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Two days ago, I was sitting on a slatted wood bench in the Santa Polomia train station in Lisbon waiting for the night train to Madrid. The well-worn often varnished oak slats were bolted on either end to two identical molded cast iron supports incorporating two feet and a back. It is a familiar design of unknown origin and age but found almost any place in the world.

I am convinced train passengers, at least here in Portugal and Spain, are less stressed and more acceptable to their situation than passengers in airports anywhere I have been. Airport passengers seem to wear worried frowns and obvious apprehension about the status of their fight, weather conditions, and a multitude of other potential problems that could have an effect on their flight being on time. Trains here seem to leave on time with little mystery or uncertainty for the passengers, who even running to catch their train before it pulls out are smiling, save those few dragging children.

While I sat people watching, one of my favorite pastimes as an octogenarian, at least 85% of those passing by had smiles. I can’t recall seeing that in any airport in recent years. Santa Polonia was a great place for people watching. I arrived about 6 hours early, tired of walking the neighborhood of my hotel. The building and facilities of the station are as worn as the bench I was on but there were several people cleaning so, although not spotless, the place was as clean as any of the airports I have been stuck in lately.

Another advantage is no standing in a long line to be X-rayed, or scanned, or groped. At the largest train station in Madrid, Atochoa, where I had to transfer on my way to Seville, my luggage did have to go through a machine, but I didn’t have to take my computer out of my backpack, or empty my pockets, or take off my belt. As an old guy I haven’t had to take off my shoes for the past 8 years. Eventually I tired of people watching in Lisbon, put my luggage in a locker, cost 6 Euros, left the station, wandered the neighborhood, found a nice little restaurant and had a nice meal and a couple of glasses of a very nice red wine. Then wandered back into the station to gather my luggage and board my train about 15 minutes before it left.

I word of caution. A first-class Euro rail ticket doesn’t provide a 1stclass seat or berth on any train. You have to make a reservation ahead of time. Something I tried to do from the states but was unable to navigate their computer system to get it done. There were no 1st class berths available for the night train and I still had to pay 29 euros for the required reservation in tourist class. Almost 12 hours in a lurching, often stopping, 6 X 5 cell with two bunks and 3 strangers. I was not able to stretch out in the bunk, my feet and head were jammed into the walls. I should have opted for a seat in tourist class since I didn’t get any sleep in the birth. I was assigned a top bunk, impossible for me, but the guy assigned the bottom bunk was a graduate student from Mozambique. He switched with me and I took him to the bar car for some beers. A very affable young man. The first class accommodations appeared significantly better, but the bunks were about the same size. In Madrid I paid another 29 euros for a 1st class seat. 

Tomorrow I embark on the bike tour I booked for 6 days and 5 nights riding from Seville to Granada. Should be a blast.

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TWC-front cover5star-shiny-web-review sticker

Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers’ Favorite

“The purpose of this road trip was to try to figure out what I should do with my remaining years and how to do it. I’m seventy-six years old, and for more than fifty-two of those years, I was married to the only girl I ever truly loved. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own. Charlize is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.” Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Alone by David R. Gross is an open story of recovery.

Gross is on a mission to discover how to live without Rosalie, his late wife. Three-year-old Charlize is his third German shepherd, adopted less than two weeks after Rosalie’s passing. Charlize came with a different name, but, according to Gross who decided to mimic John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, he renamed her. Gross describes their bond as “two injured beings who need to support each other.” His travels with Charlize started with Old Blue, his 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 and The Frog, his camping trailer. Gross was pleased – “Frog pulled like a dream, sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.”

Travels with Charlize is truly engaging. Gross’s skill as a writer is evident. His narrative and thoughts not only focus on Rosalie and the travels, but also include his fond memories from his younger days, his sons, grandchildren and even his previous German shepherds. The pictures included in the book make the reading more appealing. The writing style is straightforward; I love the casual tone of the prose. Readers, whether or not traveling is their forte, should give this book a go and get to know Gross, and especially Charlize.

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As a Pre-Thanksgiving offer Travels With Chalize will be available on Kindle for free downloads starting Sat. Nov. 21 and ending Tues. Nov. 24. It is available now and will continue to be available for KDP Select downloads. Don’t miss this opportunity.TWC-front cover

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Writer’s Digest Judge’s Commentary*:

So much personality shown in Charlize–we get real emotion and expression in the way the author has painted every scene with the dog. We also get deep emotion (and tears) in the early conversation with his wife, where she says that he can get a dog now that her demise is near. What a selfless statement, a deep realization, and a wish for her husband to be okay after she is gone. This is truly moving, and we long for the author to find the perfect dog to connect with.

