Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Do you ever go back and read something that you enjoyed a long time ago? It’s interesting to do so because the book is the same but you are not. Time and experience have altered your perspective since the initial reading so that you’re seeing it now through new eyes. You may still love it or shake your head in disbelief that you have changed so much.

I’ve recently been re-exploring books I read some 35 years ago about Taoism. During that time I was an ardent “seeker,” and Eastern philosophy, particularly this one, resonated within me (and still does) at a deep level

Taoism is called “The Watercourse Way” because the non-resistant flow of water is analogous with its principles of being in tune with the world instead of aggressively attempting to impose one’s will. The first sentence of the Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tzu over 2500 years ago provocatively states that “The Way that can be described is not the Way”—in other words, the complexity and perfection of the Universe is far beyond the feeble attempts of language and the human mind to understand.

Yin/yang, the mutual interdependence of opposites, is central to Taoist teaching and very difficult for Western minds to grasp. Here we believe in absolutes, like ending war and poverty, when in fact we can have no concept of peace without war or being rich without poverty

How would you know day(light) if the sun never gave way to nightfall? “Day” would just be what “is.” And that’s the whole point of Taoism—at the Universal level, everything just “is.” That thing growing out of the ground with bark, limbs, and leaves isn’t really a tree—it’s a manifestation of nature we call a “tree” so we can communicate about it. And so it goes with “bark, “limbs,” “leaves, “and “nature”---just words, not reality.

Intuitively we know this to be true just as we know there is more to us than the “meat suits” we wear around our whole lives. That’s what makes getting your arms around Taoism so elusive. It can never be formally taught or learned, for any effort to be effortless is immediately off the mark.

Re-reading my old books is encouraging. Looking back over my life I can see that I’m not as big of a knucklehead as in my youth, but I’m nowhere near being a sage either. But the cool thing about Taoism is this—accepting it can and does happen in an instant. It’s just that trying not to try is maddeningly difficult. .

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Sorry, I couldn't resist the teaser headline.

I was reading an article today about the benefits of the “Mediterranean Diet” and I started thinking about the silliness of fad diets and dieting in general. It seems like almost everybody you talk to is on some diet or thinking they need to be on one.

Diets fall into the category of “self-help,” a contradictory term that upon examination illustrates the fallacy of the whole concept. How exactly are you helping yourself when you’re relying on advice and assistance outside yourself? So when you gain back the weight, when your Personal Power is turned off, when your path to success remains a Secret, you search for the next self-help guru who will gladly provide another expensive dose of snake oil.

The most hopeless alcoholic cannot be helped by intervention, rehab, or AA until he decides, from the depths of his being, that it’s time to stop drinking, period. That’s real self-help, the only kind that works and matters. All the other stuff makes for interesting reading and conversation, but true, lasting change only occurs when “the student is ready and the teacher appears.”

Here’s the great news: by accepting this personal responsibility, neither blaming others for your shortcomings or looking to others for your salvation, you get to paint the canvas of your life.

I’ve been blessed with a slim physique my whole life. Well, once I was 20 pounds over my current weight, but that was when I briefly got “fitness” confused with “fatness.” If you want to lose weight and keep it off forever, I’d like to share my Edditerranean Diet. Actually it’s not a diet at all, and you can eat and drink absolutely anything you want. Plus I’m probably not going to tell you a thing you don’t already know.

The key to weight control is portion control. Eat a lot of what’s good for you and a little of what’s not. Voila—that’s pretty much it. See, you already knew that. Lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, skim milk, water---giddyup. Processed food, fast food, greasy food, fatty food, sweets, alcohol---slow down.

Come on, this isn’t rocket surgery. So what’s the real problem? It’s simply that the pleasure a lot of people get from eating outweighs (pardon the pun) the pain of how they look and feel. The delicious (there I go again) irony is if they would ever allow themselves to reach their ideal size, overall quality of life improves so dramatically that enhancement of appearance, while exciting, is secondary. Pains disappear, energy skyrockets, sound sleep returns. In other words, the 1-2 hours of “happiness” while overeating each day makes the other 22-23 varying degrees of miserable.

Interesting tradeoff.

There you have the Edditerranean Diet. No calorie counting, no points, no special products. Delicious food, simply prepared, in proper amounts. It’s easy; it works. Try it. And let me know what happens.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I’m so sore today I can barely move. Why? Because I decided to take a hike on Mt. Charleston yesterday, but didn’t really know what to expect until I got there since I’d never hiked there before.

