My Everest: Thirty Years of San Diego
Hiking (With Dogs!)

Kindle and Paperback
August 29, 2017
Author: Martha Kennedy

I don’t like reviewing books written by friends.

What if I don’t like it? Will they hate me if I can’t give them a great review? Authors take book reviews personally. We aren’t supposed to, but our books are personal. I can’t think of anything in my world more personal to me than the (one) book I wrote. Apparently, no matter how many books you write, you will continue to feel that way about all of them. They are your babies, your little love children.

My everest martha kennedyI wasn’t too worried about this one, though. I’ve read other books by Martha and I liked them. I’ve always liked Martha’s writing (if you don’t read her blog, you should), especially when she is writing about her dogs. When this when came out, I dashed over to Amazon and immediately bought a copy. Then I got bogged down with other stuff and didn’t start to read it until a few days ago.

This is a wonderful book. It’s so very good, I hardly know where to begin raving about it.

back cover my everest martha kennedyThis isn’t just a book. It isn’t about hiking (despite its title) in the San Diego hills with your dogs. This is a book about finding what is real and what matters. It’s about discovering the world is God and you are part of it. It’s about recognizing all living things having an equal right to be on this planet. It’s about learning how tiny we are while expanding to be part of the hugeness of life.

“My Everest” is a beautiful book. It is profound and thoughtful. I found myself putting it down to leave myself time to think about it and what it meant to me. I don’t do that. Really. I don’t. I just read. This was different.

Truffle and Molly in the Medicine Wheel

“My Everest” is not one of those silly books about searching for yourself, either. Martha has found what I also found — that we are where we should be and we are in the right place. Our job is to enjoy it. Fully. See it, feel it, absorb it, love it. Be part of the all-in-all. Fly with the buzzards and the hawks. Get warmth from the earth with the rattlesnakes. Watch eternity roll by with the rocks.

This is not self-revelatory narcissism. It reaches out and says “I love you” to everyone and everything. It’s not offering you rules to follow so you can walk the same path. There is no path. “My Everest” is about joy and sanctuary , the world that Martha Kennedy and her many dogs found in the Chaparral in San Diego.

Taking the world hiking.

Those hills and mountains were her place. The suggestion is implicit that any place can be your place. You don’t have to go to those specific hills or mountains. The important thing is that there is a place — your place — that brings you that full measure of contentment.

I don’t think I can explain it any better except to say I loved the dogs and the mountains. I love the people she met on the way. The young people she brought with her to hike the hills. In good weather and bad.

I loved how she loved her dogs, yet understood that when they passed, that was how it had to be. Because we live, we pass — humans , dogs and all that lives.

The Models – Two magnificent huskies

This is not the kind of book I would have normally sought to read, but I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to read it. In many way, for me, “My Everest” is a prayer and a hope for a world gone wrong. I don’t find a lot of hope — or any kind of prayers — in 2018’s world.

I most fervently recommend you read this book.

It’s available on Kindle for the extravagant price of $3.00 and in paperback for the break-the-bank price of $7.00. I have it on Kindle and when my next Social Security check arrives, I will get the paperback, too.

I want to be sure it is in the bookcase with other books I love too much to leave in the cloud.


What are mnemonics and why should I care?

I looked them up: mne·mon·ics (pronounced) nəˈmäniks is a noun — or more typically, a set of words that are designed to help you remember something. Like the strings on a guitar or ukulele, for example. I used to know them but I can’t remember them at all. Literally, they are gone from my brain.

Over all, I’ve found it harder to remember the mnemonic than the original thing I was trying to remember and these days, writing it down helps more than any other thing possibly could. At one point, when I was — maybe 10 give or take a year? — my parents bought “The Lorayne Memory Book.” Assuming you could master it, you were supposed to be able to remember anything by creating mnemonics for a huge variety of sounds that you could mentally link together to form words.

My mother read it, did a mental “screw that nonsense” and handed it to me.

“The Memory Book has 1469 ratings and 102 reviews. … Unleash the hidden power of your mind through Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas’s simple, fail-safe memory system, and you can become more effective, more imaginative, and more ….. Everyone who took those classes always got A’s automatically — it was a guarantee.” from Goodreads

“Maybe you can do something with this,” she said.

I got through the first chapter in where you create a mental image of each item in a list and you link it mentally with the previous image. So, say you want to go shopping. You need: bananas, coffee, cream, butter, bread, English muffins, strawberry jelly, chicken parts, and bread crumbs. I’m trying to keep it simple using the basic stuff people shop for rather than making it unnecessarily complicated.

