My Story: Crippling Self-Doubt To Water Sports Expert!

Hi!

My name is David…

I take solace from being in the water, under the waves or over them… plus it’s fun!

Bet that describes you too…

In water, you can relax, have fun, and forget about the world (if even for a few brief moments)!

Attention, Interest, Desire, Action……

David Rowell Water Sports Aquatic Activities Expert

1.0 Water Activities Mentioned

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2.0 Quick Summary

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3.0 We’re A Lot Alike

We probably have a lot in common…

A Windsurfer Jumps High Into The Air Over Ocean Waves
Credit: Photo by George Desipris. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

In fact, I’ll bet:

  • You LOVE water sports and have a “carpe diem” attitude… 
  • A rush of adrenaline washes over you when you combine exercise and water…
  • You’re hooked on the freedom and exhilaration of aquatic activities…

But you may be wondering:

“Who’s this David Rowell guy?” or “Why should I listen to him?” 

Fair enough!

A little backstory may help…

3.1 Roller Coasters

We all know what rollercoasters are…

Amusement park visitors flock to these monsters of wood and metal for the adrenaline rush… the laughs… and the thrill of speed!

And my life has often felt like one too

So why do I compare my life to a ride on a rollercoaster?

You’ll see in just a sec!

3.2 Peaks & Valleys

I’ve had highs and lows.,.

But one thing has always been a constant source of peace for me…

The water!

Living high in the hills I’ve looked down on the city lights below

I know what it’s like to choose between putting gas in my car or feeding myself and my dog. I’ve been homeless and dug through trash cans for food!

Sometimes, I’ve even asked myself: “What’s the point of it all?”

  • My lows have often seemed VERY low…
  • The high moments have been incredibly high…
  • In the best of times, it felt like I had it all!

Three simple words can describe my life:

“Highs and lows.”

But the water has always been there for me

4.0 Ordinary People

I was just another middle-class kid…

We moved a lot when I was younger… or at least I thought so!

No.

I wasn’t an “Army brat” who constantly moved… but for years it felt like we couldn’t stay put for very long.

Both of my parents were pretty simple people…

Highly educated.

But simple…

4.1 Mom

My mom Vera was an elementary school teacher…

Her parents were hard-working honest people. My mother’s dad Glenn was an electrician and her mom Pearl a schoolteacher.

Then Vera became a mom and wife…

(L) Grandma Pearl, David, Steven & Mom On Xmas Day, (M) A Happy Mom & Dad, (R) Vera Contemplates Motherhood
Credit: Photos by family & friends. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

She doted on her kids and was loyal to my dad…

Vera cared about herself of course… but how others were doing ALWAYS came first to her!

(Mom got her Master’s Degree in education after my brother and I got older.)

Everyone else’s needs were her biggest priority!

And she always put her own second…

4.2 Dad

My dad entered college at the age of 16…

His name was Cy. He was a skinny, slightly geeky little kid who’d worn glasses most of his life…

Dad grew up in Evansville, Indiana during WW2.

His father Cyrill was a salesman and pharmacist while his mother Mary was a homemaker.

Although a bit socially awkward he loved our family

(L) David, Steven & Dad In The Snow, (M) A Happy Young Cy, Vera & Newborn David, (R) Dad, David & The Dogs On A Walk
Credit: Photos by family & friends. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

(He seldom used words to express it though.)

After years of hard work, my dad received an undergraduate degree. Then his Master’s degree and finally his Ph.D.

Then he became a professor…

He placed a high value on “book smarts”.

My dad didn’t really understand my brother and my attraction to the “squishier” things like talking to strangers… the sales process… coloring “outside the lines”.

But that didn’t make him any less of a father…

We all loved him regardless…

5.0 Getting Started

I was taught to love learning at an early age…

As I said earlier, both of my parents were educators. Whenever I wanted an answer, they wouldn’t give it to me directly…

Instead, I had to go look it up in books (Google didn’t exist yet 😀).

That gave me a lot of confidence to find my own answers!

People today are surrounded by information… even drowning in it… but those early lessons have stuck with me for a lifetime.

Now let’s talk about how I came to be…

5.1 My Beginning

I was born in Trenton, New Jersey…

I don’t really remember anything that happened back then:

(L) Mother Vera & Newborn David, (M) David & Dad Admire The Christmas Tree, (R) David Digs A Hole
Credit: Photos by family & friends. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

I’ve been told by family that:

  • I went to my first county fair still inside my pregnant mom…
  • A 102-degree fever hit me the day I left the hospital as a newborn…
  • My grandparents helped my parents buy their first house…

5.2 A Good Beginning

(Photographs are the only memories I have of this time.)

But apparently, I was happy when I lived in Trenton!

Then I got to grow up

6.0 Moving Around

We lived in some pretty interesting places…

Growing up I experienced small-town America, the big state of Texas and both coasts.

Here’s a bit about each…

6.1 Des Moines

It’s the first place I have actual memories of…

Des Moines, Iowa.

My parents and I lived in a modest house and my dad was looking forward to his first teaching gig!

My memories of that time are in just two places…

The house I lived in and on a porch swing…

Most of those times were happy!

Except…

In front of our house, I was stung by my first bee!

Credit: Photo by family. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

(Of course, my dad took a photograph).

Enough of that… what about the happy memories?

I sat on a porch swing with my adopted relatives, “Aunt” Olive and “Uncle” Farrow. We watched a nearby radio tower and its blinking red light on top.

They said it was MY light… “David’s light” they called it.

Apparently, I loved living here!

(But we were finished almost as fast as I was getting comfortable.)

My father’s first “real” job ended before the school year started. The college where he was supposed to work shuttered its doors…

Ends up they didn’t get enough enrollment to survive!

But there was some good really news coming

6.1.1 Four

My brother Steven was born!

(L) David & Mother Vera Admire Newborn Steven, (M) David & Steven Dresses For Baseball, (R) 2 Boys Explore Carpet
Credit: Photos by family & friends. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

This little person…

A living, breathing part of my mom and dad was in our home!

I felt pride. I felt love. I felt responsibility…

And yes.

I felt a LITTLE bit of jealousy…

6.1.2 Try Again

My parents were forced to move on after the college shutdown…

So we packed up a U-Haul again!

This time we landed in a little Missouri town…

6.2 Canton

It was a picture postcard American community…

A creaky iron bridge led our new hometown of Canton, Missouri to nearby Quincy, Illinois.

Crossing over the Mississippi river, we could look down and see people and their houses that would be flooded in the coming years…

TWICE!

I quickly learned the Mississippi could bring floods and leave behind devastation!

Water could also be the source of endless fun…

6.2.1 Discovering Water

What’d we do for fun in this little town?

That’s where water first came into my life…

As ships traveled up & down the river we watched the lock and dam system!

A Mississippi River Lock & Dam System In Canton, Missouri
Credit: Photo by Library Of Congress. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

I stared in amazement as each boat floated in…

The iron door slowly closed behind then a steady flow of water rose higher and higher…

Moments later, massive steel water gates creaked and groaned, and soon the ships continued navigating down the Mississippi…

I was mesmerized!

6.2.2 Look Before You Cross

Learning to ride was an adventure… 😬

A new bike was waiting for me on Christmas day under the tree!

I was impatient…

Not willing to wait for adult-supervised riding lessons, I decided I’d teach myself.