Now in a lot of ways a hike is a hike—you’re basically walking around in nature somewhere. What varies is the weather, the scenery---and the degree of difficulty. The sign at the beginning of the trailhead labeled my excursion “strenuous.”
“OK, I’m good with that,” I thought. “This will be some great exercise.”


But first let me tell you that the drive to get there is amazing. Once you get off the freeway (the entire trip is only 30 minutes from the house) the elevation increases about 5000’ over the next 15 minutes. None of that exhausting hairpin turn, constantly-slamming-on-the-brakes stuff here—you pretty much just gun it straight up the side of the mountain.

Because of the surreal swiftness of the journey you experience a different ecosystem every 5 minutes. First you’re in the blah-looking Vegas desert; soon the vegetation seems greater than the bare ground; then—what’s that ahead? Trees?—you round a curve and are surrounded by forests of fir and pine. Remarkable.

Back to the hike. I immediately noticed patches of snow here and there in the woods. Then came a snow-covered section of the path. Very cool, I thought. I even stopped to take a photo of it. Five minutes later the “path” is completely covered with frozen precipitation. Both snow and ice.

H-m-m-m----what to do? I’m there; I’m walking on it OK—what the hell, keep going.

Let me tell you, “strenuous” + snow & ice = “treacherous.” Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast, but this hike involved an elevation gain of 3000’. Taking on that angle of ascent plus having to focus on every single step along the way added an unanticipated element of “being in the now.”

Plus I was totally alone out there. I heard a bird now and then but never saw one. If there was no breeze the only sound anywhere was the crunching of my steps and the heaviness of my breathing (it took a while to adjust to the thin air). There’s something about the realization “if something happens to me, I’m screwed” that ratchets up the old concentration.

But what probably sounds like a lot of negatives actually made the hike so special. After deciding to proceed, after I got my breathing under control, after my body quit complaining, my mind quieted and I just----hiked.

The sound of the wind in the fir trees; the total quiet and stillness as I sat looking at the perfection of a vast canyon and the untold miles beyond; changes in elevation and lighting that made what I’d seen only minutes before look completely different; above all the peace, the peace.

On the way back down I broke my concentration once to congratulate myself on a job well done. At that exact moment I slipped and busted my ass—what a great lesson that my ego had no business on this hike. Reinforcement came a little later when I thought for a moment about that incident and almost fell again!

I’m paying a price today but the pain is definitely worth the gain. Perhaps the best way to find yourself is to first lose yourself.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Thanksgiving is too often about “The Meal;” Christmas about “The Gifts.” I try to start each day with a grateful heart, and at this time of the year I especially reflect on my greatest blessings.

I’m so thankful for my beautiful soul mate Cynthia. After all these years my heart still sings when I hear her voice, my eyes light up when she enters the room. I’ve given up trying to put into words the indescribable depth of my adoration. Our love is a precious gift that will forever be treasured.

“Expectation” is a poor choice of words regarding one’s kids, but hopefulness is a feeling probably all parents share. So what a joy it has been to nurture two wonderful children and then watch them become such marvelous young adults. I have many things I still want to accomplish, but if none of them happens I will still have had a happy and successful life because of the privilege of helping bring Brandon and Adrian into this world.

I have so much appreciation for my great friends and relatives. We have shared terrific experiences and memories, and we’re comforted to know that we are always there for each other, no matter what.

Overall I’m thankful for the remarkable opportunity to simply live my life---to observe, learn, laugh, cry, do well, goof up---and from it all be the best “me” I can and hopefully leave the planet a little better than I found it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Is there such a thing as a "healthy" cookie that tastes fantastic? Try this recipe and judge for yourself!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 mashed ripe banana
1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz. semisweet chocolate coarsely chopped
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, & baking soda in a small bowl & set aside. Mix butter & sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until pale & fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add egg & vanilla, mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture, mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate, & walnuts.

2. Drop 1 1/2 inch balls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown & just set, about 12 minutes. Let sheets cool on wire racks for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire racks & cool completely.

3. Pour a big glass of milk & try not to eat too many!!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Ever wonder why The Strip is called "The Strip?" Probably not, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Back in the '30's a totally corrupt LAPD cop named Guy McAfee was forced to resign because of his ties to organized crime. He moved to Las Vegas and bought a little club called The Pair-O-Dice (cute).

Because of his Mob connections he was able to grow his business to the point that he built The Golden Nugget, then the largest casino in Vegas. As the gambling business started to spread down Highway 91 (at that time known as Arrowhead Highway) City of LV leaders saw the tax opportunities and decided to annex the land.

