Saturday, November 21, 2020

Finding a Double IPA in a...

Cooler of Bud Lights. 

I’m never been accused of being a Polly-Anna. It’s not my nature. Maybe it was from my days of growing up in the Bronx and being subjected to Sanitation Workers and Teacher Strikes. (After awhile both began to stink.)  Or maybe it was the time a group of knife wielding Thugs chased me through the streets while shouting, “If we catch you Jew Bastard, we’ll stab you!” Or maybe it was the 28 years of Emergency Service work which is an incubator for “gallows humor.” 

For whatever reason, it’s usually not me who finds the silver lining in situations. 

Let’s be honest, we are living in times in which rose-colored glasses are fogging up. Between Covid cases going “Bang! Zoom! To the Moon” (Ralph Kramden) and an upcoming Constitutional Crisis, the future doesn’t seem  “so bright, I gotta wear shades.” (Timbuk 3). 

Why I’ll bet it’s a challenging time for the most hard core “it’ll all turn out OK” optimists. Let alone me! 

However as I hike Durango’s surrounding trails, take slow sips of an IPA or gaze at technicolor  sunrises, I realized I’ve come a long way. I have heaps to be Thankful for. 

It wasn’t all that long ago, that I was homeless by choice for 6.5 years in Barley the Van down by the River. Ordinary things that others take for granted are still BIGLY to me. Like occupying a real address instead of 66 square feet of a mobile “home.” 

“Jeffie, can you expound on this?” Sure, I’m not that BUSY! 

A) In August 2019, I rented a fully furnished townhome. The decor was a Southwest Bordello motif. On the walls were framed pictures from the Motel 6 school of art. It’s been a steady work in progress, but now the minimalistic decor subtly proclaims, “Jeff, lives here.” I’m happy with the results.

B) I went from no indoor plumbing to three bathrooms and a laundry, complete with hot and cold running water. This is miraculous to me.

C) I no longer cook outside on a propane Coleman stove.  Now I create meals on a four burner gas stove with a convection oven. I have yards of granite counter tops for food preparation. The days of eating Campbell soups for dinner are now part of my history. 

D) My evening entertainment used to be reading by a Luci solar powered light. Now I own a 55 inch Samsung TV with 125 channel surfing options. I’m in sensory overload.

E) Mostly I’m thankful for finally settling down in Durango, CO. An area where the surrounding natural beauty is only surpassed by the generosity and kindness of my neighbors and acquaintances. It’s taken me nearly 65 years, but I’ve finally found “Home,” 

It’ll be a solo Thanksgiving. I’ll be baking up an 18 pound Gobbler and a slew of broasted veggies. There will be plenty of extras which I’m willing to share in a socially distanced way. 

Happy Thanksgiving despite the chaos. If I can a find that double IPA through all this, anyone can.

Stay safe, sane and healthy. Keep those masks on tight. The next few months will be a wild ride.


Last photo. I found that Double IPA 

Monday, November 16, 2020

An Open Letter to President Democracy...


Sorry to interrupt your Tweet. 

I’m well aware you have the attention span of a chihuahua mainlining espresso laced Red Bull. I’ll try to keep this post brief. So here goes. Are you still with me? 

With all due respect (which I have none for you) it’s over. You lost. You are a loser! However this isn’t the first or last time you’ve been sitting in the caboose of a failing endeavor.

Here’s some examples of your former ineptitudes: 

Trump Shuttle Inc. Crashed and burned with creditors aboard in 1992. 

Trump Vodka. Fell off the barstool in 2011. BTW. You don’t  drink! So to paraphrase Earl Butz. “He no play-a game. He no make-a “vodka.” 

US Football League. Fumbled in the Red Zone in 1985 to the tune of 163 million in losses. However, you did win a $3 lawsuit against the NFL. Now THAT’S the Art of the Deal! 

Trump University. Grade F- in 2010. This wasn’t  an accredited college or university. The conservative minded “National Review” deemed it a “massive scam.” Wow! Don you might want to remove that diploma from the Oval Office. BTW. Trump Inc. shelled out $25 million in lawsuit settlements for taking advantage of other wannabe scammers. 

