doughnuts, which is now the third business to make a run at the commercial property at 1st and Lincoln St., which is one block from South Broadway Christian Church. This was an ‘after the meeting—meeting’ for a bit of catching up. When I retired from South Broadway in 2015, the building was a science equipment store. Now it is a doughnut shop. For me a doughnut shop has about four standards with maybe six variations. They all start with either cake or glazed and break out from there.

At Parlor Doughnuts you are met with “French Toast” (doughnut) ‘Our Best Seller’. Then there are at least 25 other choices like “Turtle Cheesecake” or “Bourbon Carmel”. Our you can go “Lemonade” or “Strawberry Shortcake”. I could go on.

As I was sipping through my really good—not too expensive drip coffee, I was taken in by my ‘people—watching eye’. Doughnuts were flying out the door in six packs, twelve packs or four to a shared plate. It was almost like a scene from the musical “Oliver”… doughnuts glorious doughnuts. The eating disordered—compulsive overeating Mark wanted to pick out a half dozen just for me, and finish them off in a half an hour. The more sensible “recovering” Mark said, “Not today”. These doughnuts were not your three ounce varieties. They could each go, easily, a half pound.

My old mottos were: “I ain’t ever had too much fun” or “If it is worth doing it is worth overdoing”. My new mottos are: “Easy does it” and “Will it really make you feel better”?

Today—the new ones Won!!!

Onward and Upward,


Mark vs. The Robot

I think the “takeover” began about 30 years ago when a call would be made to some business and instead of talking to a person, you were given the option of pressing a certain button for a desired outcome. There were the automatic car washes and sci-fi stories about robots taking over. Blame it on the Jetsons. The appeal has been having machines save us work, and if you are building corporate profits, “why pay a person when a machine can do it cheaper”?

I am not trying to claim some moral high ground, heck—I love the connivence of pushing a button and getting instant this or that. I remember the first time I saw an advertisement for a RoboVac. The little guy sneaks around your house quietly picking of lint and popcorn. I have never succumbed to the temptation to have some sneaky little electronic housekeeper buzzing around while I slept. What happened to me yesterday reinforced my resolve.

MK and I went to King Soopers yesterday evening. It’s a great time to be in a store that is just slightly smaller than the Coliseum. We have our route as we go counter clockwise, starting at produce and circling past the “vegan section” at the back, where we find nondairy creamer, fake eggs, and the like. As we were coming around the back side of the store I saw something like a miniature Zamboni cleaning the floors. There was no one sitting where the operator belonged. I soon realized I was watching the giant version of a RoboVac. Sure enough, it would work its way down the coolers, leaving a nice polished swath behind it.

We were on the final leg of our shopping excursion where I was looking for our favorite coffee creamers. I turned back to my right to move one case over and there I came face to face with “man vs. machine”. It was headed right at me. I stood my ground—I was not about to let some “labor saving device” keep me from my vanilla oat milk delight. Mr. Machine stopped about two feet from me. I took my right hand and pointed at it and said “Back UP, Back UP… I said back up”. By this time MK’s joyful laugh was distracting my Mano e’ Machino moment. Finally, after about thirty seconds, my nemesis backed up and went around me. It headed right back along the coolers and left a perfect trail of shiny floor except in the six foot space of our “incident”.

Score: Mark 1, Robot 0.

I fear that when the word gets out in machine world, they will either hunt me down or hand me over to the latest Artificial Intelligence nightmare. It was a small victory for me, sort of like how I feel after waiting 20 minutes to speak to a real person at the airline reservation hotline.

Right now I see R2 D2 as just another culprit.

Onward and Upward,


“Hot—Griddle—Finkies” (A rare delicacy)

I was once a ‘baby-sitter’. Yes, parents left 12-year-old Mark responsible for three young and impressionable children. When you are 12 and have to rely on all your resources to keep three kids entertained until they fall asleep, you have to have a bag of tricks. I am not sure how I came up with this grand culinary trick. I knew something about making pancakes.

The kids were all in. I whipped up the batter and then added some green food coloring. Threw some cooking oil on a pan and probably had the burner a bit high. The thin almost crepe-like creations began to sizzle a bit. I remember saying to these kids “Voila kids—HOT GRIDDLE FINKIES”. They loved it. I whipped up a few and then we added butter and syrup. Each time I went for a babysitting gig it was a command performance.

Today at the memorial service for my brother Charley, all three of them were there. That alone was a great honor. At the reception one of them asked me “Mark, do you remember Hot—Griddle—Finkies”? “Heck yes, it was just a few weeks ago that I was doing a memory lane trip and thought of my creation”. We laughed.

