I left home the first time riding my tricycle–with a peanut butter sandwich tied to the back of my bike–I was a rather precocious four-year-old. My parents found me sitting beside Interstate 40, a bit hesitant to cross, and eating my peanut butter sandwich. For the rest of my life, all I wanted to do was to follow that road wherever it was going...
I left home the first time riding my tricycle–with a peanut butter sandwich tied to the back of my bike–I was a rather precocious four-year-old. My parents found me sitting beside Interstate 40, a bit hesitant to cross, and eating my peanut butter sandwich. For the rest of my life, all I wanted to do was to follow that road wherever it was going. Or follow that path. Or walk down that alley just to see where it went.
As a university professor with all the numerous school holidays and three-month vacations during summer, I have been fortunate enough to fulfill those travel dreams: nearing 90 countries on six continents, so far. I’m an American who presently calls Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates home — where I have lived and lectured for the past 18 years.
However, next year will be my final year, and I will retire but continue to travel and hopefully write that great American novel I keep telling myself I’m going to write… “some day.”
I have always been a very active person, as you may surmise from the photos that I’ve submitted. I played numerous sports when younger: baseball, football, surfing, horse riding, down-hill & cross-country skiing, hiking in mountains, backpacking everywhere. Also, I’m a long-time practitioner (and previous teacher) of yoga. Today, I’m still in excellent health. I take no medication, never have. Well here in Abu Dhabi, I take Vitamin D daily because, oddly like everyone here, I don’t get enough sun. I keep fit and robust by riding my off-road bicycle, hiking, lifting weights (light weights…I’m not trying to bulk up, just keep fit). I also work out by watching movies (or CD’s of Downton Abbey) while running on my elliptical trainer. I never take the elevator anywhere; I use the stairs, two at a time if I’m not carrying my briefcase. I also swim when there’s a pool or ocean nearby. You will find me easy on furniture and houses. And I try to wander with a small ecological footprint.
Before attending grad school and then becoming a professor, I managed a number of fairly large retail businesses. Also, I owned and operated a natural food store in Aspen, Colorado, throughout the 70’s—sold ginseng to John Denver, fresh-squeezed OJ to Sidney Poitier—where during our very short summers (at an elevation of 8000 feet), I grew organic vegetables on the store’s property in a “French-postage-stamp” garden, which uses organic, biodynamic methods to produce large amounts of vegetables in very small spaces. One summer, it snowed in July, covered all my crops, except the sunflowers, in light powder.
You will find me very organized, methodical, and able to take direction, which hopefully eliminates possible disasters. As a homeowner, a motorhome owner, and having lived long term in numerous countries where if something goes wrong, it may be up to you to solve the problem, I fully comprehend the various complexities that may arise and am capable and responsible when dealing with critical situations.
I have been lucky enough to share much of my time with animals for most of my life. While going to grad school, I shared my garage studio apartment (one-car-garage size!) with four cats. One of them, Bullet, (even though I continually warned her to be careful) returned one rainy night with a litter of 13 kittens, brought them in one by one, soaking wet, in her mouth. It broke my heart to give them away when they grew. I did keep one, Boomerang, the runt, who when I whistled our secret whistle would come running to me from where ever he was. I took him (on a leash) on the bus with me when I went to live in Mexico for two years. When he followed me too far away from the hacienda, I’d point and tell him to go home: he wouldn’t go home, but he’d jump into the dense jungle beside the road and stay right there until I returned. First time that happened, it was dark when I returned; he jumped out of the dense foliage, meowed wildly (excited to see me), and jumped on my thigh. Scare me? Uh…yeah.
While living in Aspen, I owned two American Quarter horses: Circe and Kriya. Kriya was one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. He was gelded, but he never believed that and still had the spirit of a stallion. I got him for a very reasonable price (cheap really) because the young lady who had owned him was so intimidated by him. Kriya was a stallion at heart, he let her know it, he let me know it, and he let Circe know it (ahem…if you know what I mean). I particularly took great pleasure in cleaning his hooves, of all things; I don’t know why. I still get a little melancholy when I reminisce about our rides and times together. Yeah, except for that one time in early spring when he was overly frisky from not being ridden all winter. I didn’t have my saddle in the pasture, so I rode him bareback, and he took a 90 degree turn at a fast trot and dumped me into the dirt (nobody should ever call a horse stupid, they know exactly what they’re doing).
I’ve had so many dogs as partners, I don’t know where to begin. My first dog, Red, found me when I was five years old. He was running the neighborhood, we joined up, love at first sight. I kept him in our house for a week or so, until my parents discovered who his owner was. Red (Chesapeake Bay retriever) and I had bonded immediately and thoroughly, and I did not want to give him back to his owner. I cried all the way to the man’s house. When the man saw us and realized what was what and how tight Red and I had become, he gave him to me, wouldn’t even take the money my parents offered. Red could read my mind, and do what I was thinking I wanted him to do without me saying it. Really. I’ll tell you that story some time. If I marked a stone and threw it into the creek, Red would rush in, dive under water, and bring back that very stone. Kid you not. Maybe he could smell my scent even underwater?
