Annie is a very special little girl. She has this delightful smile that captivates you the moment you see her. She is shy at first but warms quickly if you just give her a chance to take the lead. She probably gets this from her mother Kimberly, because Kimberly is very annimated and easy to talk to. The family lives in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada.
Kimberly sensed almost from the day Annie was born that something wasn't quite right. As i turned out, she and her husband Dave learned that Annie has CF, cystic fibrosis, a lung disorder that can affect other parts of the body. Tests later proved that Kimberly also has CF; she's a carrier.
I learned about Annie through an article written by Pat Bailey, an editor with the Leamington Post, a local newspaper, with a photo of Annie, from which I painted the portrait above. Pat wrote about Annie being selected as one of ten finalists in the US and Canada in the Downy's Little Champ contest. The lucky winner and his or her family would get an all-expenses-paid trip to the Olympics just completed in London, England. I contacted the paper and got permission to use their photo to paint Annie's portrait.
And guess what: Annie WON the prize! They got to go to the Olympics. I actually began Annie's portrait as a surprise for her and her family back in June, simply because it seemed like a cool thing to do. With a smile like Annie's, how could I not! I finished the painting and called the Post - Pat arranged for me to present my painting to the family. They had just returned from their exciting trip to the Olympics.
The look on Annie's face when I gave her the painting said it all for me. Talk about a feel-good day.
You can learn more about Annie and her battle against CF by going to her website at
In my youth my career desire was to attend West Point and become an Army officer. I was accepted into the Academy in the summer of 1960 as a member of the class of 1964. Regretably I resigned during my 3rd year - a decision I now regret sorely, but that's another story. I was reminded of those days when I received in the mail this week a letter from the wife of one of my classmates, Tom Lough. Tom will be 70 in July and they're having a surprise birthday party for him. They're asking all his many friends to send him birthday cards to be opening on July 4th at their party. This brings me to the reason for this post.
Tom and I were roommates in what we affectionately call Beast Barracks at West Point...Army's way of welcoming New Cadets to the rigors of life at this prestigious academy. For two months you are pushed, pulled, yanked, yelled at, prodded, bullied, and otherwise "encouraged" to forget everything you ever learned about how to live your life - "...because Mister, there is only one way to do things, and that's the ARMY way."
Well, we were in a state of shock on our first day after getting our heads shaved and new uniforms fitted. We drilled and marched and endured verbal abuse all day. We were sworn in on The Plain late that afternoon...a very moving experience, I might add. Our company commander, a First Classman who seemed about 12 feet tall at the time, had warned us earlier in the day that we would have a room inspection right after being sworn in. Tom and I and our 3rd roommate Jack Williams worked our tails off making sure we would "stand tall" in our inspection. I was the only one of us who had been in the army prior to entering West Point. They had both just graduated from high school and left it up to me to show what needed to be done for the inspection. I took charge.
There were three desks pushed together in the center of the room for later use to study by. We dusted them, the shelves, windows, even the light fixtures above. We scrubbed the floor, made our beds, folded our clothes, polished our boots, and checked everything to be sure we would be the only room to get no demerits. I was certain we had missed nothing. I was well on my way to showing The Corps, and especially our company commander and my roommates, my vast experience in preparing for an inspection. My classmates would idolize me for making us all look so good on our first day as cadets! Hmmph!
The company commander marched in wearing his newly-pressed uniform and white gloves. He called us to attention and marched straight to our desks. He pulled them apart (I had no idea you could do that!), reached down, and wiped his beautiful white glove across the book shelves. It came out looking like soot! "Three demerits," he yelled out to his cadet sergeant. Tom and Jack looked at me like I was just...well, like one of them afterall. Welcome to West Point, Bob.
To me painting a portrait carries a different mentality than painting a landscape or seascape. It's so much more personal, especially when you know the person but even when you do not. I painted mostly very old people in the beginning ( see my portrait gallery). Even though I didn't know them I had great respect for them. Each person seemed filled with character; each had their own life experience; some had suffered more than others but all showed the resilience we need to be able to reach old age still anticipating another day.
The only portrait I've never been able to paint was my own...not sure why, perhaps it's because I haven't yet reached that "senior citizen" status I endowed on those earlier subjects...at least in my own mind.
