It’s amazing what’s floating around out there in cyberspace.

On December 11th, 1965 Colgate had a wrestling match against Columbia University in New York City. A very minor early season match featuring two small time programs witnessed by a hand full of fans.

The contest came down to the final match, with maybe, 5 to 10 spectators on hand. Most likely they consisted of a few family members and maybe a girlfriend or two rooting for Columbia.

There were no fans who braved the four-hour bus trip, just us wrestlers and coaches and managers. Bob Raiber, who grew up near me on Long Island, remembers that his father and his sister were in the stands.

I know, you can’t stand the suspense and I’m not going to torture you any longer. The Colgate Red Raiders defeated the Columbia Lions 18 to 14.

As minor an event this was, Bob Raiber recently found a write up via the New York Times online archives.

Even though the article says I won my match, I don’t remember anything that happened on the mat. What I do remember is that I wrestled in the 167-pound class for the only time in my high school and college career—I played football at 185-pounds—and I went through a tortuous routine to make weight.

What is most vivid in my mind is the image of Sandy Mintz and I standing by an open window in our cheap uptown hotel room spitting out the window, and laughing because we were so de-hydrated, our spit was just foam with no saliva and it just floated toward the ground.

Because of an injury to one of our wrestlers, Sandy had to move down from 167-pounds to compete at 160 and I pulled from 177 to 167. On the bus trip back to tiny Hamilton, New York, we kept making the bus driver stop so we could buy potato chips and whole quarts of ice cream with spoons so we could eat right out of the carton. I’m pretty sure I weighed 175 by the time we got back to our campus

And, as usual, Sandy Mintz, Bob Raiber, and I sang show tunes on the bus. You can imagine the reaction of our teammates who were trying to sleep and, let me put this nicely, considered it less than masculine behavior for college wrestlers to singing harmonies from West Side Story and South Pacific.

Sandy and Bob and I are still close friends and we get together for New Year’s Eve most years, even though Bob is a dentist in New York City and Sandy was until recently a clinical psychologist in Miami.

This year, each guest was asked to tell a story and I took the opportunity to torture Sandy with the story of Lou Gotz, who covered wrestling for the Colgate Maroon. Lou was particularly tough on Sandy, but very appreciative of Bob and Mel.

Sandy knew I wrote for the paper and kept asking me who Lou Gotz was because he wanted to find him and beat him up. I said for some reason we were never in the same place at the same time so I wouldn’t be able to convey Sandy’s message.

Twenty years later, I confessed to Sandy that Lou Gotz was a nom de plume because the Maroon editors couldn’t find anyone willing to cover wrestling matches, certainly not in New York, not in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, not even home matches in Hamilton, New York. I was Lou Gotz and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to teach Sandy some humility now and then.

He’s forgiven me, kind of, but luckily I’m still a good twenty pounds heavier than he is.

Now I’m heading back into Cyberspace to see if I can find the article about when Roslyn beat Manhasset in football my sophomore year of high school for the first time in twenty years. Give it a try and see what kind of obscure personal history YOU can find online.

colgate columbia nytimes


Next time you turn on the tube, you might read the following disclaimer: “Television might be hazardous to your health. Please watch at your own peril.”

According to a recent study, long hours in front of the boob tube can rot your brain. I’ve felt instinctively that this was true but it’s nice to know there is some science to back up what I’ve been saying for years.

There is a great irony in that I am a guilty party here. If television is a mind-numbing drug, then I work at the pharmaceutical company.

I directed my first television show 40 years ago, and I feel very lucky that I have been able to work on some very high quality movies and series.

At its best, television offers a tremendous amount of information and let’s you travel around the globe from your living room chair. It can also provide a much-needed diversion from a stressful job or relationship.

It’s a matter of degree. If you zone out for six hours a day watching escapist programming that does not stimulate your mind and get your synapses firing, then you are probably going to pay a price, both physically and mentally.

A recent book by a University of Arizona professor was entitled “Get up! Your Chair is Killing You”. So it’s not just a mind issue, it’s a body issue as well, as the more you get off your ass and move around, the less likely it is for your heart to attack you. If you sit down at work all day, have a big meal and a couple of glasses of wine, and then plop yourself down in front of the tube for a few hours before hoping into bed, you can see how this can be seen as a devolution from being a hunter-gatherer!