The Trump Foundation. President Dude! You stole money earmarked to charities for your own business  and political interests! That’s low even for you. But you had help on this one. Your evil spawn. AKA Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest assisted too. 

Recently you’ve been slaughtered in your feeble attempts to reverse the election results in the courts. Donnie, I’m no lawyer nor do I play one on Facebook, but I do know this. Judges insist on seeing something called “evidence.”  Without it, there’s no case. You are wasting money that could go to organizations like...say Trump Foundation!  Oh never mind. (See above) 

So DJT... This isn’t your first rodeo of losing. No worries. Its cool. Being second or last might create a sense of humility in your selfish soul. (Which you could use in “Big Mac” sized portions. Just sayin!) 

By the numbers: As of this post, President-elect Biden has 290 electoral votes. You have 232. As far as the popular vote goes. Biden curried 51% with 78.89 million affirmatives. You garnered 47.3% with 73.2 million wanting you around for another four years. A 5.69 million vote difference. The approximate population of the entire state of Colorado. Unlike in 2016, those excess votes were in many swing states. IE: MI, WI, PA, NV and even the land of Barry Goldwater turned Blue. AZ that is. This Election wasn’t “rigged” or “stolen.” This is how Democracy works. 

To simplify it further. 73.2 million trusted you. Your words carried weight, despite over four years  of leaving  a Twitter trail of tall tales. 

 On the other side of the aisle 78.89 distrusted you. I’m sure most were weary of being demonized and scapegoated. The country had been divided prior to 2016. Since you’ve been in office the gap went from a hairline fracture to a full on femur through the thigh compound fracture. Complete with blood, gore and the chance of shock. There was no  “We the People” or “My Fellow Americans.”  It was gangland  Us vs. Them. The talk and Tweets were demeaning, unnecessary and cruel. 

Then there’s that mindless pathogen causing all all kinds of grief and uncertainty. To put it bluntly, your Administration’s response has been almost criminal in nature. From the first confirmed case in January 2020, you fibbed and downplayed the enormity of this minuscule virus. On January 22nd, “We have it totally in control...It’s going to be just fine.” The US now leads the World in total cases and total deaths. America makes up just 4% of the World’s population. This is a disgrace. 

 I’ll let you in on a not so secret secret. People are stressed. We don’t need or want a Constitutional Crisis. 

Here’s a history lesson. Since the days of George Washington (he was the first President in 1789) there’s been a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. It’s all been pretty civil. No mobs were taking to the streets. No one was preaching discord or throwing out words like rigged or stolen. The concession speeches were about unity for all Americans. 

So...President Trump, be a mensch. Do the right thing. Pass the baton to the President-elect so we can all move forward. Think of it this way. This could be the start of the New You. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even start to like you.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Don't forget to thank a Vet today...

 and everyday.

I bought Paul breakfast for his service to our country.

Thanks Paul!