I painted two subjects in which the brush fairly flew in my hand. Each stroke seemed to will itself upon the other. I had a clear vision of what I wished to portray; I saw the completed work before it was done. You see, I had a personal attachment to each subject. One was a friend who died unexpectedly this summer.
The other was Jonathan Peck (see my painting in "portraits"). son of the movie star Gregory Peck. I was a journalist in those days. I was news director and anchored the news in Santa Maria, Ca. at KCOY-TV, a station owned by Helen Pedoti, a longtime friend of the Peck family. She often had the three boys Jonathan, Stephen, and Carey to her ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley at summertime. In the mid-1970s I had an opening in our Santa Barbara territory and Helen asked if I would hire Jon to fill that slot. I knew she wouldn't have asked if she didn't believe Jon was qualified for the job (and afterall, she owned the company), so I agreed. Jon was a wonderful reporter; he had charisma, intellect, and a great desire to learn. We had a great year as friends and in our work. Sadly, Jon took his own life. In memory of that friendship, I painted his portrait and gave it to his brother Stephen. That painting was sadly lost in a house fire some years later. I still have a photo though, here in my portrait gallery.
I bought a wonderful book recently that's actually been around for several years. It's"The Chocolate Connoisseur" by Chloe Soutre-Roussel, who is, aa you may have guessed, The Chocolate Connoisseur. Ms. Chocolate opens her titillating book with the revelation that she has eaten at least one pound of chocolate every day for over 25 years (31 now if she didn't "tire of it." She has studied and sampled nearly every kind of chocolate in the world. She's a buyer for Fortnum & Mason. a large department store in London specializing in exotic foods.
She notes in her book that The Mayans and Aztecs used chocolate in many forms of their cooking...not just for a treat or dessert as we do today for the most part. I did some further sleuthing and discovered that it has been in use since around 1900 BC.
The Quaker John Cadbury was the first to discover a way to emulsify this delectable food so he could make candy bars from it. While the cocoa bean is still widely grown in Mexico and Guatamala, today 2/3 of all cocoa beans now originate in Africa.
Ms. Doutre-Roussel (we'll call her Chloe for short now) says there has always been a love-hate relationship for chocolate lovers...which must be 99% of us anyway, conservatively speaking of course. People love the stuff but since it's always been thought to make you gain weight, get zits, have migranes, it has a "bad boy" rep as well.
What it is is loaded with antioxidants that fight bad cholesterol (LdL) and help promote good cholesterol (HDL). Chloe adds that a 3,5 oz. dark chocolate bar has twice as many antioxicants as a glass of wine and four times as many as a cup of tea. She notes some of those antioxidants are even good for protecting brain tissue.
Yes, you say, but ask: "Is it an aphrodesiac?" Chloe asserts chocolate "...contains the same mood-lifting chemicals that rush in when we are experiencing feeling of love or lust." Well, there you have it. She notes that this association with love has been around ever since the conquistadors learned Moctesuma ate prodigious amounts of it "allegedly to enhance his sexual powers."
Once word got around Europe with that revelation, chocolate became a favorite not just of royalty but, as you no doubt guessed, also the masses. Today you can buy a 50-cent or $10.00 piece of chocolate and dark chocolate especially is growing in popularity for health (and for love).
What is there about painting, or playing an instrument, dancing, walking the beach, cooking a meal, designing a building, landscaping a yard, writing a play, or any of the myriad things we do to create?
As I noted earlier, I've painted all my life. I began with pastels and when I went to India as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1965 I took a huge set of pastels. There were two other Volunteers already in my assigned city, Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh. They introduced me to some of their friends, one of whom was Narendra Kumar Singh. Naren and I became fast friends over the next two years.
Naren was a dedicated artist. He painted in both oils and watercolors, When I showed him my pastel set he got very excited; "I've always wanted to try pastels," he said. "You just can't buy them here, at least not a huge set like that." On the spot he made me an offer I couldn't refuse: "You really need to learn to paint in oils. There's so much more depth. I'll provide all your painting materials while your here...paints, brushes, and canvases, if you'll give me your pastel set."
Naren had slides of photos he had taken of some villagers recently. I saw one I really liked, an older man in a yellow turban whcih became my first oil painting; I used just two colors, yellow and blue. I've never sold that painting...
I don't recall how old I was when I discovered there really was no Santa Claus. For most children it's a rude awakening...learning that our make-believe world had floating boundaries that gradually slipped away as we became "big kids".
