Thursday, November 19, 2015


Reading is something I look forward to as a reward when I get my writing, errands and other activities completed.  After a hard day, curling up with a good novel before going to sleep seems to complete the day. 

I read both fiction and non-fiction with at least one of each going at any time.  Non-fiction is for reading in the living room and fiction in the bedroom.

I used to read late into the night, but now I often get sleepy after a few pages and fall asleep.  This can also happen when I’m in my easy chair and I doze off in the middle of a page.

Some is physical in that I’m tired at the end of a busy day.  Some is the material.  A really exciting novel keeps me awake if I’m not completely exhausted.

In the last fifteen years I’ve been listening to audio books when driving in the car by myself.  I “read” about fifteen books a year this way.  I primarily listen to fiction and find it a very effective way to pass the time such as when in a traffic jam.  Rather than fidgeting, I can enjoy the hunt for a murderer, spy or kidnapped heiress.   And now I don’t get upset when driving behind people who don’t move when the light changes, who disrupt traffic while talking on cell phones or who block a lane when they should be merging.  Rather than getting impatient, I now sit back, relax and listen to the novel.  Hey, if it takes me longer to get to my destination, then I have more time to enjoy the story.

That’s much more sensible than wanting to take my aggressions out on other drivers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Memories of My Dad on This Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, my thoughts turn to my father. My dad, Murray Befeler, was born in New York on November 24, 1913.  He grew up first on a farm in upper New York and then in Brooklyn, the youngest of seven children.  His mother died when he was about seven and his father remarried.  He dropped out of school in about the tenth grade and lived for awhile with his brother, my Uncle Jack and his wife, my Aunt Miriam.

I never knew much about his childhood as he would never talk about it nor his Jewish heritage.  I only met my uncle and aunt in 1965 when I visited them in Brooklyn on my way back from Europe.  Later when I was in Poughkeepsie for a training class with IBM, I took the train to New York City for a visit.  Uncle Jack and Aunt  Miriam came to visit us in Long Beach in the early seventies.  I also went to Uncle Jack’s funeral in about 1983.

My dad became a photographer and moved as far away from his family as he could, first to San Francisco and then to Honolulu.  My dad had a very difficult childhood according to Uncle Jack, but I never learned any particulars.

In 1942 Murray was credited as a base correspondent through the Navy Department and served as the Honolulu bureau chief for the still photography pool and in 1943 was assigned to the army. He had his home-base in the Star Bulletin building on Bethel Street.  During the invasion of Iwo Jima my dad played a key role in the history of Joe Rosenthal’s famous flag raising photograph.   While on Guam he often sent home money he earned by staying sober during the intense nightly poker games played by the war correspondents. 

After the war was over, he started his own business, Photo Hawaii, which he ran until his death. .

In 1954 my dad went to the Pacific to do a ten-year-after-the-war photo shoot. When he returned he had a heart attack, the result of a weakened heart from having rheumatic fever as a child.  From that time on he came home in the afternoons to rest.  He was an early riser and worked mornings and often had jobs in the evening as well.  He did a lot of work for United Air Lines, Matson and the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.  He often covered arrivals of important people at the Honolulu airport.  He once took pictures of the Truman family and got a thank you letter from Margaret Truman.  He later did a lot of aerial shots of Honolulu from a helicopter.

In 1968 he had another heart attack and couldn’t come to our wedding when my wife and I were married.  He died in August of 1968.  At his funeral a huge crowd turned out to pay him tribute.  I flew his ashes out to sea in a helicopter and dropped them into the Pacific.

My dad always wanted the best for me. Because of his heart condition, he couldn’t play sports, but he watched me play tennis.  He paid my way through Stanford, but then said that was enough education, so I was on my own for my MBA.

He had very high ethical standards.  He was honest and told the truth.  One time when someone telephoned whom he didn’t want to talk to, he said to tell them he was out and he went into the yard.

He tended to be outspoken and said what he believed.

He was extremely intelligent, even though he had little formal education.  He told puns such as when viewing a lava flow saying, “isn’t that lavaly.”

My dad was a creative photographer, and I’m looking at some of his pictures on the wall as I’m writing. Last night I watched a program on PBS about Iwo Jima. I took out a book I had saved titled Immortal Images by Tedd Thomey. It quoted Joe Rosenthal about the famous flag raising photograph: “If the fact that I took this picture is important, then I deem it important to recognize the part played in the handling of it by many people. At Guam the picture-pool coordinator, Murray Befeler, had to see that my films were processed. The darkroom men had to do their job well to get good negative results. The censor had to pass the picture and Murray had to decide it was good enough to be scheduled via radiophoto, or it would have been passed over and been nothing but a piece of film.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015


A lot of my writing is about older people. Now I am becoming one of them. Throughout my life at various times, I have worried about dying.  When I was a child, fear of death kept me awake at nights. 

We all want to live a long life, but after my mom and step-dad died in the same year, I had thought more about quality-of-life versus length of life.  Both of them died in their sleep, which is the best way to go, but they had both reached a point where they were no longer enjoying being alive.

After seeing my wife’s mother struggle and finally succumb to lung cancer, it’s obvious I’d prefer to die in my sleep rather than suffer through a painful illness.

We always feel sad when someone dies young, robbed of a full life.  But it’s equally sad to see someone in a vegetative state in a nursing home who is still alive but without any mental capabilities left.

My wife and I used to joke about getting hit by a bolt of lightning together when we were eighty.  Now eighty doesn’t seem that far away anymore.

People my age think about the financial aspects of how long we will live.  Do we have enough money if we live to eighty, ninety or one hundred?  What if special care is required?