Abu Dhabi is not a great place to have animals. It’s too hot for them to go outside (100-125F, 40-50C) many months of the year. It is, however, a good place to find an animal though because for some reason that I simply do not understand, many people here buy an animal, a cat or dog, and then—get this—leave it behind abandoned on the street when they return to their home country. I cannot even imagine considering that. Consequently, there are many strays running loose, many in shelters—it’s heartbreaking. Sometimes, I leave food for the three cats that roam the streets near my building.
One time while gathering shells from a beach near Oman, and even though I was purposefully trying not to, I mistakenly picked up a shell with a hermit crab inside without realizing he was in there. I discovered him while perusing my shell collection in our hotel room later that night. I knew nothing of hermit crabs then, didn’t even know it was called a hermit crab. I didn’t know what to do with him, so I piled a bunch of shells in the bidet and corralled him in there for the night. I don’t think he was too happy. He’s happy now though: he has my second bedroom all to himself, a bunch of deep sand to crawl through. His favorite food is peanut butter. Hermit crabs change shells when they feel safe and get too big for the shell they’re in. Duncan has changed shells numerous times since I brought him home, and once I was lucky enough to record a video of him slipping out of one shell and into the other. He has little claws, or grippers, that hold his shell on. When I first got him and told a colleague, a biology professor, about him, he said: “oh, he’ll only live a few days.” Duncan has been my partner for over 15 years now. At this moment, he’s holed up under the deep sand and shedding his skin, then eating it because to hermit crabs, their skin is like caviar, a delicacy to them.
You’ll discover I’m also very good with plants, and gardens. Abu Dhabi is literally a desert. At one time here, I had 99 plants in my home. Some very large, some very small. People would say my house smelled like a forest and felt “somehow soothing”. I’d guess it was all that dirt, and oxygen being manufactured! I gave most of the plants away when I had to move to another home across town. I did, however, keep four of my favorites, and they actually survived the move much better than I imagined. They all have names: Him, Earl, Fern, Bali. Earl is a rubber plant whose branches stretch a good seven feet from the wall toward the light.
Although I’m just beginning my tenure with Trusted Housesitters and have not garnered my first position with them yet, I do have experience house sitting. Most recently, I sat a colleague’s place while they traveled for three weeks, and I took care of their plants (they have a lemon tree and numerous herbs growing, as well). I will ask them to submit a reference here, but it may not appear immediately. During grad school before I moved into the garage studio, I house sat my professor’s apartment for three months during summer. I also house sat another professor’s house for three weeks during semester break, and cared for his two elderly cats. I am not in contact with either of those folks now, however, so I don’t know if I can find them to request a review; and well, it was a few decades ago.
However, I can tell you this: if you apply to work in the UAE, you must go through a very (very) rigorous vetting process, including yearly blood tests (for drugs and HIV… they don’t let just anyone hold a residence visa). Also, I can give you the phone number of my university here for any other assurances or questions regarding employment, reliability, professionalism, publications, computer or communication skills, etc.
One other thing: I’m a nonsmoker and don’t really drink. I may drink a beer on a hot afternoon. It’s not that I have anything against drinking, I just never acquired a taste for it. I don’t even much like the taste of beer. Oh, except for draft Guinness poured properly from the tap in Ireland—that stuff is like nectar, almost sweet. It’s nothing like Guinness from a can if you’ve ever tried that.
Also, I believe service to others is one of a human being’s highest callings. I’m sorry to say that I have not spent my whole life in service to others, but for some reason, it has become important to me at this stage of my life. One way I would feel honored to serve is to allow you the opportunity to travel as I have, or simply get away to where ever you need or desire to go, and for you to feel assured your home is respectfully and lovingly being taken care of by a traveler who believes in giving back to the world.
One other thing you might desire to know is that I simply can’t walk out of a room without turning off the lights in that room. Even when I think I might want the lights on, I’m somehow hardwired (thank you, Mom) to turn them off. Also, I’m a bit of a “clean freak” and a “neat freak”. So your whole house will be spotless and immaculate when you return. Your plants will be flourishing and vibrant. Your lawn will be lovely, lush and glowing. Your garden will be burgeoning (but possibly missing a yam or two). And your animal may be hiding in my hand luggage anticipating our next adventure.
If you’ve waded through these paragraphs and have read all the way to here, bless you and thank you very much. I hope you found this informative and interesting. I also hope that in the future, I can take care of you—your home, your pet(s), your lawn, your garden, trees, farm, flowers.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.