Judy was the baby in our family, utterly doted on by her three older brothers and Mom...well, with one caveat: Tommy could be a real pill at times. Tommy was a very grown up 6 and proud of it. Judy was just two and really looking forward to havin' Santa drop in that night, havin' a few cookies 'n maybe a cupa java before he went on his merry way. The whole family was having dinner...my older brother Rich was 13, myself at 10, Mom, and Judy. Judy blurted out that she was really hoping for a new doll, or a new some-such ...what it was really isn't important here. Anyway we were all excited that Judy was all lit up like a Christmas tree figuring what she wanted most, with "most" changing every time she thought on it. The more we talked about it, the more exhuberant Judy got, almost jumping up 'n down! Suddenly Mr. Smartypants Tommy puffed up in his "I know sumpin' you don't!" mood, blurts out "Hey...dontcha know...there ain't no Santa Claus!" Those were his exact words, I remember it clear as a bell. Tommy sat there with thet "gotcha" look on his face, cuz of course we had kept him a believer until this past year when one of his smartypants friends clued him in. For a minute we all just sat there lookin' dumbstruck. Then it hit her.
Judi looked at him, then at us, and burst into tears. She looked like Niagara Falls there for a minute. Then the rest of us jumped into action: "Don'tchu believe that," Rich and I hollered. "Tommy is just jealous cuz you're getting all the attention" Now Judy wanted to believe for sure and we could see she just needed some convincin'! Rich, who was already almost man's size, kept Tommy's trap shut by just glarin' at him. Mom calmly stepped in now. She took Judy in her arms 'n said, "Judy, of course there's a Santa Claus." Didn't he come last year?" Judy nodded her head. "And didn't he come the year before?" "Yes," she admitted, by now some hope surgin' in her heart. And then Mom gave her the "Ku de graw" - "And didn't we just visit Santa yesterday at the store?" Mom had her now. "OK then, Tommy's just jealous cuz we're all so excited for you." Then Mom looked at Tommy and said, "Tommy, there is a Santa Claus, isn't there?!" She was smiln' at Tommy but he saw the look in her eyes too, warnin' him he better be good or else.
Well now, Tommy didn't jump offa the turnip truck yesterday, no sirree! He became a believer again right before our eyes (knowin' he was dogmeat if' he didn't see things our way right quick. At first he mumbled something unintelligable but with a "gentle nudge" from Rich he said, "Yeah, I was just jealous, Judy. There's a Santa Claus."
In 1971 I was TV news anchorman at KRNV, the NBC affiliate in Reno, Nevada. November 24 had been an otherwise calm news day. Just about the time we went on the air at 5:30 with the news, we got a news flash from the Associate Press wire service that a Northwest Airlines passenger jet had been hijacked from Portland, Oregon...my hometown. All we knew at the time was that the jet, Flight 305 to Seattle, had been hijacked and was on the ground in Seattle. It turned out the a man who had booked his flight lunder the name Dan Cooper (a reporter mistakenly identified him as D. B. Cooper which stuck) had demanded a ransom, several parachutes, and instructions to take him to Mexico. We reported this on our newscast. Before the newscast ended at 6pm we updated our report of the hijacking that the aircraft had left Seattle and was heading south.
I was both the early and late news anchor and realized this story was going to fill much of our newscast at 11pm. About 10pm we got word that the hijacker had parachuted out of the aircraft and it had been ordered to land in Reno.
Following is how it began as reported on the internet on Wikipedia...Cooper had justs handed the flight attendant a note.
"Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him (Cooper) in a jumpseat attached to the aft stair door. Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman's phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse. Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a bomb."
The note was printed in neat, all-capital letters with a felt pen. It read, approximately, "I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked." Schaffner did as requested, then quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper cracked open his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders ("four on top of four") attached to wires coated with red insulation, and a large cylindrical battery. After closing the case he dictated his demands: "I want $200,000 in unmarked 20-dollar bills. I want two back parachutes and two front parachutes. When we land, I want a fuel truck ready to refuel. No funny stuff or I’ll do the job."
It took the airline and FBI several hours to raise the ransom. When Cooper got the money, he allowed most of the flight crew and all of the passengers to be released. The aircraft took off and about 8pm a light came on signaling that the aft exit had been opened...it was directly under the tail of the aircraft.. Cooper had parachuted out the rear door. The plane was ordered to land in Reno where it sat for hours while the FBI inspected it for fingerprints and other clues.