“Hope is the mantra of anyone sitting on a boat” on page 75 is a true gem of this book. Author peppers the story with these resonant thoughts. Well done. They stay with the reader.
The ending just drops off when he’s home again and happy to have arrived safely. We could use a description of his home that has been colored by his travels along the coast, the same excellent skill in capturing scenery and feeling. That would round out the story beautifully. A very good read.

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Charlize and I just returned from the Pacific Northwest Book Sellers Association annual meeting in Portland, OR. While there Charlize made a host of new human friends and I had the opportunity to meet and greet owners and employees of independent bookstores. It was great fund to talk about my books and to autograph and give books to them. I hope they will read the books and like them. If so they are likely to recommend them to their customers. Giving those books away makes sense to me.

When one of my books is purchased used at least three things happen:

1) Sellers of the new book, especially independent bookstores, lose out. I hate that and so do they.

2) The author and the publisher receive nothing and it competes with the a sale of the book new.

3) It actually costs the publisher and/or author out of pocket. They must pay a “set up fee” plus a monthly fee to warehouse new copies of the book with a distributor.

I’ve had people tell me that they really enjoyed one of my books. When I inquired I found they had purchased it used online or from a used bookstore. I was happy they liked my work but I had no idea one of my books had been sold in this manner and most certainly received no remuneration for the sale.

I hope that when folks are done reading one of my books they will give them as gifts. That will build an audience for my work. Every used book sold competes against a new copy for which I might be paid.

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Seattle author David R. Gross practiced veterinary medicine for ten years.   He returned to school and earned his PhD in cardiovascular physiology then he taught and did research in that field for more than three decades. After retiring, he and his beloved wife Rosalie looked forward to traveling, writing, and focusing on social action causes together. In Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Alone, Dr. Gross tells a gentle and open story of recovery after the death of his wife of fifty-two years. He must go forward and face a new future, but that road carries rough spots. Memories spring up to hold him back. Revisiting friends reminds him of who no longer accompanies him. Home, to which he must return, still stores a profusion of painful memories. It is the presence of Charlize, his newly adopted rescue dog, that keeps Gross steady and willing to see a brighter tomorrow around the bend. Based on a compilation of chronicles from his popular blog, this compelling and enchanting book hit the shelves in February.

The dog loving couple had talked about getting a new pet, but with Rosalie’s diagnosis of lung cancer, those plans were put on hold. After she succumbed to illness in 2013, David adopted Charlize, a German shepherd rescue dog with problems of her own. He bought a travel trailer, closed his house and the duo started their travels. The two troubled souls embarked on a yearlong journey visiting parks and vistas, rain forests and deserts, family and old friends, to discover how to accept and craft a new life with each other’s help.

Travels with Charlize is available from any independent bookstore, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble. The Kindle e-book edition is currently available as are versions for Kobo and Nook. Dr. David Gross has published over ninety papers in refereed scientific journals and over a hundred abstracts in proceedings of scientific meetings. He co-edited three multi-authored textbooks and his single author text, Animal Models in Cardiovascular Research, can be found in most medical libraries. Since retirement, Dr. Gross has been busy writing both fiction and non-fiction. His published books include Manhunt (historical fiction), Animals Don’t Blush (a memoir of his first year in veterinary practice) and the soon-to-be rereleased, Succeeding As A Student (a self-help guide to efficient and effective studying, learning and test taking).

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At three-thirty in the afternoon we started looking for an RV park. We passed several that were not worth turning around to go back to before stopping at a grocery store in Gualala, CA. I purchased some fresh vegetables for dinner and the checkout lady told me how to find the California State Salt Point campground. At the gate was a friendly park ranger who was talking to a young couple. I stopped and he told me to just pick a spot and then return and fill out an envelope from one of those in a box at the gate. Put five bucks in the envelope and I would be registered. I drove through the entire campground where all the spaces were empty. Too many choices.

I returned to the gate and stopped without getting out of Old Blue. The ranger turned from the young couple he was still talking to.

“You decided not to stay?”

“Nope,” I answered “couldn’t find an empty spot.”

He looked at me incredulously until I smiled, and then he laughed politely at my lame joke. I climbed out of Old Blue, retrieved an envelope and made the loop again. I consulted with Charlize and we picked a spot, filled out the envelope, put my five bucks in and walked back to the gate to deposit the envelope. The ranger and the young couple were gone.

Charlize found something to interest her.