Content is important too. Some networks that purport to be news channels shamelessly produce crap that is mind numbing at best. The coverage of the Republican primary is a great example. They’ve turned an important political process, a keystone of our democracy, into a laughable gong show.

Carl Bernstein, Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame, said of election coverage that television “programs the circus and provides three rings”.

The election is almost a year away, and history tells us the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and early national polls tell us very little about who the eventually nominee will be—do the names Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, or Sarah Palin come to mind?

Jeb Bush and John Kasich have great resumés but they just don’t “pop” on television and it’s killing their otherwise legitimate candidacies.

Meanwhile, because of the entertainment value that a Donald Trump has provided, the faux news networks spend countless hours covering the pre-season as if it were the World Series.

And we’re stupid enough, or bored enough, to watch. And that goes for me as well. I swore that I wouldn’t watch the last Republican Debate but I started listening to it in the car and turned on ABC when I got into the house. As penance, I’ve been retreating to BBC World News to get some perspective.

Another interesting trend is that far from just reflecting on our society, television has greatly influenced our behavior. Not just candidates personally attacking each other but much more onerous activities. Many studies say that the amount of violence in the media has desensitized the last few generations to the effects of violence.

And this raises a very difficult question: what if they gave a beheading and nobody covered it? What if there was a mass shooting and the killers were never glorified so that they could become tragic heroes and role models to future copycat psychos? I’m still a journalist and these questions haunt me because we want to weigh these decisions in the context that our viewers and readers have a right to know what’s happening in the world—a key component in our democracy.

There is a much more frivolous consequence to the amplification that television provides. A story about a deflated football can generate hundreds of hours of coverage. Football and baseball players celebrate small victories with outrageous demonstrations that never occurred before there were cameras all over the stadiums.

When I played football, you made a great play and acted like that was your job and got right back in the huddle. You didn’t throw up your fists and look to the heavens or act like a two-year old in the end zone.

When Mickey Mantle hit a home run that won the final game of the World Series, he trotted around the bases and was met with some handshakes and hand slaps when he got back into the dugout.

Now a baseball team wins a regular season game with a walk off home run, generating a mosh pit on the mound that has actually resulted in serious injuries to teammates.

And all because there are cameras pointed in their direction. Marshall McLuhan warned us 50 years ago that the medium was becoming the message and that little box in our living room would manipulate our behavior in ways at the time we could never imagine.



I have an restless mind and a vivid imagination and that can be a dangerous combination.

School was always a challenge for me because my mind would wander far from the subject at hand.

I would write notes or practice handwriting or just daydream. Sometimes the teacher or professor would notice that far off look in my eyes and ask me to add my two cents to the discussion and I would stammer and try to bluff but basically I was busted.

It hasn’t changed much over the years. That became very clear to me last week in Los Angeles on a night out with friends for dinner and a visit to the Philharmonic.

Of course, I chose a seat in the restaurant facing the door. I always tell people this is because I was a gunslinger in another life but actually it was a reaction to several mob killings in New York restaurants when I was a reporter there. I figured if I happened into the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe I would have enough of a warning to dive on the floor as the bullets started to fly.

Knowing that a lot of innocent people died in a Paris restaurant recently only reinforced my paranoia. It’s not that I can’t participate in the discussion, it’s just that I’ll always be glancing at the entrance for someone who walks in with mayhem on their mind.

With that in mind, I was a little surprised when we arrived at Disney Hall and there was no security at the entrances. Whenever I go to a Clippers basketball game nearby at the Staples Center, there is a metal detector at every door. Are they thinking that a basketball game is more likely to invite terrorism than a night at the Philharmonic?

The program was opening with Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun, which is one of my favorite orchestral pieces. It’s breezy and uses the orchestra in unique ways and features an outstanding flute solo so I was very engaged.

But when the orchestra switched to a more fortissimo Mozart Piano concerto, my mind was creating images supported by the music. Usually we make the movie first, then add the the sound track, but this night I was doing things in reverse order.

Our seats at the Disney Hall were high up on the balcony. It’s a great view of the orchestra but also every entrance in the building. Scenarios played out in my mind of how the terrorists were going to storm the building and which exit I was going to lead my section mates to.

I could imagine bullets ricocheting off of tubas and piccolos and bad guys leaping from the Terrace balcony a la John Wilkes Booth.