This is the crap-shoot of the aging process.  We don’t know how long we’ll last, what condition we’ll be in and what quality-of-life we can maintain.

So death remains the inevitable outcome with the uncertainty of how and when.

The old adage of living each day as if it were the last still applies.  “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.”  Life is a precious gift and I need to stop, “smell the roses” and appreciate what I’ve got.  With death as “the great equalizer,” life still remains our own special opportunity to live, love, give and be present.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Aging is part of our human predicament.  At first we want to be older: to be able to stay up past ten o’clock, to get a driver’s license, to vote, to buy a drink, to rent a car.

Then suddenly our perspective changes.  Whoa.  I don’t want to be thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy.

I recently looked back over each of my decade milestones.  When I turned ten I was in fifth grade, having just suffered the indignity of being required to wear shoes to school in Honolulu.  I celebrated by twentieth birthday in France in the middle of an adventure, learning another language, experiencing a different culture, exploring new ideas, starting to discover what I was about.  At thirty I was immersed in a career, married with a four-year old son.  Forty found me having achieved some success in business and about to leave a large company for my first foray into the world of start-ups.  At fifty I was struggling through a bad work situation (about to get fired), had acquired a daughter-in-law and was soon facing an empty nest.  At sixty I was a grandfather, dealing with the issues of my aging parents, settled in at work and looking forward to retiring. At seventy, I was retired, had survived a heart attack and continued to enjoy writing and giving talks.

Birthdays used to be a big deal.  But when I turned sixty, my wife was in Los Angeles selling her mom’s house, so I celebrated alone, fixing a TV dinner.  Just another day.

Recently I reread parts of a journal I had kept in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Two things struck me.  How things were different now and how things were the same.

My core being is the same as when I was younger, and I’m still grappling with the same issues: self-consciousness, fears, relationships, attitudes and deciding what I want to be when I grow up.  Yet so much has changed.  I’ve mellowed and don’t get as uptight as I used to.  I go with the flow more now.  I guess you could say that’s part of maturing.

But I still picture myself as a young person.  It’s just that I’m trapped in an aging body.

I’m now more aware of the next steps, having dealt with the issues of placing my mom and stepfather in retirement then care homes and having faced the death of both parents.

My thoughts now are focused on our three-month-old grandson and our kids and other grandchildren.
Every era has its advantages and disadvantages.  As my stepfather used to say, “Getting old isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s better than the alternative.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015


My thought for today. Many different forms of love exist:  romantic love, love of a child, love for mankind.  The one common denominator is a caring that goes beyond the self.  Love involves opening the self, not restraining the loved one, and demonstrates compassion, joy and equanimity so neither the self nor the loved one is placed on a pedestal, but the relationship comes first.  The duality of love demonstrates individual and shared elements; one doesn’t have to give up the self for the shared experience of love.

As parents we take pride in our children, but also need to set limits.  Part of each individual’s development requires learning about both potential and limits.  Tough love dictates knowing when to say, “no.”  As adults we have a base of experience that the child has not yet developed.  We want our children to grow, learn and mature, but boundaries are necessary.  If a child doesn’t yet understand the danger of running into a street, we must provide restrictions until the child internalizes the distinction between running in the yard and running in the street.  The line to walk involves giving the child room to test, explore and learn within a safety net.

The biggest challenge in romantic love is the boundary between my way and your way.  In any relationship there will always be conflict.  I want to watch television and you want to play bridge.  The test of a strong relationship is how these conflicts are resolved.  If I feel I have to “win” I’ve lost sight of the relationship.  Love involves give and take and seeking a common ground for “us” not “me.”

A commitment to the relationship provides the motivation to resolve conflict.  Commitment becomes the key to a lasting relationship.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Research for a Mystery Novel

My first historical mystery novel, Murder on the Switzerland Trail, will be published by Five Star, part of Gale/Cengage Learning, next week. Here’s a brief preview: A Sunday excursion in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado, in 1919 leads to murder as intertwined lives play out a mystery on the Switzerland Trail railroad. Policeman Harry McBride must figure out who the murderer is before the train reaches the Boulder station on the return trip.

One of the delights in writing a historical mystery was the research. At the time I wrote the novel, I lived in Boulder, Colorado, and with a group of friends I hiked the publicly available sections of what had once been the railroad bed. This entailed visiting spots such as this part of the trail in Caribou Ranch.



And this scene near Glacier Lake.



I also read the definitive book on the history of railroad, Switzerland Trail of America, by Forest Crossen. Next, I went to the Carnegie Branch of the Boulder Library to read newspapers from 1918 and 1919. Once the librarian trained me to use the microfilm machine, I scanned through old issues of the Boulder Daily Camera to read articles about world events, local activities and advertisements.  I learned that the Northern Gas and Drilling Company offered shares at only fifteen cents each, requiring only five cents down. And local color: “Fat man’s race: first, Clyde Church, second C. C. Poundstone, (the timekeeper fell asleep.)”

All in all, this was an enjoyable exercise and provided a wealth of background information for writing the novel.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


What are your goals?  To achieve goals one must utilize strengths and overcome weaknesses.  If you can’t eliminate a weakness, team with someone who has complementary strengths, e.g., a deaf person can work with a person with good hearing.

With a goal in mind, then action plans can be put in place.  An entrepreneur is someone with a single-minded goal in business.  To succeed someone must have this concentration and drive.  In an organization one can eliminate people and get the “right” ones or develop the people there to build a strong organization.  The issue is always one of getting the right peg in the right hole or changing the shape of the peg to fit the hole.

As a writer, I set goals, which has allowed me to complete ten published novels with more in the queue. I think it’s always worthwhile to ask what do I want to accomplish?

And as an aside, I still wonder what I will be when I grow up.