Friday, November 30, 2018

Plan 'B'

On a recent weekend venture to Newport Beach, California -  John had a great idea for how to spend one Sunday morning: visit the small but enchanting Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society located on Marine Ave.

The weather was perfect with highs in the low seventies, clear skies and just a slight onshore breeze. Not bad for November! Conditions could not be any better. The island is one of John's and Laureen's favorite haunts - an intimate setting with shops, restaurants and plenty of rental houses available surrounded by the gorgeous waters of Newport Bay. An ideal place to get away for a short period from the everyday hustle and bustle of life.

After a quick but delicious bite of late breakfast -  John and Laureen walked hand-in-hand through the quiet streets of Balboa Island, enjoying the beautiful surroundings. That was until they reached the museum. It had a 'closed for remodeling' sign plastered to the front glass door.

"What?" John asked. "The internet said it was open."

Hmm, what was the question?
"It's not," Laureen observed. "Look through the windows - there's a ladder, drop cloths and all kinds of construction going on."

"It's supposed to be open," John repeated, stunned.

Laureen nodded her head in sympathetic understanding of her husband's confusion. She can be very patient at times like these.

"Sometimes the internet is not correct. No worries, what's your plan 'B'?"

Silence hung in the air like water droplets on the top of a sunroof.

"I don't have a plan 'B'."

Of course, Laureen thought John was joking since a plan 'B' for any outings is a must to ensure a travel isn't ruined by unexpected consequences - like a museum that was supposed to be open and not being. J and L always have a Plan B, and often a Plan C or D, etc..

"Really?" Laureen asked.

"Yep, really," John replied.

"You're not joking? You don't have a Plan B? Well, let's find one."

When in doubt, ask Mr. Google, as our good friend Paul Bakas always says. We did and the rest of the day was nothing but adventure and exploration.

First, the dynamic duo strolled through the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve taking in sights such as the Egyptian knapweed, arundo, sweet fennel, and Algerian sea lavender as well as many more invasive plants. Sounds rather mean for these plants to invade this section of Newport, but they were pretty none-the-less.

An hour among the flora and fauna made us head indoors to the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. The center was fabulous with interactive dioramas, question and answer boards about the coastline, massive fish tanks with rays and sharks, sea worm tunnels, and an assortment of other activities to keep both children and adults busy researching for hours.

It was well worth the visit and made a great Plan B. But we were not done yet.

A short drive to Balboa Peninsula brought to mind the idea of enjoying the afternoon by simply walking along the sandy beach and peering out into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoying each other's company and then a splendid dinner.

That changed when a six foot poster near the parking area revealed a sale on whale watching by Davey's Locker located near the ferry on the peninsula. Sixteen bucks for a two and half hour boating adventure could not be ignored. More than half price off - Laureen and John jumped at the chance. No whales on our whale watch tour, but we did enjoy the pleasure of the company of perhaps two dozen so-called common dolphin. They stayed and played near our boat for nearly thirty minutes, using using the wake of the vessel to aide in chasing their food source. And, showing off a little for their human audience. Laureen took exception to the guide referring to them as common, as she found their sleek, rapid spinning movements to be anything but common. She is a sensitive soul when it comes to feelings, human or non-human. For me, they were indeed a sight to behold.

As the newspaper editor, Tess Flanders, once wrote in 1911 - "One picture is worth a thousand words."  Well, how about a few photographs?

When going out to explore your backyard, community, county, state, or wherever the mood drives a persons there must always be a Plan B. If there isn't one, make sure to research if something goes awry like a museum being closed for repairs. The day then is not ruined but only momentarily paused and that is perfectly fine - Plan B may turn out to be better than the original idea in the first place.

For further information when visiting Newport Beach, California

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Iquitos, The Past Will Kill

For any novelist, the toughest part or writing a novel, is sometimes finishing the work in the first place. The telling of the setting, characters and all of which make up the fictional piece seems easy at first since there is a story which needs to be told. But when is it time to leave the keyboard? 

The story is written. 

The work is finished. 

Let it be, as the Beatles once sang. 

After a year of writing a story involving two former cops from Riverside, it was time to put the book to bed. The adventures had been told. There were corpses littering the ground from Southern California to the hinterlands of northern Peru. Enough terror and sorrow for one book, but it did have a happy ending. Well, perhaps that is up to the reader and not the wordsmith to decide. But was it done?

These were some of the 'hinterlands' to reside while doing research
The best thing when a novelist thinks it may be ready for readers is to send it off to the editor. Then, wait to hear back. Finally, when the writer receives something like the following from their publisher after a submission: 'John, I do want it. I have sent the attorney a memo to get you a contract.' it makes all the hours alone behind the keyboard worthwhile. Of course, it took many years to receive a contract for John's first novel, 'Hunted', but it has paid off since this is his fourth with Black Opal Books. He's hoping for a long relationship with this growing publishing house in the state of Oregon.

And here it is!
John R. Beyer's fourth novel with BOB
The work will be released this Saturday, the 17th of November.

As any fictional writer realizes, there has to be a lot of truth to a piece or it will sound like fiction. That actually does make sense since it is the job of that very same fictional writer to make the story believable. Fiction, even science fiction, isn't fun if isn't at least plausible. The relationships must ring true. The science must work. And in any work of fiction, the times and places must have a feeling of reality. John knows to make a story feel real, there must be sound research and exploration, and that is reason our intrepid trio took three separate journeys to Peru, including a month-long trip deep into the Amazon jungle. Iquitos to be exact -- where much of the novel takes place. John wanted to research, explore, and live that life...and drag his loving wife and best friend along with him. So the author and his daring team, Laureen, and Paul Bakas suffered mosquito bites, heat stroke, suffocating humidity, and generally had a great time gathering the information John needed in order to put pen to paper and bring life to the story rattling around in his cranium.

