Last week I returned from a week in Mexico.  A trip to the Mexican Riviera; i.e., Cancun south to Tulum, connotes thoughts of free flowing liquor, dancing and one long party.  While his does happen and can happen almost anywhere in the world, there is far more to see and do while vacationing on the Rivera Maya; another term used to describe the vacation spot of the Caribbean in Mexico.

Anyone desiring to visit the remains of a monumental civilization that collapsed and eventually having its’ massive structures swallowed up by the jungle can easily visit reconstructed Mayan cities.  No less than six city states can be visited via tour busses that pick up the tourists at their hotels.  A seventh set of ruins are available four hours south of Cancun but you will need to rent a car to get to it and that is what I explored this year.  Concerns for public safety on the Mexican Riviera or within the Yucatan Peninsula is a myth.  Very seldom do I take a tour bus any longer but instead opt for a rental car.

Instead of an archeological excursion, a tourist can pick a day for a snorkeling tour.  This includes both salt water or fresh water or a combination of both.  One can board a boat that takes a swimmer to various locations that are loaded with fish and you can immerse yourself in a multitude of swimming brilliant colors.  Or a person can take a tour of one or more cenotes, sink holes that are fed by underground rivers and who’s cool crystal clear waters are a refreshing change to the hot humid jungle. 

Water and/or adventure parks abound.  The Travel Channel selected Rio Sigreto as one of the top ten swim locations in the world while XPLOR was selected as one of the top ten water parks in the world.  Both are within twenty minutes of each other. 

The true essence of my trips to Mexico do not lie with archeological ruins or water parks or viewing fish in their nature habitat.  As fun and relaxing as this may appear, the true experience rests with the friendship experienced with the trip.  While sitting on the pool deck of the hotel where we were staying, I stated that this was really a nice trip.  My friend Jeff Davidson who traveled with us with his wife Dianne said that it is not the location that matters.  It is the friendship that makes it special.  A lot to be said for that.

Whether it is on the back porch with a radio playing while sipping ice tea or going out for a movie or sitting on the pool deck of the Royal Hacienda in Playa Del Carmen, it is the friendship that make that point in time so special.  There is nothing more comforting while enjoying some type of outing than to be surrounding by friends.  There is nothing more sad than to witness an individual, either with or without abundant financial funding, sitting alone with no one to experience life with.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines friendship as “the state of being friends, the relationship between friends”.  The problem with a dictionary term is the sterile definition that doesn’t capture the true essence of a meaning.  I prefer to think of friendship as a further expansion of the word as a “relationship that can survive the test of time and remain unconditional”.   Friendship does not demand continual interaction but instead knowing that someone has your best interest and not theirs’ while you all ways have their best interest in mind and would sacrifice to insure they are taken care of.  In todays’ world “having someone’s back” is a term that expresses true friendship.

While Mohammad stated that, “If you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything”, Aristotle refers to friendship as, “A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”


This will appear in the Bernice Banner, Bernice Louisiana the week of 8/15/2016.

There are individuals that are dedicated to society and whose life is consumed with public service.  These individuals are in a service that we all recognize and hopefully are honored for their sacrifice.  This includes members of the military, police, fire, first responders and other public service employees.  Included in this group are many of our politicians.  So many times it is wrongly stated that politicians are only in politics for what they can get.  While there are bad apples in every barrel, the majority of the politicians that I have been around are dedicated to their cause and want to serve their electorate.  Unfortunately on occasion, the good of the party becomes paramount and rifts appear that is detrimental to the country and politicians are then tar brushed as selfish instead of selfless.

As we grow and move through our journey of life we see people that are very special, have no hidden agendas and have major impact on the people around them.  This may be a teacher that would greet you with a smile and un-begrudgingly spends that little extra time to insure you understand your lesson.  It could be a neighbor that you would visit to have fresh baked cookies provided with all the love that comes with no expectations except the enjoyment of your visit.  These are the quiet people in life that mean so much to us, that had an impact on our development and who quietly passed on without grandeur or fanfare.

Several years ago Bonnie and I took our four-year-old granddaughter to Hot Springs to experience this quaint Arkansas lake city during the Christmas period.  When we stay in town we usually book rooms at the Arlington.  This hotel is steeped in the history of the deep south and claimed guests of such notables that range from American Presidents to Al Capone.  When entering the hotel from the street you walk through a huge lobby bar and ball room that is child friendly and has been identified in several publications as the best lobby bar in the country.  A twenty-foot plus high domed ceiling with 1920s ornate trimming welcomes the visitors.  A local band provides dance music from the swing era.  This is where the story begins.

We walked in from the street and watched our granddaughter’s eyes light up as she looked at the twelve foot Christmas tree in the middle of the large room.  She was already mesmerized by the life sized ginger bread house covered with jelly beans and guarded by large nutcracker suite soldiers.  I lifted my granddaughter and carried her across the entrance when an elderly man, nicely dressed with a bow tie approached. He reached out and without a word took the little blonde girl from my arms.  He was in his 80s and struggled to hold her but managed to carry her to the middle of the dance floor.  The older gentleman with a deeply lined face put my granddaughter on the floor and became to first man to ever dance with the child.  The gentleman would go to the other ladies in the lounge and would glide across the floor, indiscriminate of who his partner was.  Several time he danced with my granddaughter and this led me to sharing the dance floor with her also.

The next night he was back and repeated his tour of the ladies in the lounge.  This was such an expression of kindness that I remembered it over the years.  Last week I was back at the Arlington for my 65th birthday. Celebrating with Bonnie and me were Jeff and Dianne Davidson.  They told me the story of visiting Hot Springs with their young granddaughter years earlier and how this older man came up and danced with their granddaughter and how much enjoyment they had with the older man.  I decided he was a fixture at the hotel so on check in we asked about the man that left such an impression doing nothing more than providing enjoyment to so many.

I was informed that the man had died peacefully in his sleep a few months earlier.  He lived in Hot Springs Village and had been going to the Arlington for years on Friday and Saturdays after his wife had died.  Apparently he had met his wife at the Arlington and they use to go dancing at the hotel.  His name was Orville and though he was well known no one knew his last name.  The power of the Internet is enormous and in an hour I had his details, via the obits at the local paper.  His name was Orville Moses Smith, 90 years old and had numerous children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.   He was a carpenter by trade and the obit noted that he had the grace and skill of a figure skater and ball room dancer which he displayed at the Arlington.

Just one of those individuals that brings so much joy and then quietly passing on.