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5star-shiny-web-review sticker

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The purpose of this road trip was to try to figure out what I should do with my remaining years and how to do it. I’m seventy-six years old, and for more than fifty-two of those years, I was married to the only girl I ever truly loved. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own. Charlize is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.” Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Alone by David R. Gross is an open story of recovery.

 

Gross is on a mission to discover how to live without Rosalie, his late wife. Three-year-old Charlize is his third German shepherd, adopted less than two weeks after Rosalie’s passing. Charlize came with a different name, but, according to Gross who decided to mimic John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, he renamed her. Gross describes their bond as “two injured beings who need to support each other.” His travels with Charlize started with Old Blue, his 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 and The Frog, his camping trailer. Gross was pleased – “Frog pulled like a dream, sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.”

 

Travels with Charlize is truly engaging. Gross’s skill as a writer is evident. His narrative and thoughts not only focus on Rosalie and the travels, but also include his fond memories from his younger days, his sons, grandchildren and even his previous German shepherds. The pictures included in the book make the reading more appealing. The writing style is straightforward; I love the casual tone of the prose. Readers, whether or not travelling is their forte, should give this book a go and get to know Gross, and especially Charlize.

 

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“I want to go to Marfa,” Alexis said, “ it’s on my bucket list.”

“What and where is Marfa?” I responded.

“Marfa, Texas, it’s an artists’ colony and has a hotel from the 50’s completely retro but renovated. That’s where I want to stay. There is also an art installation outside of town, a fake Prada store. I want a photo of me in front of that. Marfa was written up in Dwell magazine and it was also on Sixty Minutes. It’s supposed to be like Taos was for artists in the 50’s. If you Google Prada Marfa you’ll see the art installation.”

So I said: “Sure why not, I’m into art and artists and I’ve never been to Marfa.”

Marfa is not someplace you go to on the way to someplace. South and east of El Paso, sixty miles north of the border, not too far, by Texas standards, to the Big Bend National Wilderness area where my sons and I went backpacking back in the day.

So we drove to Las Cruces and stayed overnight, not much to comment on. Have you ever been to Las Cruces? The next day on to Marfa with the fake Prada store about 35 miles from town. We went past it at 75 mph. Two carloads of people were stopped to take photos. Alexis said; “Let’s go on and come back tomorrow, I want to clean up before the photo and there is a crowd now. We don’t want strangers in the photo.”

Today we went back. The big Prada-Marfa signs above the door on either side were gone. Ripped off during the night? The online photos of the installation show it with the signs in place. The displays of shoes and purses inside were still intact but the magic was gone. It’s all about the sign!

Here is Alexis, being held up by the sign thieves. IMG_0020

Charlize with her friends Alexis, Mimi and Zsa Zsa near the pool at the Thunderbird Hotel.

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I left a copy of Travels With Charlize at the local bookstore and during lunch had a nice conversation with Ken Whitley, another writer, retired from Shell Oil and a Marfa resident for the last seventeen years. He stopped by our table while we were eating lunch to compliment Alexis on her jewelry and her shoes. Not an uncommon event.

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The Phoenix I knew, before leaving in 1970, is no more. The northern suburbs now stretch all the way to Cave Creek. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Cave Creek eleven years ago. When I practiced veterinary medicine, never certain I practiced well enough or long enough to really be good at it, there was nothing between my clinic on 32nd St. and Bell Road and the town of Cave Creek, seven or so miles north. I had a few clients in Cave Creek so I drove those miles on a two-lane road full of drops down into washes then up again. Today the road is divided, two lanes to a side, no dips and the previously empty desert is full of subdivisions and strip malls. Compared to the eclectic neighborhoods of Seattle and Edmonds, the subdivisions are monotonic, ersatz adobe style, flat or tile roofs, varying shades of tan. It is early spring in the Sonoran desert and the cacti are getting ready to bloom, some already have. If I lived in one of those subdivisions, even though I still have positive feelings about the desert, I think I would need a trail of bread crumbs to find my house after a couple of glasses of Malbec.

 

The biggest change though is the shear number of people and the resulting traffic. I took Alexis to see where my clinic was and the building I built is still there. Here is a photo of the Paradise Animal Hospital in 1962:

My beautiful picture

Now the place is a Mexican furniture, knickknack and pottery store. We went in and most of the rooms of the clinic had been reconfigured and obviously repurposed. The indoor kennels have been removed and the openings to the outside runs closed. The outside runs have been removed. My old reception area is now a private office, my old office full of knickknacks for sale. Just for fun I peeked in the restroom. The fixtures have been replaced but the door to my old darkroom was still there, closed. I opened it and the room was empty but still painted black! Here is what the place looks like now:

clinic & charlize

Charlize couldn’t have been less interested.

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