So you look at the first two items: bananas and coffee and you create some strange image that mentally shows you these two items together. Maybe a coffee bean eating a banana. See the image? A little odd, but that’s the point. Then add the cream and have the bean that ate the banana bathe in a tub of cream, while rubbing it’s hair (hair? do coffee beans have hair?) with butter, then rolling around on a slice of (toasted?) bread …

You get the idea, right? Bizarre though it sounds, I managed to do it and after a little practice, I could memorize a list of maybe 20 to 30 items and I could remember them forwards and backwards. But it wasn’t easier than writing it on a piece of paper and wracking your brain for these images was significantly more effort that pulling the paper out of your pocket and reading it.

I never made it to the actual “mnemonic” part of the course which were in chapters two through 20 (or something like that) because it seemed like a lot more effort than it deserved. I could easily understand my mother’s “screw that shit” reaction and eventually, the “Lorayne Memory Course” hit the dust bin with all the other good ideas that we never used.

So how do I feel about mnemonics? I’m sure they must help someone somewhere but I lump this stuff into the giant trash compactor of great ideas whose time will never come — at least not for me. If the solution to the problem is more complicated than the original problem, what exactly is the point? My goal in problem solving is to strip away the complexity and find the uncomplicated middle — the simple center, as it were. When that doesn’t work, usually because there is no simple center, I’m pretty sure mnemonic isn’t going to fix it either.

Or, as the guy said in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” 1962, John Ford starring everybody you love to see in old westerns:

“No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

You can be sure they didn’t bother with mnemonics. Just print the legend!


What doesn’t need tending? 

Dogs and people. Plants and cleaning. Bills. Order, Re-orders. Writing. Reading. Writing about reading. Reading about writing. Reading everybody else’s stuff, but trying to find the typos in mine.

Reading a book during the day for a competition, but reading another one at night, because it’s beautiful and it deserves my attention. Not tending to the one I was reading before the next one I just started reading, but stopping the reading I’m doing because I want to listen to a little of that other, sillier book.

I am tending to everything and trying to figure out if Duke is injured or just playing with me, so I made a date with the vet tomorrow afternoon. I should be calling the guy fixing our car to find out when it will be ready. I’m sure I should be doing something else too, but I don’t remember what.

I’m tending to me, tending to him, tending to them and I think I need to go to the bathroom. I will tend to that very soon.


If you are looking for a great meal and a fantastic place to eat it, the Blackstone Valley isn’t IT.

We can find a few diners that are good and at least one interesting hot dog joint in Worcester … but otherwise? Let me give you a hint — an inkling — of great dining you won’t find here. Or anywhere in the area, including Boston.

Rich’s post today on his home blog brought me waves of nostalgia about food in Jerusalem. When I first moved there, I was lost. I couldn’t cook because I didn’t recognize the packaging and things were usually just a little different that they had been back in the States. Eventually, I worked it out and became a better cook than I’d been at home because I no long relied on prepackaged ingredients. I learned to make everything “from scratch.”

When I first got to Israel, I didn’t even know what good food meant. Eventually I discovered a million tiny restaurants tucked into neighborhoods all over the city, all with the name “Mother” in title.

Sure enough, Mom was the head cook. She had a few daughters and maybe a niece or two working their way up — as well as half a dozen sons and nephews handling the serving, busing, management, shopping … and cleaning. Restaurants — the good ones — were family affairs and ALL of them were good.

Dishes were some version of Middle Eastern Jewish — meaning no pork or dairy in it, but that was no problem. Muslims don’t eat pork either and dairy isn’t generally a part of dinner anyway.

The absolutely best food EVER was served by friends and neighbors on Shabbat.  Our Moroccan neighbors with whom Owen played could cook. I don’t know if every family were quite as brilliant as those neighbors on Hebron Road, but … OH my LORD.

Owen got to eat out pretty much every Friday night. His friends mothers loved him. “Look at that tall skinny kid — doesn’t anybody FEED HIM?” They could feed him to death and he’d roll home and tell us about it. I’d drool.

Middle eastern food is labor intensive to a degree that is hard to explain. It takes days to make all those little chopped up dishes that are wrapped in couscous or grape leaves or some light yet delightfully crunchy cover. Served plain — with a sauce — or as part of a soup.

We called those skinny roll-ups in thin filo dough “cigarettes” which they resembled in form, but too delicious to describe.

Everything was chopped, seasoned, sometimes cooked, sometimes semi-raw or entirely raw, and  wrapped. Then there were the sauces ranging from red (hot) to green (blow your head off hot). Owen learned to love ALL of it. I never quite made it to the green stuff, but I loved the red sauce.