It didn’t take long…

As I wobbled along the side of the road (we lived on a fairly busy street) I swerved my bicycle in front of a vehicle and I almost got hit

My mother was distraught!

Sobbing but relieved, mom hugged me tighter than ever!

It was my first time seeing her like that…

6.2.3 More Small-Town Fun

There was lots more to do…

Our family went to a lakeside summer camp where my parents spent hours playing board games with friends.

Steven and I rode an old pony named Candy…

And when we were back at home?

  • Matchbox cars and Slinkies went down the basement stairs…
  • We sledded down the white hills on snowy days…
  • The propane tank in the backyard stained our clothes as we sat on top…

On the 4th of July, Steven and I sat in the driveway and lit fireworks under the watchful eyes of our parents. 

(The “fireworks” were kid-friendly sparklers and “snakes”.)

6.2.4 A Tough Lesson

One time I borrowed a plastic toy M-16 from a friend down the street…

I got in BIG trouble!

A Group Of Green Plastic Army Men Charge Ahead
Credit: Photo by icon0.com. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

My parents said kids not a lot older than me were being killed in a war I’d never heard of…

I just shook my head because I didn’t understand:

  • Nobody bothered to tell me the Vietnam War was raging…
  • That war was not a regular thing in America…
  • I DID discover my mom and dad were NOT fans of toy guns

(They especially didn’t like them in wartime…)

Lesson learned! 😕

6.2.5 A Pretty Decent Start

Overall, life seemed pretty good…

But things were about to change. No more small-town life!

We moved to Texas

6.3 ”Cowtown”

Now I was in Fort Worth…

First grade was at an elementary school several blocks away from home.

I walked those two blocks alone every schoolday

Yes.

Kids walked unchaperoned when I was younger!

Friends and I even walked to strangers’ houses on Halloween night… at least until the razor blades in apples started to appear…

(They kinda ruined everything)!

6.3.1 Why Here?

I used to pass a farmhouse on the way to school.

It was in a big field surrounded by a sea of houses. As I walked by staring at the surrounding farmland I wondered:

A Group Of Bluebonnets Grow In Front Of A Farmhouse
Credit: Photo by David Holifield. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

“What’s a farm doing in the middle of my neighborhood?”

Years later a “lightbulb” went off in my head:

It had been here before all of our houses!

(Duh! 🤬)

That was my first lesson in real estate…

6.3.1.1 The Beginning

At my Fort Worth elementary school, I saw and did a lot of things for the first time:

  • I won the first-grade summer reading contest…
  • I met my first Black kids from the “other side” of the freeway…
  • Cafeteria food almost ruined eating vegetables for me…
  • On the playground, I heard my first “curse words”…
  • And some of my classmates wore black armbands…

Remember Canton where I got in trouble playing with that toy M-16?

Now I’d learn why…

6.3.1.2 Out In The Open

Fort Worth was more of a “military town” than the places I’d lived before…

There was Carswell Air Force base, one of the largest US nuclear bases in the world at the time.

(L) A B-52 Stratofortress Sits On A Runway, (M) AnF-16 Thunderbolt Atop An Aircraft Carrier, (R) A Bell Huey Helicopter
Credit: Photos by (L) Military_Material, (M) Jessica Cogar & (R) Military_Material. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Then came General Dynamics (aka “GD”), home of the F-16 fighter jet…

Bell Helicopter was nearby too.

People were more willing to talk about this place called Vietnam…

6.3.1.3 Missing

Apparently, there was a war there

At the time, I thought if your father was a fireman, he fought fires. If your Mommy or Daddy was a doctor, they fixed sick people.

Naturally, I thought if your daddy was a soldier, he went off and fought wars!

(Made sense to my little elementary-school brain at the time…) 

The Vietnam War Missing In Action Symbol
Credit: Image by Charging Forward. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Little did I realize that warfare was rare

And THAT’S what all the black armbands at school were about.

I started to hear one phrase a lot:

MIA.

I quickly learned that MIA meant “missing in action”.

And lots of kids didn’t have dads coming home at night like I did…

6.3.2 Exploring

I bought my first record (“The Theme From SWAT”)…

I got sugar highs from Pixie Sticks … saw a Yo-Yo demo in front of the local store… went to the shopping mall (in the days before the rise of Amazon etc.)

There were other adventures:

  • Learning to swim in a neighbor’s pool…
  • Having my first crush on a girl across the street…
  • Fishing with my Dad in Glen Rose…
  • Riding banana-seat bikes…
  • Shooting BB guns…
  • Showing off on skateboards…
  • Going to the S&H Green Stamps center…

I remember the Fotomat booth… the neighborhood Mott’s “5 & Dime” store… a Sears catalog as thick as a phone book…

I watched in amazement as an older kid had a plywood skateboard halfpipe built in his backyard!

(He’s chillin’ in Davis, CA now… 🤙)

6.3.3 Hearing “Those” Words

I’ll never forget this one winter day…

I was playing outside with a friend in our “snow fort.” We were making snowmen… building ice tunnels… throwing snowballs!

(Snow in North Texas was a rare thing kids celebrated!)

I saw my father driving down the street…

There was one thing I didn’t know then…

A few minutes earlier he’d been in a car accident! A snowball had been thrown into the car in front of him, causing my dad’s car to slide into theirs…

What happened next I THOUGHT would be funny.

“Watch this!” as I grinned at my friend. “I’m gonna hit my dad’s car with a snowball!

I made the throw and heard a loud smash on his car’s rooftop

His car screeched into our driveway! Immediately my dad stormed out of the car and violently slammed the door behind him…

Next thing I knew?

He was screaming at me across the street using curse words I’d never heard before in my short life!

My friend turned to me and said calmly, “Uh… I think your dad is pissed!”.

Not my best moment… ❄️

6.3.4 The Submarine Captain

I fondly remember Sunday nights…

After dinner, my brother and I sat in front of the family’s black-and-white TV.

We eagerly awaited the Wide World of Disney and the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom shows. We watched Tinkerbell wave her magic wand and saw a young Jack Hannah talk about lions and tigers.

(Pretty cool stuff for two young kids!)

This is where I first saw the Disney film “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”.

And got an introduction to Captain Nemo…

(L) Movie Poster For Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, (M) Captain Nemo & His 'Guests', (R) 20,000 Leagues Promotional Piece
Credit: Photos by TheWaltDisneyCompany. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

He cruised under the waves in his submarine…

Through the sub’s glass windows I glimpsed a world of firsts:

Captain Nemo and his crew went deep ocean diving… spearfishing… enjoyed a wealth of seafood! I’m still a fan of those things to this day!

I was hooked!

And I’ll never forget that first glimpse…

6.3.5 Stuck In The Middle

I was faced with a terrible choice…

The public middle school I was soon slated to attend was NOT a good place:

  • Violence…
  • Drugs…
  • Crime…

(Yes… it was a middle school!)

My parents could send me to that hellhole school or enroll me in a rather pricy “college prep” private school on a financial scholarship.

I went the private school route…

6.3.6 My New Normal

The private school was unlike anything I’d seen before…

(In a good way!)

  • There were all kinds of kids who attended…
  • My classmate’s parents were doctors, lawyers, business people…
  • The Cowboys had donated their old weight room stuff to us…

I was totally out of my element at the beginning…

The school was a grade 1-12 college preparatory school with only 40 students per grade: 20 boys and 20 girls.