McAfee and his fellow casino operators sidestepped their plan by forming an unincorporated township called Paradise (named after his 1st club) as a tax shelter that could not be annexed. He called the 4 mile stretch of highway "the Strip" after the Sunset Strip in LA and the name stuck.

So when you're walking down Las Vegas Boulevard admiring the fountains at Bellagio or the canals at Venice you're really not in Las Vegas at all----you're in Paradise!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Well, it had to happen sooner or later, I guess. I’ve managed to overlook the wrinkles; the morning stiffness—hey, must have worked too hard at the gym. I’ve even pooh-poohed the occasional moments of forgetfulness. But I increasingly notice a fundamental difference between me and “young people” that brings me face-to-face with the reality that, yes, I’m getting older.

The distinction has nothing to do with smooth skin or lively spirit. I just find it amusing?sad?bewildered? that kids appear to need to be “connected” every waking moment. For instance, the ever-present Ipod. What’s wrong with hearing the sounds of your own life, at least once in awhile? I actually enjoy the thoughts that go on between my ears. Nature abhors a vacuum; maybe piping in music constantly is an attempt to fill an empty cranium.

And this texting business is WAY out of control. I watch kids thumbing away in restaurants, concerts, and movies. Is whatever it is you’re “talking” about that urgent? I’m looking at you—trust me, ANYTHING you’ve got to say is of no urgency or important whatsoever, ever.

Facebook, YouTube, IM-------. I just don’t get it. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned notion of actually having a face-to-face conversation with another live human being?

The creepy thing is this all seems so Matrix-like—being plugged in and bombarded with constant external, artificial stimuli. I’m happy to be a purposely disconnected member of “notcom” nation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Cynthia had a health crisis last Wednesday that necessitated admission to a local hospital. The good news is everything's going to be fine. Because of the suddenness of her arrival no beds were immediately available so we had to begin the process in ER.

Real life ER sure wasn't much like the TV shows. For starters the cast, er, the employees, weren't cute; they were dumpy-looking and unattractive. Cynthia was waiting for McDreamy to walk in. Instead she got McDorky.

The doc wandered in looking at her chart and mumbling to himself. She asked him his name. He replied, "They do all kinds of weird tests around here." Dude obviously was a low performer in his "Bedside Manner Skills" course in med school. Dr. ? completed his cameo appearance muttering something else about weird tests and exited, never to be seen again.

I could have sworn dinosaurs were extinct, but a Snore-asaurus had apparently been captured and was being contained right on the other side of the curtain. Its frightening roar almost shook the walls. Actually it was an obese guy from Australia asleep in the next bed.

A nurse came in and told him to roll over. We heard her say, "Now if this turns blue there's blood in your stool. O-o-o-h-h-h----it's really turning blue!" Yikes.

Next to him was a zonked-out teenager in a school uniform sitting in a wheelchair and----staring. Her mom said something about overdosing on Benedryl. In the hall was a guy on a gurney who would occasionally sit up, hit on a passing nurse, then lie back down.

Geez, where was the team of shouting doctors running with a gurney carrying a shotgun blast victim? The maniacal patient that had to be physically restrained? The dramatic music?? These patients were so lame!!

Finally Cynthia's room was ready. At last, some peace and quiet. Um, except for her 84 year old roommate, who kept telling us shedidn'tknowwhyshewastheretheyhadn'tfedheranythingalldayshehopedhercarbatterywasn'tgoingtogodeadshedidn'twantherdaughter toknowshewasinthehospital-----


Saturday, October 18, 2008


Friday night in Vegas. Most folks are having a few drinks, grabbing some dinner, maybe playing the slots. What are we doing? Going to yoga class. Do the Staton's know how to party, or what?

Actually this was the first time we'd attended on Friday night, but our off days changed last week and we've kind of been out of kilter adjusting (btw, apologies for no post last week---when your "Monday" is now Thursday, trust me, it's a bit screwy). So we didn't know who the teacher was supposed to be, but Susie announced herself as a substitute for tonight. With a German accent.

Uh, oh. Here's a shoutout to you, Adrian--you can already guess where this is going. She immediately started to say stuff like "punishment" and "doing crocodiles." We didn't even know what that second one was but the mental image wasn't particularly attractive. It turns out they're the yoga equivalent of pushups. I'm not a big fan of the treadmill, yet I found myself thinking that an hour of that might be paradise compared to what Susie had in store.

As it turned out she was just screwing with us. She led a very pleasant class and was funny as hell. Maybe she is a ball-buster with her regular students though because she said they called her "The Yoga Nazi"---among other things. She constantly threatened us if we were "sloppy," "lazy," or worst of all, "cheating," but only in jest.