Memory and creativity are marvelous gifts. On my drive back to Denver I was imagining having my own Food Truck featuring —“Mark’s Hot—Griddle—Finkies”. I would expand from green cakes, to BlueBerry, and Pink Strawberry, and of course Chocolate Coconut. I would go full on Dr. Zeuss. Stranboozles, and Snipsodoogles, and why not some star studded Glob—Diddle—Boodles, complete with of course, Rainbow Sprinkles.

Today we honored the life of my brother Charley—which carried with it both tragedy and joy. What was clear with all of us who knew Charley, including these three wonderful lifetime friends, there was much more laughter than tears.

This week on my vacation I am going to whip some Finkies again.

Onward and Upward,

Life IS NOT a Video Game

When I was about four years old I was spending time with my four cousins. My dad and my uncle were business partners, Their eight kids (four from each family) were sort of raised as one family. Each family had three boys and one girl. Time with my cousins was precious and sometime raucous. I have many great memories of our times together, but here is one I would like to forget.

We were playing “Cowboys” complete with holsters and cap pistols. I had a great idea from watching a Roy Rogers TV show. I was hiding behind the door waiting for my cousin Johnny to walk through. And then, just like on Roy’s show, I would knock Johnny on the top of the head, and he was supposed to fall to the ground unconscious. Well, instead he just screamed “Mark HIT ME”. I did and I got a spanking—well deserved. Over the years Johnny and I have laughed about my naive belief that I would not hurt him. When “Life Imitates Art” it can be messy.

This past Wednesday three high school seniors in bucolic Arvada got the idea that it would be fun to throw landscaping rocks through the windshields of oncoming cars. They managed to kill a 20 year old girl driving home from work. This happened on a road that I drive on eight times a week, two miles from my home. Today as I drove by there a young girl was on her knees at the growing memorial, in a state of prayer. The rock throwers have been charged with aggravated first degree murder.

There are no consequences that can undo this act of evil. For all practical purposes, their lives are over as they know it. They were caught by a forensic analysis from cell tower locations. They hit six other cars and the locations and times matched their cell numbers to the events. To add to this, when the police went to arrest one of the suspects, his father attacked the officers and he is now in jail. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

There is no way I wrap this up with a cute or pithy end. This is an epic tragedy. I can not help but think that these three killers have honed their skills playing hours of “virtual violence”.

Her name was Alexa Bartell.

I love you all,


Senior Sneak Day

Wednesday is one of my ‘swimming days’. My recreation center has added a number of hours to the lap swimming pool, which has made my ability to schedule swim time easy-peezy. I am finding that going there a bit after 1pm almost always assures me of my favorite ‘extra wide lane’, where I can finish with 12 laps of back stroke—these things are important in the land of geezers. This Wednesday started with me getting my special lane.

Lap swimming with fins and a lap snorkel is sort of like running on a treadmill. Once you begin to trust swimming face down, what looks like work takes on more of a meditative bent. This day I was in the groove and my back stroke reward carried me to lap 40. As I was finishing up, I saw a woman come in to find a lane. Over the past hour the lanes had filled up. I waved at her from the end of the pool to signal I was leaving. She tried to talk to me but I could not understand her. I was bagging up my gear and she got to my lane. I then realized she was paralyzed on one side of her body.

She smiled at me and explained that she had had a stroke. She pushed off and I saw something that amazed me. She swam with one arm and one leg with a speed and strength of an Olympian. I spoke to the two guys getting ready in the lane next to me. “Did you guys see that”? “Yes we have seen her before, she is amazing.” After she had finished her fourth lap right in front of me, I flagged her down to have a word with her. “You are my hero” I said. She smiled and said “Why”? “It’s wonsweful to watch you swim”. She replied “Well, I had a stroke when I was 27. I woke up and this whole side would not work. What was I going to do but keep going”? I thanked her again for both her smile and her tenacity.

As I was gathering my gear to head to the hot tub (my reward for hitting my goal) a whole gaggle of teenagers came into the lap swimming area. There were five girls and four boys. The girls split off and went to the big hot tub and the boys all piled in the lap swimming lane—a major pool rules violation. By this time I was on my way to the hot tub and before I even got it the stairs the girls bailed out as fast as they could, giggling the whole way.

The jets on the hot tub provide a beautiful lower back massage. I was watching the four young men at one end of the lane trying to act like they were lap swimming. The life guard went over to talk with them and the one-armed swimmer evidently said that they were not bothering her. One other woman joined me in the hot tub. She shared that she is the mom of five and that on Wednesday afternoons she has a baby sitter come so she can swim laps. The next thing I knew all nine teens piled in the hot tub. So much for serenity.