The reality was very clear:

  • There were VERY high expectations from the adults…
  • Two hours plus of homework per night…
  • Starting the day early, a full load of classes, going home late…
  • Choosing French or Spanish to take in every grade…
  • Playing multiple sports like football, soccer, track or tennis…
  • Alternating weeks of music and art instruction…
  • Taking Latin classes in grades 5-8 too…

Every night I collapsed…

All there was time to do was eat… do homework… then fall into bed!

The next day I repeated the process…

But I loved it!

Credit: Photos by (L) XXXXX, (M) XXXXX & (R) XXXXX. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Recall me talking about the Mississippi River in Canton, MO?

We learned the history of the Mississippi River: Mark Twain… Huckleberry Finn… Tom Sawyer.

Read “The Iliad”… “The Odyssey”… other classic books… including Plato (more on him in a bit)…

There were also sports:

  • Football…
  • Track…
  • Soccer…

I played ’em all!

6.3.10 Not So Fast!

There was only one problem…

My parents were forced to liquidate stocks left by my grandfather to get me into that school.

Dad always said, “David, you want champagne spending on a beer budget”!

Guess he was right… 😮

The money ran out by the end of 8th grade.

It was back to public school for my high school years…

6.3.11 Trying To Fit In

In my public high school there were new things:

  • Weekend keg parties at the nearby lake…
  • Smoking pot for the first time…
  • 1-meter & 5-meter diving lessons…
  • Seeing porn films with my buddies…
  • Water skiing behind my friend’s boat…
(L) My Freshman Year High School Football Team Official Photo, (M) Friends In Padre Island For Spring Break, (R) My Ford Shelby Mustang Parked In The Driveway
Credit: Photos by (L) unknown, (M) friend & (R) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

I had a good group of tight-knit friends…

Some from elementary school… some from middle school… some new.

One thing was different for me at that school…

6.3.12 PSP

No…

PSP or “private school pussy” wasn’t a crude way to talk about females…

It was an insult hurled at private school transfers like me!

PSP was a taunt… a pejorative… a “cutdown”…

It was the cruel way some people in my new public high school labeled people like me (I’d heard about PSP before my 1st day).

The harassment began without mercy…

Even a few of the coaches (one in particular who later became the city’s public school superintendent) participated!

But then I discovered weightlifting… 

6.3.13 Getting Big

I had several choices at the time…

  • By some miracle transfer out (wasn’t gonna happen)…
  • Endure four years of hell, getting harassed and beat up constantly, or…
  • Get so goddamn big because of weightlifting the bullies were scared of me…

I chose weightlifting.

They divided us into groups of four based on our cumulative weight lifted…

In my first semester, I could bench press a whopping 75 pounds!

By the end of my freshman year, those 75 pounds had become 200! I was assigned to the strongest lifting group, consisting of me and 3 seniors. 

I got so big no one picked on me anymore… 🖕

6.3.14 The Club

I was introduced to “private clubs”…

Some of my old middle school friend’s parents had a membership in a local yacht club.

(Most working-class families like mine headed up by college professors and elementary school teachers didn’t even know about these!)

I was invited to come to a private 4th of July yacht club event!

That evening I watched fireworks launched from a barge as we sat on the shoreline.

The club’s private restaurant had its own chef…

Credit: TBD

Coolest of all?

A fleet of “J” sailboats was available for rent, and the docks were filled with swaying masts as the sailboats rocked in the waves.

Hello, sailing! ⛵

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Water park in New Braunfels

zxczxczx High School

Inner tube floats down the Trinity

zxczxczx High School

6.3.15 Across The Pond

I saw a completely different world…

During the summer of my senior year in high school, I spent seven weeks backpacking through Europe with a good friend.

It changed my life perspective forever…

6.3.15.1 The Nudge

It took a little convincing…

Fortunately, my friend’s father persuaded my skeptical parents to let me go on the trip.

They were Brits…

My buddy’s dad traveled the world for work, and as a kid in the UK, he’d ventured to many places.

(L) Me & Friend On Europe Trip, (M) An Old Stone Welsh Farmhouse, (R) The Pompedou Center, A Dutch Windmill & Notre Dame Cathedral
Credit: Photos by (L) friend, (M) friend, (R) JadeRadula, Rudolf-Peter Bakker & Nina Popovic. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

We had blast!

And that backpacking trip reminded me of the “classics” back in middle school:

One story especially came to mind.

Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”. It’s about the world as people think it is and NOT the world as it is…

Europe did this for me!

I found myself away from everything and everyone that I knew:

  • New tastes…
  • New smells…
  • New places…

I got to experience these for the first time there.

(And I LOVED it!)

I had a new understanding of other places and I came home with a newfound respect for home!

My world was expanding…

6.3.15.2 Salt Air

We went ocean sailing on the North Sea…

My friend and I were with four Belgian high school students. I was amazed they all fluently spoke three, four, or even five languages!

(I discovered that size-wise, most European nations are like states in the US.)

We sailed the North Sea…

It took me a little while to get my “sea legs”, but I was hooked on sailing after the cruise.

My passion for the open water and using the power of the wind to travel began off the Belgian coast:

  • The smell of the salty ocean air…
  • Wide open spaces as far as I could see…
  • A feeling of complete freedom…

Not a bad way to spend the day…

6.3.15.3 Perspective

During our trip, my friend and I visited six different countries: Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, England, and Wales.

That friend?

I met him in that private middle school I talked about before….

During our trip we learned that things could be different:

  • There were no ice cubes in soft drinks…
  • We traded music cassette tapes with European teenagers…
  • There were currency exchange rates to figure out…

We also discovered that teenagers everywhere are pretty much the same everywhere…

6.3.15.4 Maniacs

Something horrible happened next…

The Hyde Park bombing happened while we were in London. On TV there were images of dead and dying bodies everywhere…

Dead Horses & Destroyed Cars In The Aftermath Of An IRA Terrorist Bombing In Hyde Park, London (1982)
Credit: Photo by BBC. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

We were supposed to be there

(The whole thing seemed utterly senseless to two teenagers from Texas.)

We’d made the trip from France to England the day before during a train and bus driver strike. As a result, the trip took us all day long.

The following morning we slept in and missed going to the parade as we’d planned…

When we came downstairs that morning we saw our host Mrs. Wallner sobbing uncontrollably.

My friend asked her, “Are you okay? What’s going on?”

Her reply?

“They’ve bombed Hyde Park.”

That day I learned the “they” she was referring to was the IRA. And I learned what real terrorists could do…

Finally, after 7 weeks, we flew home and returned to our familiar world.

A year later I was off to college…

7.0 My 7-Year College “Plan”

I stayed out way too late…

The night before the SAT, my friends and I decided to party.

We were typical 18-year-old idiots: obnoxious, loud and drunk (the legal drinking age was still 18 back then).

Despite a throbbing hangover, I scored pretty well.

7.1 Good Enough

I had gotten good at just getting by…

Putting in just enough effort to get good grades… but not REALLY trying.

“My SAT score is good enough,” I said to myself…

My score was fairly high and got me into the university where my dad taught.

“Works for me!” I thought!