Call me crazy but didn’t this just happen while people were watching a band from Palm Springs performing that recent rueful night in Paris?

Hey, it’s not always I have a mind like this. Once I was at a Giants baseball game in San Francisco and a young man left a camera bag on the little photographers balcony right in front of our seats.

The game started and the bag just sat there. Nobody showed to set up and operate the camera. I couldn’t focus on the game and finally went to talk to an usher, who assured me that Al Qaeda was not at the ball park that day.

Having a good imagination helps me as a filmmaker, but the ensuing paranoia can be tiresome. If America decides it wants amateurs to run the government, maybe Donald Trump will make me head of Homeland Security and I can put it to good use.

If not, I’m just going to have to do the best job I can managing the unmanageable. My high school girlfriend always said “You think too much” and my response was always “Unfortunately, my brain didn’t come with an off-on switch”.



Sid, our cat, is 21 years old and that translates to 100 in human years.

Last week, I got a call from a wonderful friend who has been cat sitting for me as I’ve been bouncing around in and out of town trying to line up my next gig.

It was clear that Sid was coming to the end of his days. He was all fur and bones and walked gingerly, stooped over.   He was moaning a lot and peeing and pooping everywhere BUT the litter box.

I started to do my homework and found out that it was a very simple procedure to put the poor guy out of his misery and that I could hold him in my lap while the fatal shot was being administered.

Most people I consulted with said that Sid had lived an amazingly long life and it would be humane to put him out of his misery.

When I went to discuss it with my veterinarian, I started to cry. In her waiting room. It was obvious that Sid might have been ready to move on, but I hadn’t achieved the moral certainty that was required for me to follow through with this.

Later that day, my youngest son arrived for a visit and argued forcibly for a stay of execution. He pointed out that Sid could still jump up on the sofa or the coffee table and still liked being held and stroked.

And he still loved to eat. And drink water. Constantly.

Charley, my son, offered to take Sid with him on the flight back to Los Angeles where he could stay with my wife and we could re-assess his future.

Because Susan still teaches, we worked out a routine that she would put Sid on the balcony of our LA condo with food and kitty litter while she was at school.

She would hang out with him after school and enclose him in the kitchen at night, again with food and a litter box. Any accidents would be contained to linoleum and not carpet!

I’m in LA now and happy to report that Sid is adjusting well and seems to have a new lease on life. Twice, he escaped through an open door, walked down a long flight of stairs, and was cruising the neighborhood.

The first time was the night before Halloween and I’m sure some of the early revelers were surprised and hopefully delighted to see an old black cat cross their path.

As I write this, he is chilling out on the balcony, and thanks to fact that he is deaf, he isn’t at all bothered by the whoosh of a steady stream of cars passing by and helicopters passing overhead.

So, yes, rumors of Sid’s demise were premature and this new centurion will be carrying on, all fur and bones, with hopefully some sweet moments still to come.


We’re launching the Where’s Mel? app this weekend.

Some of you are aware of this incredible phenomenon: wherever I go, people follow. I can walk into Starbucks and there’s nobody there and before you can say Grande Coffee Frappaccino with 6 pumps of Frapp Roast there’s a big line-up behind me.

This can take place at any venue of any size. It happens at the Haggens Market right near my house at Barkley Village. I’ve learned to shop really fast so at least I get to the check out counter before the line is too long.

In fact, Haggens would have been wise to have sent me to Southern California when they launched all of those new stores. No Mel, and so most of those stores opened and closed in a few months.

Up until now, this has been a paranormal phenomenon, and I’ve stumped even some of the greatest minds I know—mostly college drop outs or English majors—and nobody has an inkling how this happens. I will often stop and look behind me when I’m walking from the parking lot to Starbucks for instance and I don’t notice any crowd building up.

If you don’t believe me, you can consult with my friend Jane McDougall, a columnist with the National Post in Canada. Jane can attest to this happening to me on several occasions as I can attest to the fact that street lamps go on just as she passes them. Weird stuff but we’re journalists so you have to believe it’s really happening.

The new Where’s Mel? app will take the mystery out of this and for a lousy $1.99 you will have a GPS on your smart phone that will let you know where I am at all times. I won’t make that much money at two bucks a pop but I’m thinking the likes of Starbucks and Haggens will at least offer me some discounts for drawing huge crowds to their establishments.