When we were doing a Cobra pose she claimed that among other things it was good for your gall bladder. Then she paused and said, "Wow, I had my gall bladder removed two months ago tomorrow. Guess I didn't do enough Cobras!" Here we were trying to be serious and collapsing on the floor with laughter instead.

Later we were doing a pose requiring you to tightly clench your butt cheeks (as I'm writing I realize that if you aren't familiar with yoga postures this all sounds pretty bizarre. Anyway---). She told us to envision having a quarter in our crack and squeezing it hard enough make an imprint (now it's getting kinky--this post isn't going to gain many yoga converts, I'm afraid). Then she warned, "I'll be sending the imprint inspector around at the end of class to check your quarters!," and once again we all "cracked" up.

At the end you always do a guided meditation while lying on the floor with your eyes closed. Susie suggested imagining something blue because that's the color of relaxation. Living here I immediately thought of those Blue Man Group dudes but that didn't seem right. Then I thought of the friggin' Smurfs of all things. The Smurfs?? The Smurfs?? Holy cow, how about a damn sky with a palm tree in front of it! I'M NOT FEELING TOO RELAXED HERE!!!

You know, Susie said she had been teaching yoga here in Vegas for 12 years and I'm guessing she didn't get right off the plane from Germany back then and hustle to her first class. Total command of the language but she's still got that heavy accent. Then I was thinking about Ah-nold--same thing. What is it with these Teutonic folks? And does that voice in their head have an accent too? How about when they dream? H-m-m-m-m--------

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I tried this recipe with great trepidation but it has become a favorite in the Staton household (we had it just last night in fact). Easy & excellent. You'll love it!!

2 servings

1 heart of romaine, sliced lengthwise
1/8 cup of mayonnaise
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
dash of Tabasco
1/4 cup vegetable oil
salt and fresh ground pepper
shaved Parmesan cheese

Light a grill. In a mini food processor blend all the ingredients except the oil. Then gradually add oil until the dressing is creamy.

Brush the hearts of romaine with oil and place on grill, flat side down. Turn once or twice until lightly charred but still crisp--about 3 minutes.

Spread half the dressing across salad plates. Arrange the grilled hearts of romaine on top and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Garnish with cheese shavings.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I had to go to the police station recently (for the first time, I swear!) to get a background check for a new job. My observations during the hour I spent there could fill several blogs, but I want to chat about one of the interesting blanks I had to complete on my application.

After the standard height, weight, color of eyes, and color of hair (you see my picture---I answered "CLEAR"), the form asked for my "complexion." H-m-m-m---I knew where they were going here, but I decided to screw around with the lady behind the window when my number was called.

I thought maybe she'd be up for a little frivolity because when she called #76 she followed with a short rendition of "76 trombones led the big parade----." So when it was my turn I said, "Hi. Since you called #76 I've been anxious to see what you might come up with for my #83 because I couldn't think of a thing. Now if I'd been #96 you'd have probably done that one by ? and the Mysterians, right? 'You're gonna cry 96 tears-----.' So what have you got for me?"

Silence. And a stony stare. Wow, tough crowd.

But I persevered. "I didn't know what to put for this one about complexion. Take a look. Would you say I'm oily or T-zone?"

"Your choices are fair, medium, or dark, sir."

Well, that's still tough. Dark's out of the question, but I've got a pretty good tan going. Do you think fair or medium?"

"We're not here to tell you what to write, sir. We take your $10 and hand you a piece of paper."

Oof. Sorry, Cyndi Lauper. I guess girls don't just want to have fun.

Every other question required a specific answer, but when it comes down to the color of your skin, your "complexion" (ie. your race), we now speak in code? Come on, people, have we sunk this deep into the quagmire of political correctness? Say it ain't so.

By the way, I picked "dark." "Fair" enough? Or should I have settled for a happy "medium"?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Sorry to be slow posting--it's been a bizarre week. In honor of the "pig with lipstick" comment from you-know-who, I've resurrected a children's poem I wrote 20+ years ago.

What's that pig doing in my dress?
Get it off before she makes a mess!
Surely even a piggy knows
You don't wear someone else's clothes
Without at least asking permission
But I've got a sneaking suspicion
She's trying to make me upset.
No, not about how it will get
So dirty dragging on the ground
Or that the hem may come unwound.
The thing that makes me start to cry,
The thing that makes me want to die
Is seeing my dress on a sow
And knowing that no matter how
I fool myself, or at least try to
The pig looks better in it than I do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


(-----------IN 25 WORDS OF LESS)


"The easiest journey has the least baggage."
-anonymous Chinese sage

Please do not discount the contents of this book because of its brevity. Until one has mastered basics what good are specifics?