(At least it seemed at the time…)

7.2 A Rough Start

In my 1st year in college, I was only going through the paces

Computer science was my first major.

Right away I almost got kicked out of school for sending and receiving porn emails (nudes in text format)!

What Passed For Computer Porn In 1983
Credit: “ASCII art” by Marcin Glinski. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

(In hindsight, maybe I should have taken things a bit more seriously back then.)

Great start, David! 👍

There was also some good news too:

With the help of personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, I discovered that questioning is hard-wired into me

(Call it having a personality open to “playing the Devil’s advocate”.)

Apparently, I’m driven to question:

  • Anyone…
  • Anything…
  • Anywhere…

That sounds like a recipe for disaster right?

Unchecked? Maybe…

But those personality tests showed me to be stubborn (in a good way)… persistent… determined!

So I transferred and tried again…

7.3 Non-Regs

This time I landed at Texas A&M in College Station…

(Uh… what’s that title above mean by “non-regs”? Just a sec…)

I got a little more serious this time:

  • Switched my major to aerospace engineering…
  • Experienced the BIG student population…
  • Got pretty good grades in some tough classes…
  • Learned to stand through entire football games…
  • Experienced lots of great traditions like Elephant Walk…
(L) The TAMU 'Elephant Walk', (M) A Wall Inside The Dixie Chicken, (R) A Late-Night Dorm Party
Credit: Photos by (L) me, (M) DixieChicken & (R) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

It seemed like I met people from everywhere…

People from small towns I’ve never heard of… students from countries all over the globe…  I heard multiple languages being spoken constantly.

In hindsight, it prepared me for my post-college moves actually!

But I had to face some hard truths…

A growing problem could derail all my newfound progress and future plans!

(I almost forgot: A “non-reg” is an A&M student who’s NOT in the Corps Of Cadets.)

7.4 My Little Demons

Anxiety started to make life difficult…

I couldn’t switch off all the ideas in my head (medical people call these “racing thoughts”).

I thought EVERYONE struggled like I did in college!

Before I finished the first semester of my senior year several years later?

I quit…

8.0 Back To Where I Started

I returned to Fort Worth ashamed…

Confused, I took several menial jobs and did essentially nothing:

  • I was a “therapy tech” at a psych hospital…
  • A bartender at a local restaurant…
  • I watched late-night TV until I passed out drunk…
  • Bought a motorcycle (my mom was NOT happy)…
  • I worked in a “high-end” liquor store…

To top off my attempts at excelling in mediocrity, I lived with my parents at their home.

I had zero idea what I was going to do with my life!

Then things started to change…

8.1 Nada

For two years I did basically nothing…

But I FINALLY returned to an area university and got a BFA degree.

A Small Light In The Distance Surrounded By Nothingness
Credit: Photo by Jez Timms. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Because of my math classes as an engineering major at A&M, I was the only design graduate that year with a minor in mathematics.

(A BFA with a minor in math?)

Believe it or not, it actually paid off soon…

8.2 Little Fish

That mix of creativity and hard science was about to come in handy…

(But for now, I was still trying to figure it all out.)

All I knew was I had to do something different! What I had been doing wasn’t working!

My friend (the guy I’d gone to Europe with) had a conversation with one of his younger brothers and later told me about it…

His brother lived in a small town where he wanted to be a “big fish in a little pond.”

The brother didn’t want big city life… traffic jams… the other problems that come from living in a large metropolitan area. My friend’s brother was happy being a “big fish in a little pond”…

But my friend wanted the opposite.

He dreamed of being “a little fish in a big pond”!

We both did.

I’ll tell you about moving into that “big pond” in a little bit…

8.3 Granny Unit

Then we met…

While working one of my part-time jobs in Fort Worth, I was introduced to my future wife.

She graduated while I was finishing my degree at another school. Pretty soon, she got a design job in nearby Dallas and moved.

Shortly after, we got married, and I joined her in Big D:

  • We had a wonderful Siberian Husky…
  • The tiny Dallas home we lived in was a “granny unit”…
  • Our honeymoon was in Cancun, Mexico….
Credit: TBD

At first, I slipped back into old habits: I was committed to being a “jack of all trades… master of none.”

I worked for my landlord in his pest control company…  crunched numbers for a property tax control firm… even tried (and failed) at my own model building company for courtroom use…

I worked part-time for psychiatric hospitals. I even tried my hand at graduate school!

Nothing seemed to capture my enthusiasm.

Then I got into a fight…

8.4 THE Fight

It wasn’t a physical fight…

No.

This was a verbal fight with my father…

I’ll spare you the details… but when it was over my wife and I were “done” with life near my dad.

We were ready to move…

9.0 Going West

It felt like a breath of fresh air…

(Little did the two of us know we were about to enter a fire of sorts.)

xxxxx

yyyyy

Our lives would be changed forever!

And we were heading right towards it…

9.1 City On Fire

Our timing couldn’t have been much worse…

My wife and I moved to Los Angeles just in time for the Rodney King verdict.

Not good… ☠️

People were freaked out! Fires and smoke crept closer daily from the riots in and around South Central L.A.

  • Neighborhoods posted “Keep Out” signs…
  • Shop owners carried guns and slept at their stores…
  • Race relations were at an all-time low…

xxxxx

yyyyy

Eventually, both we and the city survived…

9.1.1 A Weird Feeling

Something cropped up in my mind…

I worked in a small computer rental company on Sunset in the shadow of the “Marlboro Man” billboard. The owner Monty (RIP) was a chain-smoking David Crosby lookalike (think long-haired burnt-out hippie).

He was a little crazy but also wicked smart!

I learned an enormous amount about life and business from Monty.

One of his customers was working on this new thing called the World Wide Web… and I asked him tons of questions…

I’d finally found it!

The thing that seemed like a perfect fit for my “left brain”/”right brain” mix…

I devoured every book I could get my hands on about HTML: image optimization… browser standards… automation!

(L) Books I Used To Self-Teach Myself Web Development, (M) My 3.5" Floppy Interactive Resume, (R) Sites I Used To Learn The Web Thing
Credit: Photos by (L) Amazon, (M) me, (R) AListApart, WebMonkey & OReilly. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

As I read all those books at lunchtime I hatched a plan:

I’d convinced myself I was gonna become a master of this new “web thing”!

I was finally on the leading edge of something…

9.1.2 An Old Friend

There was something else too…

Los Angeles had one thing I was attracted to more than anything else:

Water!

  • I loved the Pacific ocean (even though it’s REALLY cold)…
  • My wife and I discovered a great beach south of Malibu…
  • We fell in love with Neptune’s Net restaurant near Zuma…

 Sure L.A. was expensive… crowded… AND polluted… but I considered water sports my mental health lifeline.

When I got to the water everything else just fell away…

9.1.3 There Was More

I saw other things too:

  • I learned what BAD traffic was…
  • Saw utility bills were printed in 20 or 30 languages…
  • Ate fantastic food from everywhere in the world…
  • Walked to the Hollywood Bowl just a short distance away…
  • Experienced Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Koreatown and more…

I spent my first-ever Christmas wearing shorts and a t-shirt, surrounded by palm trees and the sounds and smells of the ocean.

I mentioned food, right?