Instant Karma (of the Good Kind)
     They are found everywhere in America, from metropolises to tiny burgs and all the places in-between.
     I’ve collectively nicknamed these bands of men the “early a.m. coffee klatches.” They can be found in our nation’s cafés, diners, McDonald’s, and gas stations. One can discover them wherever a cup of Joe is being poured. The one stipulation for making these sightings is to be a 0-dawn-thirty riser like me. With my early bird schedule, I am always on a collision course with these good natured, good ol’ boys.
     Their caffeinated banter is centered on harmless jibes, local news and gossip, sports and bumper-sticker sized solutions to the problems or our nation and the world. I think of it as a live version of the “Today” show minus Rockefeller Center and Al Roker.
     While traveling through the Northwest in the vicinity of Mount St. Helens National Monument, I was on a layover in Cougar, Wash. At 6 a.m. most of the lights in town were off (there weren’t many to begin with) except at the gas station. I pulled my camper van into the parking lot hoping for at least a cup of java and at best a breakfast. I was fortunate to score both and an animated coffee klatch to boot.
     After placing my breakfast order at the kitchen, I took a solo seat near the gaggle. As is my usual custom, I brought in a load of maps and hiking guides to help me figure out the day’s game plan. When my maps were spread all over the table, the local gent’s natural curiosity was piqued. A few came by to dispense advice on places to see and things to do. Most of the information was geared more toward ATV or equine travel than hiking, but I shook my head and smiled just the same. After a while they returned to their seats and their usual routine.
     I went back to looking at my maps, eating and eavesdropping on their conversations.
     From what I gathered they were a group of Army veterans spanning the years between the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War. One or two of the more vocal ones told war stories as if they were in a fox hole with bullets flying yesterday.
     I finished my breakfast, collected my maps and made my way to the cash register. I stopped in front of their table and interrupted them for a moment.
     “Thank you for your help on the local scene.” I allowed that to sink in before I added, “And thank you for your service to our country.”
     With that I walked away.
     A hush fell over the crowd before one of them piped up, “Wow! It would be nice to hear that more often.”
     So in conclusion, thank a Vet. It won’t cost you a thin dime, and the payoff might be priceless.
     Think of it as performing a random act of kindness in an often time not so kind world. It’s a win/win situation for all.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Comfort through the Chaos through...


A few weeks ago, I posted about the correlation between my stress levels and restlessness.

Since then, the O-dark-thirty hours are the majority instead of the minority. While camping there’s barely enough available sunlight to heat a Solar Shower. I’ve also witnessed frost on my windows. With less then 24 square feet of living space in my camper, claustrophobia was starting to set in. Alas it was time to extricate Sanctuary Too off my truck and place it (lovingly) into hibernation. Sniff. Sniff. 

Since then II, the Election has come and gone. There’s a Constitutional Crisis brewing because President Me! Me! Me! has no comprehension of the Rule of Law, US History or basic math. Oh yeah, Covid is rampaging too, but in a quieter fashion. 

So my comfort traveling days are done for now. I’m seeking solace in alternative ways.

I’m cooking! 

I know, not as exciting as camping and hiking in amazing WiFi-less places, but I’m making do.

I’m going all out comfort foods: Chicken Marsala, Pad Thai, Cashew Chicken, Potato Latkes, Pasta with veggies. All spiced in an underwhelming manner instead of shockingly. I desire subtle. 

Of course, I’m dicing and splicing  my All Time Favorites too: Minnesota Soup (inspired by my Mom)

and Sambini’s Famous Kosher Green Chili.

Let’s face it, most of us crave a return to the good natured real family values of honesty, affection,  humility, kindness, generosity, displaying  empathy and being polite and civil. In other words be a Mensch.These traits shouldn’t be looked upon as human frailties or being a wussy. This is what separates us from the rest of the Animal Kingdom. 

So... in an effort to bring about a kinder, gentler World and Country, I’m willing to  share my Green Chili recipe. Mind you this is 42 years of tweaking and revisions to attain this final perfect outcome.

Think about this. A First Generation American Child of the Holocaust has created this very Mexican comfort food. Now that’s What Makes America Great! 

Enjoy! (I’m willing to dole out samples to the Durango locals and my neighbors.)


Sambini’s 🌎 Famous Kosher Green Chili Recipe

Over 40 years in the making! OY!


2 BIGLY cans of Hatch Green Chili’s (other brands work too) drained

One jalapeño pepper diced

1 can of Pinto Beans drained

1 can Black Beans drained

3-4 medium sized red potatoes cubed (parboil them and set aside)

4 skinned deboned chicken breast cut bite size.(toss them into a bag of flour (2 light handfuls shaken not stirred) 

Veggie broth (use about half boxed container)

Two medium sized Sweet Onions or 1 HUGE one Diced

Two Bigly beefsteak tomatoes diced.

