This didn't seem to fit in the other sections. But I have several things that make life exciting, interesting, and rewarding. I will you tell (and show) you about some of them.
Hobbies and leisure time activities put the spice into the adventure of life. Hobbies and leisure time activities are the seasoning which add flavor and aroma to what might otherwise be a hum-drum existence--- or a life so filled with stress that life ceases to become the interesting, exciting journey it was intended to be. How pitiful it is to observe the human being that is so driven by his work that there is no time to relax and enjoy living. How narrow is the life of the person who has only one consuming interest in life, whether it be a job, a sport, a hobby, or interest. How disgusting it is to hear some one say, "I'm bored." It says they are indeed a boring person, probably too lazy or too stubborn or too dull to see life's endless possibilities for enjoyment and fulfillment. And the person who says, "There's nothing to do." is simply not bright enough or ambitious enough or creative enough take charge of his life and start living. Most of the time, the person who sits along the roadside and waits for the world to come to him, will still be sitting there as the world zooms past him leaving him in a cloud of dust. Or he will be asleep and not even see it coming. Or he will wait for "something better", when "better" just passed him by.
Well, here are some of my interests---not a complete list, but enough to keep me busy until others come along.
Somewhere along the way, I have already mentioned stained glass, so I won't cover that territory again, except to say that I keep on doing it even though I am quickly running out of space in my house to hang it.
Included somewhere in this page is a section about my exchange students. Taking care of them and trying to provide them with a comfortable, rewarding, and interesting life was a time consuming, but satisfying, part of my life for about ten years.
In the fall and winter months, our life more or less centers around Kansas University basketball. Being a part of one of the most successful programs in the history of basketball is an exciting experience. Kansas Jayhawk basketball is truly first rate, big-time basketball. Its traditions date back to the very beginning of the game itself. In fact, James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas. It is an awesome experience to enter Allen Field House, the Home of the Jayhawks, and be a part of the mystique which enshrouds the venerable arena.
About twenty-five years or so ago, I was able to walk up to the ticket counter and buy a ticket to almost any game I chose to attend. or at least call on the telephone and order whatever ticket I wanted. During a telephone conversations while ordering tickets, the agent selling the tickets asked if I would be interested in simply buying a season ticket. More or less on impulse I told her "Yes". In fact, I ordered two of them. And I have been eternally grateful since that day. Now Allen Field House is sold out far in advance of the season, and it has been for several years. People often ask me if I ever try to get better seats. Of course, I do. But this isn't going to happen anytime in the near future (barring the fact that I should happen to win Power Ball someday). Some people say that one of these years, KU is going to have a "bad team" and people will stop supporting them. Then I can get better seats. Don't count on it. It hasn't happened in the past twenty years, and there is no sign or indication that it will happen anytime in the foreseeable future. That means, I suppose, that I am doomed to the still enviable and coveted fate of watching the Jayhawks play from my usual seat.
Several years ago, I set some goals for myself. One of them was to learn to make stained glass. That has already been accomplished. Learning to play racquetball was another goal. I at least know enough about it and can play it well enough to say that I have also accomplished that goal, although I don't spend a lot of time playing the game any more.
Learning to play golf was another of my ambitions. I took a summer class at Washburn University and learned the fundamentals of the game. And I have also taken lessons on a couple other occasions, but mostly I have learned to play golf by simply playing the game. Like stained glass I have sort of adapted the techniques to fit my own style, and any one my instructors would probably be horrified to see how I play the game today. However, I enjoy getting out to the golf course as often as I can. Even I know that I am not very good, but I don't mind because most of the time I don't keep score anyway. Village Greens, the golf course near my home where I play, is a peaceful, beautiful escape, and it is enough simply to be out there doing something I enjoy doing.
Being assigned to Vietnam back in the early sixties was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me in several ways, even though I absolutely did not want to go at the time. One of the lasting effects it had on me was to instill the love of travel. It is probably fair to say that if I were rich, and money was not a factor, I would spend a great deal of my time on the road doing things that I have never done before and seeing things that I may never see again (as Willie Nelson might say.) Over the years, I have traveled to thirty-five states from Florida to Alaska, including every state west of the Mississippi.
Most of my travels within the United States can be classified as "budget travel". We travel cheaply, either camping out or sleeping in the back of the pickup, spending money for only the most necessary of things---like fees to enter the national parks, for example. (And enough food to keep us from suffering from malnutrition.) Except for special exceptions, such as Temple Square in Salt Lake City (which is free anyway), state capitol buildings, a few museums and art galleries, most of our travel centers around seeing the sights of nature. We like to actually "see" a state, to experience it, to get to have a feel for it. I love to drive and I rarely tire of looking at the scenery which gives each state its special look or character. (OK, so I do tend to drive a little faster through the desert!) We stop often to take pictures or to take a hike into the forests or up a mountain or along a sandy beach.