Credit: Photo by (L) XXXXX/ family. (M) XXXXX/ family. (R) XXXXX/ family. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop. L.A. Restaurants…

Jjust a few faves:

  • “El Coyote Restaurant” on Beverly Blvd…
  • “Pink’s Hot Dogs” on La Brea…
  • “Yamashiro Restaurant” near the Hollywood Bowl…
  • “Neptune’s Net” north of town…
  • Wolfgang Puck’s “California Pizza Kitchen”…

I saw so many incredible things during my time in Los Angeles.

But most of all?

I’d finally found the motivation I’d never had before!

9.1.4 Then It Happened

I’d decided my future would be different…

Remember my buddy from middle school and the Europe trip?

He invited my wife and me to a party north in San Francisco that was being thrown by a company called Silicon Reef…

(My friend’s company was a Silicon Reef client.)

At the party, the music was blasting… the alcohol was flowing… the dance floor seemed almost alive! But my wife said she didn’t know anyone and wanted to leave…

My reaction was the opposite.

I was where I felt I was meant to be!

“In a year, I am gonna know people like this. This web thing is my world now!” I said…

She just stared at me.

Just a few short months later my dream came true!

It was time to jump into another pond…

9.2 Deadheads & Patchouli Oil

We arrived in San Francisco…

And thought we’d arrived in the “Promised Land”!

San Francisco & The Golden Gate Bridge Seen From 'Hawk Hill'
Credit: Photo by Dllu. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Unlike the “City Of Angels”:

  • San Francisco had abundant smog-free air…
  • You could swim in crystal clear blue ocean water…
  • Enjoy weather only Walt Disney could have designed…

The trip up from LA?

Now that was another painful experience I never want to endure again…

9.2.1 The All-Night Trip

My wife & I rented a U-Haul…

It had a “speed governor” on it: our moving truck had a speed limit:

We couldn’t drive over about 45 miles an hour!

What we figured would be a 7 or 8-hour trip ended up taking all night long. We arrived exhausted the next morning shortly before my wife had to be on her first day at a new job.

We backed our car off the U-Haul trailer…

She turned a brave face and got ready to meet her new coworkers.

But first?

We make the slow trek up the hill to our new rental house. To our relief, there was a surprise waiting for us…

Our neighbors from across the street brought us bagels and coffee! 

(We quickly became friends with our neighbors.) They’re also where one of the biggest joys in our lives came from…)

A German Shepherd Dog puppy named Nemo.

(More on him in a bit…)

9.2.2 1350 Square Feet

Our 1950s house was relatively small…

But it was high in the hills of El Cerrito looking across the Bay at the city of San Francisco!

Credit: Photo by (L) XXXXX/ family. (M) XXXXX/ family. (R) XXXXX/ family. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

And that made it perfect as far as we were concerned.

Soon after, I landed my first job…

9.2.3 Big City Life

Remember that party at Silicon Reef?

Ends up that I landed my first San Francisco job with them!

My new office was a happening place at the time…

We had freshly made fish tacos and Sony PlayStation competitions at our insane Friday night company parties!

Some of the hottest local web companies were there… brand new tech startups… venture capitalists… it seemed like EVERYBODY was there:

  • People from Macromedia…
  • Craig Newmark of Craigslist…
  • Employees of LookSmart (a Google precursor)…

We bragged about the “burn rates” of our companies and just plain had fun!

Life was good…

9.2.4 California Dreamin’

I remember standing there…

We’d just recently moved to San Francisco.

And now?

I was in a coworker’s Bernal Heights backyard filled with party guests…

We were all eating, laughing and drinking… looking at the downtown skyline.

View Of The City Of San Francisco From Bernal Heights At Dusk
Credit: Photo by Dllu. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

(I felt filled up with possibility!)

On that day nobody cared about the things that so many others worry about…

At the party there were:

  • Straights and gays…
  • Christians, Jews and Agnostics…
  • Married, single and divorced…
  • Blacks, Whites, Hispanics and Asians
  • Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians…

None of it mattered that day!

We were just people together sharing a happy moment…

The reality of the “California Dream” featured on TV and in films seemed so alive back then!

And now I lived in the middle of it…

9.2.5 A Harken Furling

Remember that neighbor across the street who brought bagels?

He was a sailor.

From his early days growing up near Lake Merritt in Oakland, he’d LOVED sailing.

Years later, he, his wife, and one of their friends (the owner of a San Francisco sailing school) bought a 50-foot racing yacht together!

They were always looking for a crew on sailing days… and I lived across the street.

So guess what?

Crewing was often my responsibility!

Credit: Photo by (L) XXXXX/ family. (M) XXXXX/ family. (R) XXXXX/ family. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

I learned a ton: the ins and outs of running a sailboat, how to tie various sailor’s knots and hoisting up the mainsail by grinding away:

  • We competed in races like the Delta Ditch Run…
  • Celebrated at marinas when we were done…
  • Ate hamburgers at the Richmond Yacht Club…
  • Sailed past giant container ships near the Alameda Yacht Club…
  • Floated just off Alcatraz as the Blue Angels flew by…

(For those who don’t know, a “Harken Furling is a xxxxxxxxx.)

These are memories I’ll never forget…

9.2.6 Double The Fun

My wife and I had some great water experiences together…

  • We learned to sailboard in the waters off Berkeley…
  • Watched a parasailing event where competitors whizzed by overhead…
  • Saw sea lions basking in the sun near the water’s edge…

People came to visit over the years.

Of course, we went to the usual “tourist spots” like Alcatraz… the SF street trolleys… the Golden Gate bridge… Hawk Hill… Muir Woods!

We also went to local hangouts…

9.2.7 Full Stomachs

Remember “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”?

The idea of dining on seafood from the ocean floor seemed almost magical…

(Seafood is my favorite type of food to this day.)

Some of the best area eating places I loved to visit:

  • “The Dead Fish” in the nearby town of Rodeo…
  • “Alioto’s” in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge…
  • The “Seabreeze” restaurant near the Berkeley Marina…
  • “Baja Fresh” in the nearby town of Albany…
  • Street-side cauldrons of oyster soup in the city…

There were hamburgers galore, too: “Red’s Java Hut” in the city, “Hamburgers” in Sausalito and The “Red Onion” in Richmond.

(Plus every other food you can imagine.)

It was all GREAT to have after a day on the water!

9.2.8 Sounds Of The Ocean

I often camped at Ocean Cove…

It was along the shoreline about an hour north of town.

Ocean fishermen stuck their poles in the shore while waiting for ocean salmon to bite… we cooked fresh oysters over a campfire… people dove for abalone…

(L) Ocean Cove Sea & Camping Views, (M) Ocean Cove Grocery, (R) Plate Of Fresh Oysters, A Firepit & Fishing At Ocean Cove
Credit: Photos by (L) SonomaCounty, OceanCove, SonomaCounty, (M) Ocean Cove Grocery postcard, (R) Claude Potts, Tim Gouw & Luqmaan Tootla. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

I used to go to the Ocean Cove convenience store every night!

That was when a pickup truck full of freshly caught oysters arrived! Local fishermen brought them to the store…

I was ALWAYS there to buy my share! 

One night, we sat in front of the fire cooking the oysters in an iron skillet. We’d invited a father and son who were camping nearby to eat with us.

The teenager noticeably winced as he swallowed his first oyster…

(He was probably throwing up in his mouth on that first one.)