Many of you have subscribed to the Short Mel app already so you know how this is done. For those of you who missed out on that amazing opportunity, Short Mel shows every stock transaction and investment I make.

By doing exactly the opposite, people have made millions in the last few years. Only last month, when I made a big play on the Chinese Yuan and Alberta Tar Sands, some of my followers reported their best earnings ever.

If you’re reading this in the LaConner Weekly News and not on my internationally syndicated blog, you are invited to the launch party this Saturday night at the home of Bill and Sandy Stokes. It’s pot luck so bring a dish.





I’ve got a new best friend. He’s a Catholic priest. And he’s 96 years old.

I was invited to merge Cascadia Film Workshop with a music camp that takes place on a beautiful 200-acre retreat in Mt. Vernon. Looking around, I said, “What is this place!” I was told it was called the Treacy-Levine Center, TLC, and it was started by a priest and a rabbi almost 50 years ago.

Although Rabbi Levine passed away 30 years ago in a tragic car accident, Father William Treacy is still very present. He’s a charmer and he’s clicking on all cylinders and he immediately inspired me. My wife is Catholic, I’m Jewish. Three of our kids were baptized and two had Bar Mitzvahs so we have our own in house inter-faith council. I love the mission of TLC to encourage understanding between people from different backgrounds and religions. So I volunteered to be on the board.

Although I’m uncomfortable with religious dogma—the kind that says that everything in the bible happened literally and my God is the only God—I still believe in the power of prayer. Recently, a Russian immigrant billionaire, named Milner, gave 100 million dollars to Cal Berkeley to find signs of life in our cosmos. No easy task, because it was recently discovered that most of those stars we see twinkling in the ski at night are like our own Sun, and therefore they are each surrounded by orbiting planets.

So there are vast numbers of places that we can look for signs of life throughout our galaxy and galaxies beyond our galaxy. We may not encounter a Martian or Plutonian with three eyes and one pogo stick leg—it might be as simple as an electronic signal transmitted from light years away that helps scientists pinpoint their search. One scientist was quoted as saying that he believed in Milner’s mission because otherwise you would have to come up with the non-scientific conclusion that we are here on Earth discussing this because of a miracle.

Or a million little miracles.

I can understand why a person of science thinks that all things can be explained by science. That kind of thinking led to an explanation for gravity and a cure for polio. But I DO believe we are here because of millions of miracles and coincidences and that’s one of the reasons I believe in God. I pray for positive outcomes and I pray to the forces in the Universe that can’t be explained by science.

Even Einstein believed in God and felt that there had to be a reason all of these things happened the way they did. And even Einstein could not explain the concept of infinity to me in a way my human brain could understand it. Where did time begin? Where does Space end? If it ends somewhere, what’s beyond that? I can’t get my head around it, and because not all things can be explained by science, I’m going to continue thanking God for my existence. Einstein famously said “…science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. They are interdependent and have a common goal—the search for truth.”

The concept of a deity has been very much on my mind recently, since my Rabbi Josh Samuels said in his Rosh Hashana sermon one year ago that you did not have to believe in God to be Jewish. He said that questioning the existence of God is very much a part of our culture and heritage. I introduced Rabbi Josh to Father Bill recently and they found that they had a great deal in common despite the fact that Father is twice his age and went through very different training.

Father Treacy recently shared with me a paper he wrote about the contentious relationships between Christians and Jews through the centuries. He wrote, “Looking back over 71 years as a priest I recently came to the conclusion that I was called primarily within priesthood to work for healing relations between Jews and Christians.” He made a copy for me and scribbled a note in the margins: “Mel: I feel God sent you to help me in a very needed ministry.”

I agree. And the healing can start right here in our own communities and congregations.


Common Ground

A priest and a rabbi walked onto a dairy farm…

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it is actually the genesis of an amazing journey that continues on almost 50 years later.

Father William Treacy and Rabbi Raphael Levine bought the 200-acre dairy farm with contributions and founded Camp Brotherhood at Lake McMurray near Conway. Their mission was to promote understanding and common ground between different religions and cultures.

Rabbi Levine, born in Lithuania, and Father Treacy, born in Ireland, co-hosted a television series on KOMO-TV in Seattle for years entitled Challenge where they discussed both the differences and similarities of their faiths, never proselytizing.

Tragically, Rabbi Levine died from injuries sustained in a car accident in 1985. Father Treacy sat at his deathbed and vowed that he would keep the flame burning.