1 teaspoon kosher salt (of course)

1 teaspoon Black pepper 

1.5 teaspoon cumin

2 hefty tablespoons of diced garlic ( I use the kind that comes in jars)

Olive oil but just enough to fry the onions and chicken

How to:

In a Caste iron Dutch Oven (works best)

Use enough oil to fry the onions up nice. Then add the chicken/flour mix. Might have to add more oil, but don’t OD on it.  Chicken doesn’t have to be cooked through and through. Just enough so it’s not raw

In a blender: 

Place one can Hatch GCs. A diced tomato, diced jalapeño add enough broth to cover the bottom one third to half. Blend until it looks like a purée. Toss this into the Dutch Oven. Repeat with other can of GCs and second tomato 

Toss in parboiled potatoes, spices and simmer at low heat for many hours. I let mine go about 6 plus. You want this concoction to look like a stew. 

When it looks like a stew. Crack open an IPA, Or Margarita, grab a tortilla and enjoy with others.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

I’m Proud to be a Great Old Broad...

for Wilderness. 

“Whoa! Whoa! Jeff, did you have a sex change operation?”

No. Not at all. I’m a member of this organization. I’m considered a Great Old “Bro.” 

Here’s what the GOB are all about:

A worthy cause? I think so. I am one of 8,500 associates in over 40 chapters.

The GOB are fighting the good fight. They are BIGLY on conservation advocacy and education. 
I truly believe women are better suited at presenting a point of view than men. The “XY“ segment of humanity has an over-abundance of testosterone. This hormone can cause aggressive tendencies. Women are capable of discussion. Men come out swinging. 

So... at the height of the Covid lockdown, Suez J. from our local chapter of GOB reached out to us members for interesting and inspiring stories. I submitted this one:

Planting a Tree…                                                                   


My father, a survivor of Hitler’s insane concept of human genetics, planted a tree at our house in the Bronx. The sapling was a two-foot white pine that my father appropriated from the Catskill MountainsAKA in the “Big Apple” as the Jewish Alps. “Jeffy, watch! This tree will one day be taller than our house,” he proclaimed. Like a faithful son, I believed him.


One winter, a Nor’easter blizzard blew down along the eastern seaboard. The heart-attack-heavy snow broke the tiny, white pine in half. My dad, a tailor by profession, but whom Uncle Sam trained to be a medical assistant in WWII, sprang into action. He fashioned a splint made of a few sticks, a side order of rags and a lot of twine. With these meager tools and devices, he made the wounded tree whole again. He reasoned, “It works for people, why not trees?”


In 1978, I escaped the hassle and hustle of the Big Apple and moved out West. Now I, a son of a son of a tailor and graduate from the Syracuse College of Forestry, nurture trees at my home in Fort Collins, Colorado.

I can’t take all the credit; I get a lot of help from Mother Nature. Neighborhood squirrels burrow acorninto the mulch and forget where they placed them. A white-oak sapling will arise a season later. My furry friends do the same with apple cores and cherry and peach pits. I have a virtual fruit stand growing in my yard. We haven’t had much luck with avocado pits yet. When the oaks, peaches, apples, cherries and ashes grow too close together, I’ll go in and do a “thinning operation, and rearrange some saplings. Once in awhile, I have to place a few up for adoption.


Letting go of my green children is always a difficult process. First I have to find a suitable “parent.” Then the lengthy application process begins. With questions such as, “Are you aware that Colorado is now in a drought?” Then a follow-up query, “Will you be able to provide an adequate supply of water for this young plant?” After that, I quiz the applicant about his or her general knowledge on such diverse topics as soil conditions, fertilizers and peat moss. Only when I am satisfied with their answers will we venture out Into the yard with a shovel in tow. As we dig up the adopted seedling, I make sure the new owner understands that I get visitation rights. It’s never easy to let go.


In the fall of 2000, I went back east to visit family and friends. I borrowed a car and drove out to see my childhood home in the Bronx. I was glad that I had faith in my Dad. He was right; that white pine tree is now taller than the house.


Do yourself a favor; plant a tree. It’s good for the soul.

 Suez liked my story. She asked me if I’d be interested in being interviewed for a podcast. I agreed although I know my sister-in-law, Robin is correct when she once said, “Jeffy, you write better than you speak.” 

Here’s the podcast link:

Please consider becoming a member of the GOB.

They are cool with you being an XY chromosome type of people.