Foreign travel is by its very nature different. It has by and large centered around the hometowns of my former exchange students and the large cultural and political centers. But needless to say, we still stay in budget hotels and eat in random cafes on narrow side streets.
In most cases, especially in Europe, I have been fortunate to have someone who speaks the native language as my companion and guide. In all twenty or so countries that I have visited, mass public transportation has been the cheapest and most convenient means of travel. And, you can't beat walking if you really want to see things close up.
Souvenirs, T-shirts, and trinkets mean little or nothing to me. They are all made in Taiwan or Hong Kong anyway. But I take hundreds of slides. Slides of everything. Not just one, but from every angle. That is probably my major weakness in traveling. I don't know when to stop taking picture. I can easily return from a four week vacation with one thousand slides. I guess it is no wonder people tend to find something else to do when I invite them over to look at them.
Now the situation has gotten even worse. In this age of the digital camera, it is so very easy to go crazy taking pictures of anything and everything. And, basically, that is what I have done. But I am not sorry about it, and I have no intention of changing my habits. As I said, pictures are sometimes my only "souviner" of a time and place. With a digital camera, they are quick, easy and inexpensive. Even around home, I tend to record each and every event that takes place rather thoroughly. Maybe one could say that I am addicted to taking pictures.
What are my favorite cities or places? That is a simple question for me. Berlin is by far my favorite city in Europe (thus far); Hong Kong and Saigon (I refuse to call it Ho Chi Minh City) are my favorite Asian cities. Yes, I have been to Paris and I have strolled down the Champs Ellyeese, and I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Arch of Triumph. I have been to the Notre Dame Cathedral a couple times (it was covered with scaffolding both time I was there, making it a less than impressive sight.)
Vienna was OK---a place worth returning to. Amsterdam I found to be a dirty, crowded city, full of basically dirty tourists. (Of course, we arrived the same day the European Gay Games were starting, and that didn't help any, I am sure.) Brussels is a clean, modern city----quite normal, by my standards. It is also a city that I plan to visit again in the future. Other cities like Hamburg, Munich, Frankfrut, Dresden, Zurich, Luxembourg were also interesting stops along the way.
But Berlin was still the best. It is a huge city, just now starting to realize its potential and to regain its former glory. It is a city of contrasts between the former communist East Berlin and the free West Berlin. Wide avenues which once stopped at the Berlin Wall now cut their tree-lined path through the entire city. Whether strolling on the Kurfurstendam or relaxing in the Alexanderplatz, you can feel the character of the city and one can experience the dynamic vitality which is present in this ever-changing and exciting city.
Maybe I am seeing things only from my own point of view, or maybe I am just bragging, but I have a fairly wide range of other interests. Music has always been important to me. All kinds of music---country, classical, some jazz, oldies, religious. Almost any kind of music except rap, heavy metal, and other kinds of noise masquerading as music. I guess I am especially partial to Beethoven and Mozart. Did they ever write anything that isn't pure genius? Willie Nelson, Joan Baez, John Denver, the Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkle, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Diamond-----There are more, but these are some of the artists that I never grow tired of. Piano, organ, trumpet, clarinet, classical guitar---more music that I can listen to for hours. I suppose my secret dream has been to be the organist at the Mormon Tabernacle or the conductor of the New York Philharmonic or a member of Willie Nelson's band. Yes, music is definitely very important in my life.
Abstract or modern art (at least a lot of it) is another thing I enjoy and which gives me great pleasure. No matter which city I am in, either here or in Europe, art galleries are always a prominent part of my itinerary. I am not sure I have a "favorite" artist; there are so many of them. But let's just say if you offer me a painting of Jackson Pollack, for example, I won't turn it down. Spending hours looking at Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrant or Klee seem like only minutes to me. I have looked through major galleries in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Denver. But we also have quality galleries and art museums closer to home at the Nelson-Atkins Gallery and the Kemper Gallery of Contemporary Art in Kansas City and the Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Don't take me to a book store because it will be hours before you will be able to finally get me to leave. I have a weakness for books, and I know that I have bought more books that I can ever hope to read---or have the space to store comfortably. But I like books and I read as much as I can find the time---mostly late at night before going to bed. I am more discriminating in the types of books I read, I suppose. Fiction doesn't hold much interest for me. I would much rather read something about politics or current affairs, or a good biography of someone in public life.
The computer often receives more attention in my daily life than it really deserves. But there is such a vast amount of information which is so readily and easily accessible that the temptation is often too great to resist. And, really, who can live without e-mail once they have had access to it?