On Sunday, a memorial garden was dedicated at what is now called The Treacy Levine Center. Father Treacy, alert and articulate at age 96, hosted the event which was witnessed by, among others, 28 teenagers from Palestine and Israel and the United States as part of a Kids4Peace event that takes place on the site every summer.

Father Treacy shared the podium with the great niece of Rabbi Levine, Rabbi Daria Jacobs-Velde, who led a rousing song version of Hallelujah, which is a word in English, Hebrew and Arabic. Rabbi Jacobs-Velde’s husband is also a Rabbi and they have a congregation in Sebastopol, California.

In a more somber moment, Father Treacy told the story of a delegation from Pakistan that came to the site in June of 2009. On his return to Pakistan, one of the delegates was killed, allegedly by the Taliban. His name was Khial Akbar Afredi and a plaque in his name was unveiled on Sunday as part of the Memorial Garden.

The TLC has been successful in reaching out to Muslim leaders lately and Father Treacy stood in front of a Christian bible, a Jewish bible and a copy of the Koran.

The TLC hosts camps throughout the year celebrating mind, body and spirit. There are music and art camps, karate and soccer camps, a quilting symposium, a sound healing event and Reiki programs to name a few.

Next August, the TLC will host a four-day event, the 1World Music Festival, with performers from around the world joining local musicians to celebrate peace and understanding through their universal language. Tickets will start selling in the spring and out-of-towners will be able to stay on the premises. The TLC has beautiful hotel rooms and cabins and an excellent cafeteria as well as campsites.

A month later, in September, 2016, the TLC will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of a spiritual journey that is the enduring legacy of two very remarkable men.

Thomas Howell is the executive director of the TLC and can be reached at 360 445-5061 for any groups wanting to hold an event in this idyllic setting.

TLC event

concept of water conservation in America

Perhaps you read my last column in which I mentioned what to so many is an unmentionable: we are in the middle of a serious drought and we are going to have to make adjustments in the way we go about our daily lives.

Now, we can all continue to stick our collective head in the sand, and Lord knows, there’s more and more sand around us every day, OR we can start to take a few easy steps down the great road of reason.

There are those of you who believe this is just the normal ebb and flow of a pattern that has included Ice Ages and Dust Bowls, but almost 100 percent of scientist think that mankind is exacerbating this problem and I’m thinking, maybe we should err on the side of caution and do what we can to slow the devastating destruction of our environment.

Here’s some simple steps to get started:


That’s right, get rid of your lawn. Whether the world we live in was Created by God or is the result of millions of tiny little miracles happening in just the right sequence, much of the American Southwest was evolved, or designed, to have very little of the color green. California had those wonderful Oak Trees but almost everything thing else that was green and grew in the ground was trucked in from somewhere else.  Palm Trees for sure, but even the giant Eucalyptus trees were brought in from far away climes.

This of course includes your front yard. I go crazy when I see a bunch of built in sprinklers pop up out of the ground to water a tiny little patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street. Look around and you might notice that some of your neighbors are doing the right thing and ripping out the sod and replacing it with beautiful desert landscapes of clay and native plants.

I played golf recently at Wilshire Country Club, and the people who maintain this historic course have replanted the fairways and greens with highly durable grasses and all of the areas surrounding and outlining the fairways are brown and dry and it looks pretty cool. There is some understandable snickering out there—can we really even afford to maintain so many golf courses and that very well could be an issue in the years to come but at least the golf industry is awakening to the fact that something’s gotta give.


That’s right, we use up a tremendous amount of water flushing our toilets. Many of you have already installed low flow toilets and that definitely helps, but we are still flushing way too much away. I love to pee outside, I feel a oneness with nature, and that’s easy for me to say because my primary residence is a house in the woods in Northwestern Washington State.

We probably don’t want to drive down Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California and see lots of people standing behind the hedges shaking it out and zipping it up while the smokers stand by and chortle. And that would be even tougher, although not impossible, for women to pull off, both anatomically and culturally. Still, give it your best shot. It’s actually fun to surreptitiously case the immediate environment and sneak a pee!


So the next best thing is to consolidate when you are forced to use a toilet. If you’re just making a number one, don’t flush the toilet every time you use it. I’ll leave the math to you, and I know the sensibilities will differ from fraternity houses to private homes, but just be aware that we can definitely improve on our performance.