One day I met a businessman who’d moved away from the S.F. area years before. I saw him dressed in full scuba gear heading out from his campsite…

He was going diving.

He told me every time he’d have a business trip to the area Ocean Cove was on the schedule. He loved scuba diving here. This was his “special place”.

It was HIS time. The time he’d carved out only for him!

Think back…xxxxx xxxxx

9.2.9 What’s A GSD?

We decided to get a new dog…

Shortly after my wife and I moved into our new home, we got our first German Shepherd Dog puppy from our neighbors.

We named him Nemo…

(L) A Young GSD Puppy Named Nemo, (M) Nemo Hints He Wants To Play, (R) Fence-Mounted German Shepherd Dog Sign
Credit: Photos by me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

(He was named after the Disney submarine captain… NOT the fish.) ☺️

xxxxx

I loved walking with the GSDs at Point Isabel xxxxx

Found sister Paige…

He also loved the ocean (Dillon Beach and campground?)

We met several people who had adopted Nemo‘s brothers and sisters. One of them had puppies several years later, and we adopted one more puppy.

Her name was Emma.

All in all, life was good until I got a rude reminder one day:

9.2.10 Constant Motion

I left Silicon Reef…

Afterward, I worked for a long-defunct company called Human Code. The HQ was in Austin, TX, but there was a branch in San Rafael nearby.

(L) Silicon Reef Coworkers & I Hang Out, (B) Logos Of A Few Bay Area Companies I Worked For, (R) The Entrance To SF's Stacy's Bookstore (Now Closed)
Credit: Photos by (L) coworker, (R) Yelp & (B) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Others…

I loved my job!

9.2.11 Neat Little Boxes

But then a big San Francisco company acquired us.

And the first order of business was to have a “meet and greet” event…

While almost everyone was trying to get to know each other, a certain group of the big company’s employees wasn’t mingling!

We were curious and approached them.

They loudly complained about the recent presidential election and this ”idiot” George W. Bush…

We watched in disbelief.

Sure…

Some of us voted one way while others another. But we all knew there are two things you don’t talk about at family gatherings and company events:

Religion and politics.

Despite that, one woman and her group of sycophants who parrotted her every word were bleating things like:

  • “Texans are so stupid! I don’t know anyone who voted for that fool!”
  • “I can’t believe that moron got elected to the Presidency!”
  • “Bush is just a stupid Texas redneck like they all are down there!”

Wow.

They were in full gear!

We waited patiently until their circlejerk died down, and they finally noticed us. Our small group of former Human Coders stood by in silence…

Then they greeted us.

The woman who’d been wildly ranting just minutes before turned to me with an artificial smile and asked, “Hi… what’s your name? Where are you from?” 

I reached out my hand to shake hers…

With silent satisfaction, I calmly said, “My name is David. I’m from Texas.”

(She kept her mouth shut after that)

I’ve had my share of that kind of condescending judgment over the years:

  • On the sidewalks of “liberal” New York…
  • In small Southern towns…
  • In the smug streets of Berkeley…

Those times remind me of the old Rush lyrics, “Quick to anger. Slow to understand.”

As Rodney King once (in)famously said:

“Can’t we all just get along?”

9.2.12 Gray Area

Warning: The following rant may piss some people off… skip it if you’re “sensitive”.

(OK… here goes.)

<rant>

For some, there’s only black and white…

No gray.

In my experience, these people stereotype those who see the world differently…

They don’t seem to care whose feelings they trample on in the process. In their self-righteous world, they don’t simply have another opinion, they’re “right.”

And the rest of us?

We’re fine letting those opinionated asshats run their sideshow…

Why?

Because most of us live by an unspoken code: “It’s OK when we agree to disagree.”

We just want to enjoy being around others and experiencing what everyone else is passionate about…

And the stereotype lovers?

Go ahead. Live in your bitter little world

</rant>

9.2.13 The World Crumbles

It couldn’t get much better than this…

(Or so I thought.)

I was about to own the house I’d been renting with my wife for years.

I had panoramic views of the city… a beautiful wife… 2 dogs I adored… wonderful neighbors… a dream job…

I felt like I was living at the top of the world!

(Sometimes I could even see the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge poking through the clouds or fog. Really!)

Then an earthquake came…

10.0 Earthquake

xxxxx

yyyyy

zzzzz

10.1 Little Hill

It wasn’t a real earthquake…

But it utterly destroyed the world I was living in.

First thing?

I got laid off with a thousand other people…

Remember the “bad timing” of that move just in time for the Rodney King verdict?

Now it was March of 2002 (9/11 had happened a few months earlier)…

Just one week after that I was laid off.

Talk about timing…

But it gets better!

My wife and I had just purchased the tiny home we’d rented for years. It was a small 1350-square-foot house built in the 1950s…

Credit: Photo by (L) XXXXX/ family. (M) XXXXX/ family. (R) XXXXX/ family. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

We paid $439,000.

Four hundred thirty-nine thousand dollars. In 2001!?!

Yep…

The world felt upside down. For that and many other reasons.

Then things got worse…

10.2 Gaps Had Formed

Everything seemed to have changed (for the worse). People had started talking about war and politics more than ever:

  • Family members were shunned based on their political views…
  • The radio waves were filled with opinionated talkers…
  • Television news focused less on facts and more on opinion…

Cracks were beginning to show across the entire country.

(Cracks were starting to form in my life too!)

Taking on the purchase of the rental house had been too much…

But I didn’t want to deal with the feelings I had inside.

Soon after our marriage crumbled…

My wife and I went to pastoral counseling for two-plus years. We tried to fix the problems chipping away at our relationship…

But it was too late!

We sold the house and lived apart for over a year.

Then we divorced

11 North Of The Bridge

I wanted to be as far away as possible…

xxxxx

yyyyy

11.1 Two Rock

I headed north…

So I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and relocated to wine country about 45 minutes away.

I ended up in a relatively small area of west Petaluma referred to as “Two Rock”…

Nemo and I rented a room in a Victorian house built in the 1800s with two women. I also discovered the mortgage industry and was in it for about 5 years.

Things were pretty good for a while!

But then my income slowly shrank as the mortgage bubble of 2008 fast approached.

My life had one bright thing in it though…

11.1.1 A Silver Lining

My one joy was taking Nemo on weekend excursions…

(My ex-wife had kept Emma and I got Nemo.)

(L) The California Dog Lover's Companion, (M) My BMW 540i's Dashboard, (R) Nemo Enjoying A Ride In The Back Seat
Credit: Photos by (L) Amazon, (M) me & (R) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

He and I had some incredible adventures…

I didn’t have a lot except for my car, a copy of the “California Dog Lover’s Companion” book guidebook, and my trusted canine companion.

I learned a lot about the small towns dotting northern California…

Cities that were initially built in the 1800s for railroad workers from all over the globe:

  • China…
  • Italy…
  • Germany…
  • Korea…
  • Czechoslovakia…

We discovered…

11.1.2 xxxxx

yyyyy

11.2 Egg Town

Petaluma is famous for producing eggs…

(They used to ferry them down the river to the Bay for the people of San Francisco and beyond.)

Now I lived in an old Victorian in the far west part of Petaluma named Two Rock.

Nemo with no fence. Dressage facility. Dillon Beach

We were just a few miles from the ocean. At night in my old pickup, as I listened to radio broadcasts of classic shows such as “The Shadow”, ddddd and ffff the fog rolled in at night.