It’s a very short hop to vegetarian or Vegan cooking, too. Meat isn’t the big issue in any of these dishes. In these native lands, meat was in short supply, which is why is was shredded and chopped. A single chicken could serve a lot of people that way.

There were some other foods, too. Israel adopted a bunch of Vietnam boat people who had nowhere else to go, so they took over opening oriental restaurants. Some were pretty good, some not so great, but at least it was different.

Italian was popular:  Kosher which meant meatless because the cheese was more important than the meat — or non Kosher. But it wasn’t as good as Italian restaurants in New York. Then again, few Italian restaurants are as good as they were in NY, unless you went to Italy where my mother assured me you would find the BEST food in the world. She used to diet in advance of traveling to Italy because she always came back 10 pounds heavier.

In Israel, though, the  great food was “tribally” local. Moroccan, Tunisian, Syrian, Persian, Algerian and sometimes Kenyan or generally Arabian — everything was GREAT. Also expensive. Eating out was surprisingly expensive, so getting an invitation from a neighbor was like getting invited to the best restaurant in town. Better, really.

I miss the food. I can make just about the best humus you’ve ever eaten, but the rest of it the food requires mother and three well-trained daughters — and about a week to prepare it. You don’t see that around here. Maybe in other cities, but not in New England.

We settle for good Japanese food. Sushi and tempura and anything that comes in rolls. But so far, not very good Chinese. There were some wonderful Chinese restaurants in Boston, but not out here.

That both Garry and I have eaten some amazing food in amazing places probably explains why we find most of the local eateries uninspiring, to say the least. Other than a couple of Japanese places, we haven’t found anywhere worth the price. Food is bland and the preparation is uninspiring. As for Italian, try mine. Much better. For that matter, try my son’s. His is much better, too. We do not live in great dining out territory.

I’m told there are good Indian places in Worcester and in Providence, but we don’t like a lot of traveling for dinner. I don’t mind going, but when we’re full of food, we don’t want a long trip home.

Retirement, you know?


Why do I remember the name of my fourth grade teacher but can’t remember the name of the new neighbor I’m meeting for the third time this month?

Why do I fall asleep during my favorite TV show but at bedtime my brain won’t shut off for a second?

Why can I rationally know that I can handle something but I still get a knot in my stomach whenever I have to do it? (For me it’s driving around an airport).

Why is it that after I promise not to tell anyone “something”, that “something” keeps popping into my head even when I’m talking to people to whom the “something” would mean nothing?

Why do I get upset with people for doing something I know that I do too? (Like interrupting).

Why do I get totally obsessed with binge watching a TV show but never about writing a novel or working at a soup kitchen?

Why do I keep collecting recipes in a giant folder when I know I’ll never use them? (When I do try a new recipe I go online because who has the time to sort through that giant folder?)

Folders with the recipes I’ve collected over the years

Why can I look for something for 10 minutes and not find it but my husband finds it immediately – where I know I’ve already looked?

Why can I grapple with a problem and fail to find a solution, but hours later, when I’m doing something totally unrelated, the answer just pops into my head?

Why can I “zone out” while driving (you know, you suddenly find yourself way down the road and don’t remember getting there) yet I don’t drive off the road or into the car in front of me?

Why does my snoring husband insist he was “wide awake” when I poked him but you only snore when you are fully asleep?

Why is it that when I learn about a disease or syndrome, suddenly everyone I know knows someone who has it?

Why can I get sick but when I go to see the doctor, my symptoms disappear?

Why can I get a 1960’s song stuck in my head for days but not a single password has ever stayed in my brain for that long?




You think you know someone. You hang out with them. Exchange emails, jokes, anecdotes. Maybe you even work with them. One day, out of the blue, you discover they are fundamentalist Christians who think you are going to Hell. Or a hard-core right-wing Republican who voted for you-know-who. Maybe a conspiracy theorist or a proud believer in the upcoming zombie apocalypse.

fobidden planet poster

I lived in Jerusalem for almost 9 years. It probably should not be a big surprise that you meet a lot of people who are sure they are Jesus Christ come back to finish His work on Earth. One of them worked at the local pizza joint and seemed perfectly normal, until in the middle of a casual conversation, he would drop a bomb about his mission and there you were, transported to wacko central.

I had a casual friend who was a piano player. He sang and played at fancy hotel lounges, like the Hilton Hotel lounge. He was, like me, an American. So it was inevitable we would meet. I did his horoscope for him because in those days, I did horoscopes for an awful lot of people.