Of course, if you’re dropping a deuce, doing a number two, going potty, pooping, or whatever delicate terminology you want to use for doing something that all mammals must do, then flush away and peace be with you.


This is a fun one, or can be. Maybe it will even freshen up a stale relationship. Whether you’re going solo or not, keep it short: no more singing arias while the water is running.


Recently, I was in Cambria, California, where they have been issuing a waiting list for building permits depending on the availability of water. Cambria also was one of the small communities that had the foresight to develop its own system to re-use waste water and the new system is getting high marks and making an immediate difference so that new building permits can be issued, although slowly and carefully.

If you are reading this column in Washington State and you are surrounded by lots of green, don’t get to smug. Our governor Jay Inslee has declared a drought here and implemented emergency measures because last winter’s snow pack was minuscule and the rivers are at all time lows and the farmers are having a tough time providing enough water for their crops. So this is not just a California issue or a Washington issue, it’s a global issue and we are all going to have to make adjustments in the way we consume.

We are expecting an El Niño winter and we might get hit with a lot of rainfall on the West Coast, but it won’t be enough to make up for four years of drought. Rainfall itself doesn’t do much good because we aren’t set up to collect and re-use it. Most of it runs through drains out to sea. A lot of snow in the mountains would help enormously because the snow melts slowly, filling our rivers, lakes and aquifers throughout the dryer seasons.

We know for sure that we can’t just leave this up to Mother Nature. There are lots of little things we can do to try to protect the land we are passing on to our children and grandchildren. Whether it’s the way we use water, how well we recycle, how much gasoline we use, how we implement reforestation and sustainable agriculture, we need to do whatever we can to be good soldiers of our Earth.

Waste not, want not, and remember every little bit helps.




When are we going to learn that bigger ain’t always better? And oftentimes, less is more!

Unfortunately, I’ve had a front row seat from which I could view the decline of two of the great cities in the world.

I left New York City in the early 70’s at a time of despair, when crime and drugs and poverty were taking a tremendous toll. It was at a low point in that incredible city’s amazing history.

Then came two great years in Colorado where I discovered mountains and elbow room and clean air but my ambition to become a filmmaker led me to Los Angeles.

LA to me is a prime example of a failing city but because I’ve been fortunate to have a 40 year career—and counting—as a director, I’ve always had to have a foothold there. Now that foothold has become a toehold and I’ve discovered the wonders of the Pacific Northwest.

Why the rap on LA? Because for some reason the city fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters seem to think it’s essential that an already overcrowded, choking city needs to continue to grow.

Recently I listened in astonishment as Larry Mantle, one of my favorite NPR hosts, discuss with his guests why Santa Monica needed to grow. The guests went on and on about how it was essential that the children and grandchildren of the families in that seaside city needed new affordable housing.

Some callers mentioned that there was already terrible traffic into, out of and around Santa Monica but not one person mentioned one other tiny little factoid: THERE IS NO WATER!

Yes, there is the Pacific Ocean, which is sight for sore eyes, but its water is not potable or drinkable, at least not without a tremendous investment in desalinization or sewage treatment.

The same is true of the whole Los Angeles Basin, and as you move inland from Santa Monica, there is another huge problem: even worse traffic and terrible air quality.

Yet, growth continues willy-nilly, building permits are easily obtained, and more and more people are paying higher and higher prices to squeeze into this basin.

And did I forget to mention: THERE IS NO WATER! Estimates are that there is a year’s supply of agua in the city’s aquifers and then everyone is doing a collective rain dance and hoping for an El Nino this winter that will magically undo a 5-year-drought.

This pattern is happening throughout California, which had it’s largest population gain in twelve years and now claims 38 million residents, far more than all of vast Canada.

Leading the way is the tech sector, which has made San Francisco the most expensive city in America and Santa Monica pretty pricey as well.

It puzzles me that these tech wizards don’t see what I see coming: the bursting of the California real estate bubble. Maybe those smarty pants are working on a Rainfall App!

Right now, you can buy the same house in awesome Portland, Oregon for about one-quarter the price of a similar house in LA. No kidding.

One of my sons is moving there along with several of his boyhood friends. They’ve been priced out of LA and they see Portland as having a lot of the excitement and “chill” factor of LA without the smog and traffic.