In that interim, I must have spoken to two dozen news directors in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, and Portland. Not long after that, the CBS affiiliate in Portland called and I was soon anchoring the news there.
DB Cooper was never found. Only a portion of the money was recovered...read the Wikipedia article for details.
Coincidentally, several years later I was news director and anchorman of the CBS affiliate in Santa Maria, California, when the Hearst Castle caught fire under suspicious circumstances. I had a reporter nearby who shot the only film of the fire. CBS News called me and asked to have the film. They flew a jet from Los Angeles to Santa Maria in time to have film coverage of the event on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. We were the only network to have film coverage...pretty exciting stuff.
I was 7 and a half years old when (hey - didn't we all make sure our audience knew each of those extra months...we were in surh a hurry to "grow up" - little did we know) - Where was I, oh yes...when my kid sister Judy burst into life. I can't think of a better expression for her entry into the world. She was the happiest baby I had ever seen in all my 7 and a half years, despite my vast experience in this regard. She would cry occasionally of course, when she wanted a new diaper or to be fed. At first my mom wouldn't let any of us touch her (me, my older brother Rich or my younger bro Tommy - who was four going on 21). My dad would hold her on occasion but he never was the cuddly type, so that let me the chance every now and then to sneak up and hold her myself, or change that dreaded, scumbly diaper she sometimes inscrutably wanted to be rid of.
One day mom who had surrepticiously been watching my every move, decided she could trust me to do the job right...I even disposed of the diaper into the laundry basket the way she wanted. Hey - no one had those discardable jobs in those days and besides we couldn't have afforded such a luxury. Poor Judy just had to trust that we wouldn't encumber her with something less than snowy white and soft as silk. Before I knew it, I was bathing her. Can you imagine ME, Roberto Reado, "adult" enough to do two such tasks without fear of retribution from my parents?? Rich, who was very grown up at 10, wouldn't have deigned to stoop to such a low task in life. Tommy - well, Tommy wanted to help in the worst way, but at four he was still mostly fingers and thumbs in such delicate and important tasks.
By the time Judy was two, I had her working for me! I pretened I was falling off the couch and hollered for her to "save me." Sure 'nuf, she came hauling into the living room from whereever she was and pushed me back onto the couch. She always sighed "whew" and went on her way. I musta got away with my trickery for a month or so (hey, she was only two!) when one day she came in, grabbed me by my shirt, and pulled me offa that couch, dumping me unceremoniously on my butt. Well, I never! When I looked up my mom, Rich, and Tommy were all laughing so hard I couldn't help joining the fun - Judy was very proud of herself. She never "saved me" again.
Jantzen Beach was an amusement park built in 1928. It was the largest amusement park in the US at the time. It sprawled over 123 acres on Hayden Island...which lies at the northern tip of Portland. Vancouver, Washington is just across the Columbia River.
My favorite place was the swimming pool and then the huge Big Dipper Roller Coaster. My older brother Richard and our friend Jimmy Raxter used to get on the roller coaster and check out all the sites from its apex. You could see for miles. I was only six and sometimes worried I might fall out of it...there was only a bar across our laps. Rich and Jimmy loved to get the chair swinging back and forth with me in the middle holding on for dear life. I could easily have just slipped out between the bar and seat...they thought it was hilarious to see me screaming for them to stop...I mighta just been hollering into the wind for all the good that did. Sheesh!
When I was ten my mother took my little brother Tommy and I swimming. He was a real fish...he'd get in there and happily splash around literally all day. One day we had just taken time out for lunch and Tommy was back in the pool in a flash. I was standing on the side looking for him when I suddenly had a premonition that someone might be drowning. I scanned the pool and sure enough, there was a little girl right in the middle of the pool bobbing up and down. I was a fast swimmer and quickly reached her. She grabbed onto me coughing and sputtering, and hanging on for dear life. She was only 3 or 4 and had just somehow gotten in over her head. I looked around and sure enough her mother was by the edge of the pool crying herself and hugging me to pieces, thanking me for rescuing her daughter. I was pretty shy in those days, and simply muttered something like, "Ah, that's OK."
Now that was a "Feel Good" day.