I asked the kids, “So what are you all doing here on a Wednesday afternoon”? They laughed and told me they were on Senior Sneak Day. The girls said that they had a barbecue and then the guys chimed in with ‘we went to this river’. “Was it cold”? I asked ( a very dumb question). “Yes it was, so we came here. They let us come in although not much is running. None of the water slides are running so this is it”. We began a most interesting interchange.

One of the boys asked me, “What advice would you give us”? This was a moment not lost on me. The first thing I said was “Give your life to things worthy of your life. Don’t waste your life being stupid. Tell the truth, be kind, take care of your friendships.”

Then the pastor in me kicked in. “See that lady swimming over there”? “Yes, she swims with one arm”. “She has been doing that for a long time. She had a stroke when she was 27. She did not let that stop her”. A collective “WOW”!!! “There you have it kids. Remember her, make your life count no matter what”.

Just another Wednesday at the APEX Recreation Center… NOT!!!

Onward and Upward,


A New Middle School Record

For the last three days I have pondered how I can write about this without sounding like a typical bragging grandpa. So let me just own this— “I am very, very proud of all my grandkids”. This week something happened with one of them that completely surprised me.

My daughter Amy’s daughter Zoe, decided to go out for the Granbury Middle School track team. If there is one thing I never did, it was attempt to be on the track team. I was blessed with some physical gifts, speed was not one of them. I won the softball throw in 6th grade field day. I did barely finish the required mile run in just under eight minutes in 9th grade. From 1978-83 I became a serious 40 mile a week runner. I have one marathon under by belt and I now have the knees to prove it. I remember thinking when I heard that Zoe was going out for track, “I wonder what events she will specialize in”. Last week Amy called to tell me that she finished sixth in the 400 meter.

My understanding about running the 400 meter is that it is a really tough race. Basically, it requires sprinting for a whole lap. “No thank you”. Then Amy told me that her coach wanted her to run the mile. “Has she ever run the mile?” “In practice, she is going to run it this next week in their meet.” So, I get this text with a picture this past Wednesday that Zoe not only ran the mile, but set her middle school girl’s record. “WHAAAATTTT you’re kidding me?” “No I am not Dad, six minutes and 28 seconds”.

I think the best part of this is that, this is not anything that any of Zoe’s family saw coming. Certainly not me. She is a great young kid. She is musical, artistic, and a natural leader but track star??? I talked with her that night about the race. It was obvious to me that I was a whole lot more excited about this feat than she was. I guess that is my job. The best parts of life for me are when unexpected gifts just show up.

Somewhere in the archives of family photos, newspaper clippings and old report cards, is a picture of my dad running the low hurdles. He placed third in that particular meet for Palmer High in Colorado Springs. I don’t know if his grandparents even knew that he ran. An even more impressive clipping was the one that announced that in my dad’s senior year, he and a buddy were the first two people to summit Pike’s Peak in the Spring of 1940. Believe it or not, it was April and they went up in tennis shoes.

I think it was a good thing that I had a great arm and slow legs.

Onward and Upward,


The Roller Coaster that is Hope

I saw a news clip the other night about the the return of “Twister-2”, the iconic wood—framed roller coaster that was brought over from the original Elitch Gardens. The use of “roller coaster” as a metaphor leaves a clear message. Sometimes you are going up, sometimes going through a dark tunnel only to find yourself plunging into a seemingly uncontrollable decent. “Twister-2” is quite the experience. It is classically old-school. Rickety and a bit shaky. Unlike the new metal frame rides it is very noisy. Supposedly they have built into the ride some even more ‘scare-the-bejeezus’ experiences. There is little that draws me to amusement parks these days, however, as a lifetime fan of Twister I might give it a whirl.

Now to my point—A friend of mine who has negotiated the twists and turns of buying a small business during Covid said this, “Some times I hate having hope as it keeps me from giving up and moving on.” Long story short— just when it appeared that it was time to send up the white flag, they had some very encouraging days in their store. I found the irony of “hating hope” something that worked on me.

I know this person well, they are smart, resilient, hardworking and positive. To find themselves drawn again by hope did not surprise me, but I get the paradox of letting go or holding on. As Paul says in Romans 5 “affliction produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” Well, I do know this—that when we are in the middle of deep struggles these words can sound hollow and yet hope calls us forward.

I have never felt more confused and backed in a corner than I currently do. To watch the evil that is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to experience the weekly constancy of mass shootings and the cowardice of politicians who are bought and sold by the gun lobby can drain my “hope reserves”. I have a much longer list but I will spare you.

This Sunday I will celebrate Easter for the 74th time in my life. And the hope of the “Empty Tomb” will touch me. Why do I let hope grab me??? Well, as painful as it is to jump on the “Hope Roller Coaster” it beats wasting my time making excuses.