Along the way, we met some characters, some of whom appear, in one form or other, in the novel. We played with rescued sloths and monkeys, fed orphaned manatees, swam with pink river dolphins, fished for piranha and generally had the most wonderful experience my wife said she'd never want to have again. And, in the silence of the jungle night, we heard the unmatched cacophony of life end so swiftly with a deafeningly silence that inspired a scene in the novel (spoiler alert).

Some of the following photographs may look familiar to regular followers of our blog, but a trip down memory lane is sometimes good for the soul.

Cooling off with a breeze in a covered dug out on the Amazon

Nothing better than a couple of  lukewarm beers in the jungle
John and Paul with Ademir - our guide for a couple of days
The author with his number one Editor in Lima
The work is done, edited, printed, and soon on the bookshelves for readers to enjoy, but the memories of the research and exploration will never be forgotten or completed. There is always the next book to write. Perhaps one or two have already been started.

To purchase 'Iquitos, The Past Will Kill'

And at other book sellers around the globe...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Secret Health Benefits of Concert Attendance

Music makes people dance and sing. Tapping a toe or an entire foot seems the right thing to do when a melody snakes out of musical instruments and slithers across the dance hall.
Gotta move when the music is right
As far back as the 6th Century B.C., the Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, rightfully determined the numerical relationships between strings that produced tones at different pitches. Yeah, this is the same guy that has haunted high school students with his famous (or infamous if you struggled to remember  it) Pythagorean Theorem. It stated that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

What are you trying to prove?
Understanding the various notes made by stringed instruments seemed a lot easier for people to handle as they jumped, danced, and drank around bonfires or carried burning torches on feast days.

You got to move it - move it!
The history of music and dance begins eons in the past. From the Brazilian rainforests to the hinterlands of the Kalahari desert, people have sang, played music and danced as a way to feel better about themselves and others. It restored the vitality of life after a cold winter or the end of the rainy season. In Medieval Europe there were countless danses macabres as a way to ward off diseases like the Black Plague. The only problem with this venture that some of the dancers actually died from exhaustion - but let's put that one on the back burner for now.

I'm sorry, but I think I'll sit this dance out.
Historical records are rich with these revelations of how humans have enjoyed the mysterious sounds of music and the potential health benefit music has on the person and their soul.

Thus the point of this blog.

According to a 2016 study out of Australia from Deakin University - regular attendees of musical concerts had an improved sense of mental well-being and were happier than those others in the study who did not attend concerts.

Can't argue with the Aussies when they can do this.
MusicOOMPH - quite a catchy title for an online magazine detailed twenty-two reasons why attending live musical events can actually be healthy for a person. We've decided to mention our favorite six in this blog - not that the others aren't as important but we like these the best and it is our blog.

#1. Lose calories - Dancing can burn over 400 calories per hour and with thousands of your best unknown friends dancing near you, it is contagious. Move your feet and shake whatever you have and burn up those calories while toning your legs. What a great way to get in shape.

#2. Stress Reduction - Musical performances decrease the release of cortisol, a chemical known as the stress hormone. Not only does the stress level go down but so does the blood pressure. Gyrating and grinding in front of the stage has health all over it.

#3. Change your mood to a more positive state of mind - come on, that's a no brainer. Moving and grooving with a loved one to live music makes a person feel strong and sexy (they may not look like it to others but it's what being thought within the individuals head that counts). I can dance so I can conquer the world - yeah, baby!

#4. Relieves Pain - yep, Dr. Steven Eisenburg from San Diego stated that listening to music can proactively produce an analgesic effect and actually can reduce pain levels in a person. And who is going to argue with a doctor from San Diego?

#5. Improves a person's general sense of well-being. If you can dance non-stop for a two-hour concert - not only are you sweaty and stinky, but feeling great that you were able to do it. A psychological success that releases endorphins which are the key ingredients of feeling super-duper.

#6. Meet your favorites - Musicians have fans and those fans want to meet them, and what better place than a concert? Meeting backstage may be possible for some big bucks (or even better luck) but just to see the musician on stage is enough. Souvenirs from the concert are reminders that we did something unique and that is always a great feeling.

So, John and Laureen took all of the above and visited the Laughlin Event Center late in October to see one of our favorite singers - Sir Rod Stewart.

He took the stage and took the audience with him with two hours of old favorites and some new songs from his latest album.

Seventy-three years old and he moved about the stage like time had forgotten about him, with perhaps the slight exception that he was limping like crazy. Sir Rod explained that he had injured himself quite badly while playing futbol with his children recently.

Sir Rod Stewart ready to throw out some futbols to the audience
The show must go on and so did Stewart - He 'Maggie-Mayed' and 'If you think I'm Sexy'd' all over the outdoor theater. Thunderous applause, hoots, hollers, singing along with the lyrics, and yes, much dancing was the order of the evening.

Rod Stewart moving across the stage

Dancing and more Dancing

Hobbling or not - Stewart looked pretty happy and healthy
And like all the research for this blog - the facts are the facts. Two hours and both bloggers felt tired but extremely healthy and alive.

Music may be the best medicine after all.

For further information on this topic.