We struck up a chatty little relationship. One night, he called and invited me over. He had something important to tell me.

Important? Our relationship consisted of reminiscing about life in the U.S. in the 1960s — and then, there was his horoscope. I was (coincidentally) the astrology columnist and managing editor of a short-lived English-language weekly. Please, let’s not discuss astrology or my psychic abilities (or lack thereof). You don’t want to know and I don’t want to tell you.

Having nothing better to do at the time, I walked over to his house (just around the corner) and we got to talking. Suddenly, I knew. He was going to tell me one of two things: he was an alien from on another planet … or … he was Jesus Christ.

edward-gorey-donald-imagined-thingsIt turned out to be the latter. Yet one more Jesus. He wanted me, because of my brilliant psychic abilities, to be his Paul and spread the word. I told him his timing was off. I promised to advise him when the right moment arrived. Then I fled into the night and home.

He was one of several people who convinced me there was no future for me in the psychically predictive arts.

Then there was the guy I worked with at a high-tech company in Rhode Island.  One day he told me he was going to quit his job and move to an underground bunker in anticipation of the coming American apocalypse. I hadn’t even done his horoscope. Our relationship went rapidly downhill.

These surprises have made me wary of new friends who don’t come with references from other friends. I’m afraid of what might be revealed when we get to know each other better. The thing about people who believe in cabals — or that they were dropped from an alien space craft or will be leaving on one shortly — are that they are sure God has assigned them a mission and you cannot argue with them.

You can’t point out the incongruities and contradictions of their beliefs. They believe what they believe and that’s that. Facts are irrelevant. They ignore evidence. They know everything they need to know and given where they’re coming from, that’s probably enough. For them.

I haven’t personally met a real nutter lately, so I think I’ve got an opening in my tribe. Any applicants?


Oom pah, pah … oom pah pah …

The sound of the calliope is a siren’s call to the little girl. There, in the middle of the big park, the magic ponies go up and down. Up, down, around and then around again.

“Can I ride Mommy? Please?”

Mommy nods yes. There’s no harm in a carousel. It’s just wooden horses, traveling in a circle, going nowhere, eternally and forever around the calliope as it pumps out the same songs. A good place to be on a bright summer day, a happy place to bring a five-year-old girl who loves horses. She can dream of real horses while the park spins past, green and sunny.

Years fly. The girl has grown into a young lady. Sixteen, if you please. “I’m not a child!” she cries to the world, but especially to her parents. “I will do as I please.”

What she pleases is to have a boy friend. To be in love, to make love. She has no future plans, not yet. Just the fresh bloom of love which must be eternal. Because in books, love is always eternal, always fresh and smelling of roses.

Today she is meeting her boy friend. They will be meeting by the carousel in the park. She loves the carousel, has loved it since childhood. It’s a magic place for her, a places that holds only happy memories. The calliope is playing the same songs it played when she was so little. So long ago, or so it seems. When she rode the big wooden horse, pretending she was riding a gallant steed, galloping off to protect the world.

Life goes on. The next time she is able to visit the ponies, she is holding her little boy by the hand. “I rode those ponies when I was your age. Listen, the music is still playing. Just like it did when I was your age.”

“Can I ride Mommy?”

“Of course. That’s why I brought you here. To ride.”

And the painted horses go round and round while the park spins through another summertime. This is our forever summer, she thinks, as she watches her little boy riding the merry-go-round.

The next time she comes, she is holding her granddaughter’s hand. They watch the horses. Her little granddaughter is a tiny thing, with a passion for horses. A dreamer. She rides and rides and finally, it’s time to go. Long shadows lie across the sidewalks and the carousel is about to close for the day. As they take their leave, she wonders if she will ever be here again to hear the calliope play?

The next time she comes to the carousel, her son is with her. Middle-aged now and the tiny granddaughter is a sullen sixteen. Three generations by the carousel and remarkably, the calliope still plays.

This special carousel is still alive, magic intact. It’s good to be alive this summer day in Central Park. The music wakes the teenager into the girl she was. There’s something so … eternal … about the dancing ponies.

Grandma remembers the first time. All those times, even when she came alone because it was just a quick subway ride. One token. To see the boy friend. Whatever became of him?

She would never miss a chance to ride, though it’s not as easy getting up into the seat as it used to be.

No more real horses in her life, but today — briefly — she is young. She feels as if she is looking at herself through a fun house mirror. Are these the same wooden horses she rode as a girl?

It was always summertime in the park. I think it still is.