Stay safe, sane and healthy,

Let’s all keep fighting the good fight.




Sunday, October 25, 2020

In Fort Collins I had sociopaths...

for neighbors. 

Wow! Jeff that’s harsh! OK, I’ll throttle back. At least they were quiet sociopaths. 

I have oodles of examples on why I proclaimed the above statement, but for ADD sake, I’ll only present two.

A blizzard rolled into the “Choice City.” I woke early before work to shovel the potential heart attack stuff off my sidewalks. After two pots of coffee, it didn’t take me long to clean my turf. Heck! I’ll be helpful and clear the white death from my neighbors walks too. So that’s what I began to do. I was making progress when the misanthropic couple emerged from their home. They sprinted past me on the slip-free sidewalk en route to their car. There was no “Good Morning!” Or a “Thank You!” No eye contact either. I leaned on my shovel like a city worker as I pondered my next move. Ahah! I pushed all that icy stuff back onto their walk. For good measure, I added a half ton more. That’ll learn them to be impolite to Mr. Jeffy Manners.

Another short example: My unemployed alcoholic neighbor once opened a KOA for the local homeless folks in his weedy backyard. There was no Porta Potty or “Necessary Room.” provided. There will be no photos of what transpired.

So...when I decided to end my 6.5 year Homeless by Choice lifestyle by settling in Durango, I wasn’t thinking too much about neighbors. I had my sights on a low maintenance basecamp rental, close to downtown and bigglier than the 66 square feet of living space in Barley the Van. The Parkside Terrace Townhomes was exactly what I was seeking. 

Upon moving in August 2019, I made it a point to try and get to know my many neighbors. Not easy for a guy who describes himself as a “sociable hermit.” I waved, smiled and introduced myself when the situation presented itself. 

Over a year and a pandemic later, I’m pleased to say my efforts were heavily rewarded.

Here’s a list of folks who were on my welcome wagon:

Tanya (AKA Ms Gregarious). I was having another solo woe is me Thanksgiving Day. A text came in, “Jeff, we noticed your lights on. Get over here and have Thanksgiving Dinner with us!” She didn’t have to text twice. This could be one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever received. To this day, I still thank her. 

Molly who text alerts me about impending community Happy Hours and birthday parties. Her sunny disposition always brightens my day.

Jimmy and Ethan who ply me with IPAs, poke, sliders, cerviche and tool loans while distributing manly advice and suggestions at our gatherings. 

Linsay for dropping off two six packs of delicious IPAs, just because.

Cale and Corrine my immediate neighbors. Cale took me fishing, changed my flat tire and is now building me a camper conveyance contraption for transporting Sanctuary Too into my snug garage. Corrine smiles and schmoozes with me. In pre-Covid times she doled out neighborly hugs.

Brian for his expert advice on the local mountain scene. 

Dave the Pilot all around nice and helpful guy.

Tim and Fon who always bring something (besides interesting conversation) to our Happy Hours whether it be Pisco Sours or Fon’s Thai appetizers. 

Marcia who is a patron of our Mini-Library. (I’m the Founder) and graciously gave me a gift card to the local book store along with a “welcome to the hood“ note.

Meesh who volunteered to be my “Safety Bubalah” (a Yiddish term of endearment). She wants to know where I’m going and when I’ll be back. That way the authorities will have a general idea on where to look for the buzzards circling above my kosher carcass. Her boyfriend Jimmy is OK with me calling her Bubalah. Meesh makes me potato pancakes and knishes too. Jewish soul food. the risk of being a schnorrer (a sponger in Yiddish) I decided to pay the kindness forward by hosting a party. The occasion? My upcoming birthday. The guest list was my neighbors and the few other acquaintances I’ve made so far. Here was the invite. Yes there was a band too!

All these photos were taken on Party Night. Before you admonish us about lack of masks, the CDC states that consuming growlers of double IPAs provide temporary immunity to Covid. 

I feel fortunate to have chosen Durango to settle in. It’s at the epicenter of incredible people and scenery.  