Of course, they’ve been warned about the wet and gloomy winters of the Pacific Northwest, especially for people who grew up in California sunshine.

But they are also betting that abundant water will be a plus and not a minus in the years to come. And they won’t be slaves to their mortgages and they can even afford to get out of Dodge occasionally to find some sunshine someplace.

Recently I drove from my home in Bellingham, Washington, near the Canadian border, through Central Washington, to Portland, San Francisco, and on to Los Angeles.

What I saw in Washington and Oregon were bounteous rivers and streams. As soon as I crossed into California, I was struck by how little water there was in the Mt. Shasta Basin and how truly brown and parched everything was compared to the Evergreen Northwest.

In California’s parched Central Valley, which is sometimes called America’s Salad Bowl, there are signs everywhere supporting the right of farmer’s to continue to use most of the State’s dwindling water supplies with the threat that food prices will rise dramatically.

When I learned that it takes one gallon of water to produce one edible almond, I realized that we are going to have to change the way we eat because the cities aren’t going to let the farmers keep hoarding the water.

There are lessons to be learned here, but I doubt that will happen. This week an official in my hometown decried the fact that Bellingham wasn’t growing fast enough.

His point was that there wasn’t any room for new housing in Bellingham, and the new generation of homeowners wouldn’t be able to live within the city limits.

So what! They can live in the county outside city limits or in nearby Ferndale and Lynden and drive fifteen minutes to visit Mom and Pop.

Or Mom and Pop can downsize and move into exurbia and create more housing for the next generation to raise their kids and send them to Bellingham’s wonderful high schools.

What Bellingham doesn’t need is more infill and more traffic, and if they don’t believe me, they need to take a road trip down the coast like the one I just took.

As for those of you still living in the Golden (read BROWN) State, my advice is sell your house now, at the top of the market, and buy two houses to replace it, one in the Pacific Northwest and one wherever you want to getaway occasionally in the winter.

And you’ll still have money left over. It’s a smart move and you should bet the ranch on it!


Rachel styling at 94

My mother Rachel Damski passed away with family at her bedside Friday, May 15, and it was the perfect ending to an amazing journey.

At 94 years old, with failing health and increased confusion, Rachel decided it was time to go and checked out to reunite with my father and older brother. The official cause of death was “enough already.”

Rachel’s remarkable journey began in Berlin, Germany. Her heroics in getting her parents and younger brother Harry Rosenfeld out of Berlin are documented in Harry’s book, From Kristallnacht to Watergate.

She arrived in New York City in 1939, never seeing herself as a victim and never looked back. She met my father Leo in 1941 and they did their best to re-populate the Jewish race, having four children when the norm at the time was 2.1. That has increased geometrically and Rachel leaves behind a very large extended family.

Rachel was an incredible patriot. She never let her children forget how America was her savior and she was a USO volunteer until her 92nd year.


She became an artist in her late 80’s and recently sold a painting at an art show in La Conner, WA. Trever McGhee, gallery owner, said “Rachel was an awesome living example of how it’s never too late to follow your dreams”.


Rachel donated the money from the sale of her painting to the Palm Springs USO, which had chosen her to put a stitch in the 9/11 flag that toured the country.

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She was the first feminist that I ever laid eyes on and worked her entire life, starting as a teenager in her parents’ fur shop. She worked with Leo in their jewelry shop and was an award winning salesperson at the Jordan Marsh department store.

As if that was enough for a wife and mother of four, she dabbled in real estate and made hats in our small basement, which she sold to some of the more fashionable ladies in Roslyn, Long Island, where we grew up.

Like her second son, me, she sometimes was impatient with people who didn’t do business the way she thought it should be done and she declared herself “a woman of the world”. In fact, she and Leo were truly world travelers and spent almost as much time on the Great Wall of China as Chairman Mao.

Against all odds, she bounced back from enormous challenges and she managed to have a long and productive life.

Rachel will be laid to rest at the New Montefiore cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island alongside Leo and his parents Paul and Sonia Damski and her parents, Solomon and Esther Rosenfeld.

Sadly, she was pre-deceased by her first son Fred, but she leaves behind three children, Janice Kaminsky, Mel and Peter Damski, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, all of whom adored their GG!

A memorial service will be held in Palm Springs on Sunday, June 14th. Donations in her memory should be made to the Palm Springs USO.