Onward and Upward,



The description of March— “In like a Lion, out like a Lamb” BLEW UP yesterday. I can take about any kind of weather… except for wind. When I moved to Arvada in 2017, I was warned about the brutal spring winds. Forewarned is forearmed. Yesterday tested my limits. I don’t like to use the word hate. It needs to be reserved for the likes of Putin, assault rifles, or the Dallas Cowboys. We had continuous 80 mph winds all day yesterday. There were some measurable sustained gusts over 100 mph. I said out loud as I was trying to get out of my car while my doors pinned me in, “I HATE WIND”!!!

I have nothing against a nice breeze or even the occasional gust that signals the arrival of a Colorado thunderstorm. The lifeguard at the APEX Center where I swim said, “This wind seems apocalyptic”. We both looked up to the structural steel roof that encloses this huge complex of ice rinks, gyms and three swimming pools. I looked at her and said, “This is where I hope for great engineers”. She was not convinced.

I often refer to my 11 years of living in San Luis Valley. One of the constants there is the late afternoon winds. It was explained to me that this is a function of cool air moving down and warm air moving up, to and from the Valley floor. They are predictable, and never last more than an hour. They are winds, not hurricane blasts of dirt and trash that pepper your car.

Now, I have to speak up for wind. Without wind we would perish. Wind brings moisture, clears out bad air, and is good for flying kites. I don’t think there is anything quite like a load of laundry that has been put out to dry on a clothesline, which has1w been bathed in sunshine and touched by a breeze.

I think I have ‘exhausted’ … all I have to say about wind.

Onward and Upward,


My Birdie Buddy

My “comeback” into the land of the mobile has slowed me down but opened me up. A few evenings ago I thought I would soak in my favorite time of day. I am a big fan of the “Spring Forward” part of Daylight Savings Time. To me the slow roll in to night is welcomed. I was standing on our south facing porch when I heard bird song that was not familiar to me. It was complex with a variety of sounds and pitches. Every time I heard it it was just the same.

I spotted the soloist perched at the very top my neighbor’s tree. The silhouette of this Birdie Pavarotti clone was highlighted by the cobalt blue background. Every few seconds the exact same call would go out. I could not resist and gave him a very poor response from my below average whistling skill. I could tell it threw him off as he offered up a beautiful retort. This call and response went on for a couple of minutes. Then he flew off to a perch further away. He got back into his own solo.

I have no idea what kind of bird he is. I have never heard anything like it. I now check to see if he is there. Twice I have had choir practice with him. I just went to check and I think the cold has made his singing take a break.

I really find myself bonding with this bird. I know life is fragile and he might just be migrating through. I am “batching it” right now as grandma MK is on double grandkid duty in California. I have yet to get too bored, and finding connections and entertaining moments like my bird buddy helps. It just hit me that I have a record mode on my IPhone. I hope I have one more chance of hearing this beautiful tribute to creation… and can record it so that I might listen again and again. The recording would go right next to the frog choir I recorded from Calaveras County, California.

Stay tuned—😎

Onward and Upward,


One Legged Geese

Today on my first time driving in over a month, I chanced upon four geese blocking the road in the Wash Park neighborhood. I have always maintained the ethic that geese have the right of way. More than once I have been stopped on a busy urban thoroughfare by a parade of geese taking their sweet time going across the road. It’s sort of like being stopped by a train, time to take a deep breath and turn up ‘Classic Vinyl’. Today’s interruption was close up and interesting. Three of the geese sped right along but their companion, who was dragging its left leg, was more than limping. They made it across and I was teleported back to about 1990 in Alamosa.

We lived out west of town on a ‘farmette’. To get to the main highway you had to head south to HWY 160. One of the great things about living out there was people had livestock. Our neighbors on the corner had six Canadian geese that they had domesticated. You would often see them walking in single file around the property. Five of them were intact but the sixth was missing a leg. How does a one-legged goose walk? Boing, boing, boing, and boing. This animal, like a three legged dog, had adapted to it’s situation. I was always amazed how well it did at keeping up, although it was always last.

Well, yesterday I spent an hour with my Primary Care Doc who, after a long series of questions and exercises, that included plenty of input from Mary Kay, gave me the all clear to go back to work and drive. Today, as I watched the wounded goose struggle, I went immediately to my condition of the last 34 days. As I shared last week I found myself semi-incapacitated. For the first time in my life I pondered what immobility looked and felt like. I will share that it was a state of low grade terror. As I watched the goose dragging its leg across the street, I was cheering every step.

I will never again run, climb, skip or ski. But I will never take walking for granted. Today returned to a bit of a normal Saturday routine, although a very slow one. I give thanks for that courageous goose and its buddies who reminded me of the importance of tenacity and making use of what we have… boing, boing, boing, boing.

Onward and Upward,