Life is simple.


Eat less.
Exercise more.


Spend less.
Invest more.


Pay attention.
Live long enough.


Say less.
Do more.

Saturday, September 6, 2008



I know, I know. I PROMISE this will not be a political blog. God knows there are enough of those already. But the subject of my previous entry followed by the events in the days since demands a follow-up. After this let’s move on for awhile.

If you didn’t grow up in the South as I did you may not know about Uncle Remus stories. He was a Negro (the term African-American hadn’t been invented then) slave who told moralistic tales about Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear to the white chillin’s (that’s “children” to those who don’t speak old school Ebonics) on the plantation.

In one story Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear finally succeed in catching the wily and elusive Br’er Rabbit. They do it with a Tar Baby of all things, but the inferences there are too treacherous to pursue. They’re about to toss him in the stew pot when Br’er Rabbit persuades them that throwing him in that awful, prickly briar patch would be an even more gruesome fate.

Once they’ve done so Br’er Rabbit pretends to be in agonizing pain, then hoots and hollers as he reminds them that they’ve just returned him to the place where he was born. Curses, foiled again.

Will the Democratic Party be tricked by the same strategy? In offering up Sarah Palin as VP the Republicans tempt their opponents to get off their message of “change” and begin assailing her lack of experience. But this “Death Wish” brand of politics (what if something happens to McCain?) poses an interesting question in response.

What if something doesn’t happen to Obama? By attacking the readiness of the second fiddle on the Republican ticket which, let’s be honest here, comes with job responsibilities we’re never quite sure of, Democrats leave themselves wide open to a counterattack on the abilities of potential President Obama. And most of us have a pretty good idea of what the leader of our country is supposed to do.

Whichever side you favor, Sarah Palin hit a home run Wednesday night in her first official at-bat. If Br’er Barack and Br’er Joe (neither one of those names sound quite right in this context, do they?) get so riled up by her sudden and unexpected ascension that they throw their energies at the Republicans “briar patch”, they may find themselves explaining more than they want to about how a one-term Senator who now “runs” (isn’t that what the campaign manager does?) a staff of maybe 60 people and a budget measured in millions is qualified to oversee the lives of millions of Americans and a national budget of gazillions of dollars.

Well, chillin’s, dat be enuf fo dis blog (not being condescending---that’s really the way those stories were written. No wonder Uncle Remus isn’t often quoted these days!).

Friday, August 29, 2008


Bold action usually produces extreme results. Thus over the next couple of months we’ll learn together whether John McCain was a genius or an idiot with his sucker-punch choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The only short list on which she could have been included prior to today was "most improbable candidates."

In the short term it was a brilliant move for three reasons:

1. The media will be scrambling for days telling us who she is and what she’s done, effectively neutralizing some of the bounce Obama hoped to gain from his acceptance speech. Not that we’re going to need a lot of help forgetting everything he said. The spectacle far outweighed the message. Except for when he channeled MLK towards the end he mainly stood there and recited the ingredients from “Grandma’s Liberal Stew,” a recipe we’re so familiar with we don’t even need the cookbook anymore. This is the “change” we’ve been waiting for?

2. Without sounding too clich├ęd, picking a woman gives disaffected Hillary supporters another choice. Joe Biden was an underwhelming pick for the Democrats. He already ran for President in 1988, and does anyone even remember that he ran again in this very election? I think the only people who voted for him were his family and folks that owed him money. His campaign was over quicker than a visit to the Chicken Ranch brothel. Now he’s potentially one step away from the office he’s craved for the past 20 years. Sorry, Joe—we’ve already told you “no”---twice.

3. Such a dramatic move reinforces McCain’s "maverick" image. As a Republican myself I want to express my frustration that John McCain is our candidate to start with. Major league baseball teams have a farm system to develop new talent. This guy’s been around so long it seems like he was a POW in the Civil War instead of Viet Nam. I actually agree with Barack Obama that these challenging times require new ideas and extraordinary leadership, and I have little faith that McCain is the answer. On the other hand I’m old enough to remember when that last “change” candidate, Jimmy Carter, presided over 18% prime interest rates, long gas lines, and total gridlock in Washington.

So now we have campaigns that both include the old and the new, with the positions flip-flopped (oops, bad choice of words in politics!) on their respective tickets.
John McCain just did something either really smart or really dumb. How all this plays out is anybody’s guess and hinges on one question: Is Sarah Palin any good? A riveting, intriguing and historical presidential race just got more so. Stay tuned---------