It blanketed everything.

The fog made the night air seem quiet, peaceful, and calm.

11.1.2 Row, Row, Row Your Boat

I even got Nemo to love rowboats!

He wasn’t too sure at first… the boat rocked back and forth as it floated in the water…

At first, he wasn’t so sure about that!

But after some tentative steps (and the fact I was already in the rowboat) telling him it’d be OK he cautiously stepped off the pier…

After several attempts, he gained confidence and lay in the front while I rowed the oars!

And we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the water…

11.1.3 Cow Camping

I used to camp at the top of a tall hill…

Nemo and I would pile into my pickup truck on a Friday night and build our campsite far above where we lived.

At night we were surrounded by the hills, a flickering fire and sometimes?

Curious eyes.

One night after Nemo and I had gone to sleep we were awakened by sounds outside our tent…

I stumbled outside and as my eyes adjusted in the light of the dying campfire, I saw something rather odd…

We’d been surrounded by a ring of curious cows.

I could imagine them thinking: “What the F are the two of them doing in the middle of our pasture?!?!”

Soon after I moved on…

11.2 Hippie Hideaway

Oysters… in this little town?

Sebastopol was attractive to me because it was very close to the ocean.

xxxxx

Several miles from home a fisherman had a tin shack and a bunch of big blue coolers. He stayed behind after he and the other fisherman finished their night haul…

That fisherman sold fresh oysters and seafood for about half of what the grocery store did!

(I ate a LOT of fresh seafood in Sebastopol.)

11.2.1 The Smell Of Fresh Bread

Remember that house in Two Rock?

Back in the 1970s, a group of hippies lived there and needed a way to make money…

They started selling bread in front of the Victorian.

Ultimately, that little bread-selling idea evolved into a full-fledged fresh bread store down the hill from where I lived!

more?

Word was that Alfred Hitchcock loved this place.

He filmed “The Birds” in the nearby town of Bodega. It was said he fell in love with the smooth mountains surrounding the area right up to the ocean because they reminded him of Wales.

11.2.2 Beach Town

I loved going to Dillon Beach…

(L) Nemo & Emma Enjoy The Surf, (M) Dillon General Store, Mother, Baby & Dog Walk Along The Beach, Ocean View From The Cliffs, (R) Nemo At Dillon Beach Approach
Credit: Photos by (L) me, (M) Chris Vanderbilt, Julia Babka-Kurzrock, Rich Babcock & (R) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

It’s a tiny little oceanside town with one of the last private beaches in California…

The tiny downtown has a phenomenal restaurant, a well-stocked supply shop, and entered some of the best beachfront camping I’ve ever experienced.

(Because their beach was private, it allowed adult beverages and, best of all, DOGS!)

During my visits, I saw scores of surfers, scuba divers, snorkelers, windsurfers, paddleboarders, beachgoers and plain old-fashioned swimmers!

I spent a lot of time there:

  • Sitting with Nemo or girlfriends watching the sunset…
  • Getting soaked playing in the waves of the Pacific…
  • Camping with the sounds of the surf in the background.

Dillon Beach served as my escape from reality for years…

11.3 Hombre

Next, I moved inland to Santa Rosa… 

Nemo and I swimming at condo…

There was a lakeside park near my condo:

  • It had a train my young nephew loved to ride…
  • Splashy water attractions…
  • Crazy-good food like hot dogs and cotton candy…
  • There were walking trails around the lake…
  • You could rent paddleboats on the shoreline…

xxxxx

11.3.1 Hometown Heroes

Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip and the character Charlie Brown lived in Santa Rosa…

It sometimes felt like EVERYTHING was named after him…

  • There was the Charles M. Schultz Airport…
  • “Snoopy’s Home Ice” ice skating center…
  • A Charles M. Schulz Museum…

Luther Burbank was another name that was used a lot in the area. He’d become famous for blah, blah blah hybridizing plants.

Guy Fieri…

Who would have known? At least I didn’t…

11.3.2 Volunteering

Nemo and I did animal therapy…

We volunteered at retirement homes, schools and hospitals. Blah blah add more later.

(L) David, Nemo & Retirement Home Resident Sit Together, (M) Handmade Thank-You's For Nemo Visit To Special Needs Class, (R) Nemo & US Flag In Two Rock (Petaluma)
Credit: Photos by (L) friend, (M) me & (R) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

xxxxx

11.3.3 Special Access

I had a co-worker named Dave…

He was as White looking as me, but a small part of his heritage was American Indian.

(A TINY part… maybe 1/16 or 1/32.)

Because of his heritage, Dave could get access to restricted Indian-only fishing lands…

And he LOVED to fish!

In the office, he would tell us when he was fishing that weekend. Dave would ask his friends if they wanted any fish to eat…

On Monday, he would show up with coolers filled with fish!

Freshly caught fish filleted by hand…

Dave refused to accept any money for the cooler contents. He just loved to fish!

But soon?

None of that mattered…

11.4 Water Everywhere

Later I headed south down the road to Novato…

Located halfway between Santa Rosa and San Francisco, Novato was really unique because of one area:

Bel Marin Keys.

11.4.1 Shiny & New

I moved to help open a new mortgage office…

A loan officer I knew had asked for my help establishing a new location for his business.

I was broke at the time…

But being eternally optimistic I thought THIS was when I’d make big bucks and win the freedom I craved!

Each day I walked to the office daily and put on my “sales guy mask”… 

There were very few sales commissions (the “Mortgage Bubble” was fast approaching).

But I persevered.

And occasionally I did get paid…

11.4.2 The Keys

With a little cash, I rented a room in Bel Marin Keys…

The U.S. Corps Of Engineers built the waterfront Novato neighborhood back in the 1970s. Connected by a waterway to San Francisco Bay it was a VERY special place…

(L) Nemo Spies Something At The Waterfront, (M) A Boat Cruises By In Bel Marin Keys, Waterfront Backyard Views, House Docks, (R) Nemo Sits Enjoying The Water Novato Water
Credit: Photos by me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Both Nemo and I LOVED it here!

  • Every house had a boat dock behind it…
  • You could motorboat, swim or kayak from your backyard…
  • The smell of the Bay’s ocean breeze filled the air…

Quite possibly it was one of my favorite places to live…

EVER!

But then the good times ended abruptly…

11.4.3 Broke

I couldn’t afford the rent anymore…

At the real estate office, we were unknowingly heading for the housing bubble of 2008. Soon that “bubble” popped and there was no money to go around… 

Suddenly I had nowhere to live.

A coworker knew of a contractor with storage space within walking distance…

Before he was married, the contractor had converted the upstairs area of the storage space into a tiny “crash pad.”

That’s where my dog and I lived for more than two years…

And now as a result?

I was officially homeless.

No…

I wasn’t living on the street, but I was told that anyone in CA who “resides in a space not officially designed for human habitation” is considered homeless.

But then it got even worse…

11.4.4 Goodbye

Old age and disease were catching up with Nemo…

I was finished:

  • I had no money.
  • I had no local friends.
  • I had no children.
  • I had no home.
  • I had no vehicle.

Now Nemo was acting weird.

The vet who saw Nemo told me he’d had a good life and it was time to say goodbye…

Then the doc said it…

Euthanasia.