The bonus is my Parkside Terrace neighbors are kind, generous, caring and thoughtful. There’s not one sociopath in the bunch! They are quiet too.

Stay safe, sane, healthy and remember to vote,

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

For the Love of Books.

Barley the Van was the only “Homeless by Choice” RV equipped with book shelves. When I specced out my wandering  home, I insisted upon it. I required storage for my volumes. 

I knew enough about the lifestyle of living in a Van down by the river to understand there wouldn’t be TV or WIFI. So as an avid fan of non-fiction I would fill my downtime by reading. This wouldn’t be a hardship for me. When I’m not hiking, blogging, drinking coffee or IPAs, occasionally socializing , I read. 

When my book supply became dangerously low, (a handful of reads). I sought out “Friends of the Library” used book stores. 

Ahah! Not all Friends of the Libraries are created equal. There are Duds and Studs.

Losers ?

Snobsdale, AZ with their snippy volunteers lording over 70-100 books of marginal interest.

Telluride, CO  had a haphazard collection of books as disorganized  as the dreadlocks of the local White Rastafarians.


McCall, ID where the 80 plus year old book selling woman attached a “Reading is Sexy” bumper sticker on her sedan. 

Others? Carbondale, Boulder and Fort Collins CO. Admirable book shops with a dedicated staff.

BUT! The Academy Award Winner is the Durango, CO “Friends of the Library.” Lela’s Book Store offers up oodles of great authors: Bill Bryson, Sebastian Junger, Timothy Egan, Hampton Sides, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Erik Larson and Tony Horwitz for name dropping purposes. The books are in fresh out of the wrapper condition. No dog ear pages, no coffee stains or scrawls in the margins. I found a community who treated the written word like priceless art. Once again, I felt like I was among “My People.” Upon settling down here, I knew I had to be a part of this book loving organization. But first, I had to see what I was getting into. From the website: 

Wow! After becoming a member, I had a one-on-one class with Maile (Volunteer Coordinator) on how to be a book seller. “The roll out bookshelves go here at this precise angle. At the end of a shift tally up the book sales. (Luckily there’s a calculator). And most of all, “Don’t Lose the Key to the Storeroom!” 

I passed the exam and worked a few substitute gigs. I loved it. 

I was ready to help with the BIGLY Book Sale. When Maile sought volunteers, I immediately signed on to be a  round trip book shlepper, (moving books from the storage unit to the Library and returning unsold books back to storage). I also scored a shift of cashiering.

Me being me, I arrived at the storage unit half hour before showtime. I was a slacker. Uber Volunteer Lynnette had already hauled 50 boxes of books to the curbside. Of course, Jewish Guilt kicked in, “Why didn’t you tell me you’d be here early? I was just drinking coffee and waiting to do something. I could’ve helped.” I assuaged my guilt by offering her a store bought blueberry muffin and a Cutie Orange. Others arrived along with a small truck. Before one could say, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” the truck was fully loaded.

At the Library, it took even less time to unload the word haul. Anxious volunteers were waiting there to help. Into the conference rooms the boxes went. Tables were already set up. Fiction over there, Non-Fiction on the other side and Children’s book over yonder. Maile and President Shelly were playing traffic cops by directing the book flow. I got out of the way before I got hurt.

It wasn’t long before the Durango Used Book Sale was ready for avid readers to appear the following day. 

All the volunteers were then rewarded with a sumptuous lunch buffet. I was gobsmacked. For Jews the offer of food is the ultimate show of appreciation and gratitude. I wish the world worked as well as the Durango Friends of the Library.

The book sale netted $4,561.31 for library programs. Plus! 150 pounds of books were donated to local non-profit organizations.

Alas, with the new norm of Covid, the Library and Lela’s book store have been shuttered since March 16th. 

I took this as a sign to fulfill a life long dream. I am now the Founder of the Parkside Terrace Mini-Library. The circulation desk is now open for loans and donations. It didn’t take long for our first customer to appear. The Friends of the Library donated generously to this project as well.

Last photo: I was able to attain a look in at what books will be on hand in the new Trump Presidential Library. 

Make America Read Again!