That was my rock bottom…

12.0 Decision Time

In my mind, I had two options:

  1. Suicide…
  2. Starting over from scratch…

12.1 Options

A conversation with my brother Steven saved my life…

He’d flown out from Pennsylvania to be with me and several close friends joined me at Point Isabel Dog Park (Nemo’s favorite dog park).

I took a long silent walk with Nemo and my ex-wife Elizabeth. Then a mobile veterinarian was to do his thankless deed.

Credit: Photos by (L) me, (M) friend’s painting & (R) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

The euthanasia.

I was devastated. Frantic. Nearly suicidal…

12.2 Reframe

In my mind, I had two options:

  1. Suicide…
  2. Starting over from scratch…

Steven “reframed” my situation.

He helped me understand the freedom I had despite all of the pain…

My brother said millions of people might be envious of me now!

He stated what seemed so obvious. I now had:

  • No connections!
  • No partner to answer to!
  • No children!
  • No job commitments!
  • No house or car to care for!

So I chose…

Steven helped me choose option #2…

To start over.

To make my life whatever I wanted! 

The first thing I had to do?

I returned to what I knew…

12.3 Déjà Vu

I took a detour on the way back to Texas… 

I moved to rural Pennsylvania. I lived there for a few months in a rural farmhouse about 20 miles west of Steven’s home.

His family and my parents supported me financially during my time there…

Mostly I sat alone in my room.

But then I slowly started to see there was a future for me…

13.0 Fort Worth 2.0

I returned to the town I grew up in…

yyyyy

zzzzz

13.1 The Condo

I lived in a room in my parent’s condo:

  • I had no job and no money…
  • Most of the time, I stayed inside…
  • I watched lots of TV…
  • Spent time on the internet…
  • I walked to the grocery across the street…

At first, my pity party was in full swing.

But then things started looking better

13.2 Life At The Lake

House share… pool in the back… near lake and restaurants…

yyyyy

zzzzz

(L) David Stands On The Docks, (M) View Of The Lake At Augies' Sunset Cafe, A Basket Of Great Tasting Augie's Seafood, The Restaurant's Water Entrance, (R) David Seated Looking Down Over A Lake Marina's Boat Masts
Credit: Photos by (L) family, (M) AugiesSunsetCafe & (R) family. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

yyyyy

zzzzz

I finally got a part-time job at a church. Here I was finally able to start reclaiming my self-respect…

Ultimately I returned to the thing I truly loved.

I helped others succeed on the world wide web…

14.0 More Surprises

I have some great condo memories…

One was my time with mom in the condominium swimming pool.

floating in the water propped up by noodles we talked about everything

yyyyy

Privately I listened to my Mom speak of the joyous times

There were also painful ones. 

I sensed a certain loneliness in my mom’s voice as she spoke. She talked with a sense of regret about some of the decisions she’d made.

Those were some of the best conversations I’ve ever had…

14.1 She Fought

There was one fight she didn’t win…

Several years later she lost her life to pancreatic cancer.

The whole process took six long months…

I sat in the hospital holding her hands as the last breath left her body on a hospital oncology floor…

I love her and miss her!

Soon it was me…

14.2 My Turn

I had a stroke…

(And I wasn’t that old!)

(L) David Sits In A Wheelchair Doing Stroke Rehab Exercises, (M/R) A Daily Rehab Status Report, David Lying In His Stroke Rehab Hospital Bed
Credit: Photos by (L) TexasRehabHospital staff & (M/R) me. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

I was the “young one” in the stroke rehab facility surrounded by patients in their 70s… 80s… 90s…

A thought came to me one day.

It had come to me before when I knew Nemo had to be euthanized.

Now it came roaring back again…

14.2.1 The Question

Should I commit suicide?

Or fight?

Fortunately, I leaned on my weightlifting experience all those years ago. In the weight room it was about setting goals… improving every day… growing my confidence…

So I made a decision:

I was going to fight, scratch, and do whatever it took!

Sure.

I was mad for a short time…

Then I came to view my situation like being in a random accident.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault!

There was no one to blame. It was just a nasty combination of lifestyle choices, genetics, and bad luck…

There was absolutely zero I could do about the past!

It was time to move on.

14.2.2 Relocation

After my stroke rehab, my dad and brother moved me

They got me into the back unit of a small duplex near my old place.

(They didn’t want me living in a 2-story apartment. This one was on the ground floor.)

It took patience and time, but I recovered bit by bit.

After a few months, I went from being in a wheelchair to walking 1200 steps to the grocery store and back!

Every day I counted my footsteps. 1, 3, 10, 50

One day a neighbor introduced herself to say she had been watching me for months.

It ends up she’d once had a stroke too!

For months she’d peered through her window, seeing what she labeled my single-minded determination.

(I probably blushed at the time.)

Her encouragement is one of the things that kept me going…

14.2.3 Determination

My improvement continued for several years…

Finally, I moved back to my old location, where I rented the smallest unit in the building.

The interior was about the size of a Catalina sailboat!

I’d struck up a friendship years earlier with the landlord partly because of our shared experience of attending Texas A&M (he’d been a “CT,” and I was a “non-reg,” but all of that was in the past).

He apologized before I moved in about how small the place was…

I told him, “The size is great! No worries!”

“When I got divorced back in the San Francisco area, one of my first thoughts was calling a liveaboard sailboat my home!” I continued.

“Small is good!” I said…

14.3 Lunch With A Friend

Next, it was my dad’s turn…

He was with a friend at a local restaurant waiting for a table.

Then it happened…

14.3.1 The Slip

He fell, smacking his head on the concrete…

Hard!

(L) Dad Reading A Book Lying In A Rehab Bed, (M) My Father w/ His 2 Sons In Earlier Years, (R) Dad Smiling From His Bed In Rehab
Credit: Photos by family. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Months later, after a hospitalization followed by two rehab stays, the effects of T.B.I. took him from us.

(I didn’t really even understand what Traumatic Brain Injury was at the time.)

For those who don’t know, T.B.I. occurs when your head gets smacked hard…

It can happen to many types of people:

  • Football players…
  • Boxers…
  • Soldiers…
  • Robbery victims…
  • People who fall…

That last one (falling and hitting your head hard on the pavement) happened to my dad…

14.3.2 A Good Life

He’d lived a long life…

But in just a few seconds all of it was taken away.

His memories of all the birthdays… holidays… promotions… dinners… laughter… tears… births… marriages… deaths…

All of it. Gone.

I miss you Dad…

15.0 Don’t Give Up

Now let’s focus on what really matters right now.

You…

yyyyy

zzzzz

16.0 Make Your Move Now

Xxxxxx

Look…

Are you searching for a way to have more fun and feel better?

A Group Of Swimmers Hold Hands & Laugh As They Run From A Sandy Beach Into Ocean Waves
Credit: Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen. Modified with VanceAI & Photoshop.

Water sports are the perfect way to do just that! They can help you relax, escape your problems, and have amazing fun.

Imagine feeling this good all the time!

It’s possible when you choose water sports as your go-to activity. You’ll be thrilled with the results – both physically and emotionally…

Check out my site now and discover more about our water sports products!

Attention: xxxxx

Interest: xxxxx

Desire: xxxxx

Action: xxxxx

Wishing you fair winds and following seas,

David Rowell Signature

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