Sunday, March 18, 2018

Showing Off The (Portland) House

As part of my book promotion, I run a giveaway contest that encourages people to send me photos of themselves with my book, The Portland House. I had a lot of fun with the same contest for Dirty Shirt, so thought I would do it again with this book. The prize for a couple of randomly drawn winners is a signed copy of the book.

Social media has made people much more willing to share photos of themselves, so doing it with the prospect of maybe winning something garnered some creative photos.

A House on the Beach
Quite possibly the most creative one was by Jody Morris, who owns a goat farm in Upstate New York. She showed that goats are more intelligent than we give credit for. Here's one of her goat pictures.

Then, there were a fair number of people posting pictures from warm places. Florida, California and Mexico were a few of the favorites. As hard as it was to know that they were somewhere I wanted to be, it was still great to see that they were reading my book on a beach somewhere.

Pets were a new twist to the giveaway too. There were a couple of cat pictures, one even shown reading the chapter on Pets. LOL. 
And not to be outdone, my friend Philip had a picture of the book with his dog looking on, waiting to hear what happened to my dear dog, Lance. 

There were some funny ones too. People just joking around or letting their kids pretend to read the book. One person even mentioned trying to get a picture of the book with an Alpaca. Still waiting on that photo. 

There were a host of other great ones too. Ones taken from planes, with food or just around the house. All were entered into the drawing that took place yesterday. Turns out the winners were my friend Pat Spahn, a character in the book, and my cousin, Mary Jensen. 

Which reminds me that I am continually seeking pictures of people reading the book in obscure places. My step-sister is an airline attendant and will likely post pictures in a foreign country before too long, so watch Facebook for those, as I post them.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed a photo, a review or just those who have purchased the book or offered an encouraging word.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stepping Off The Board

This past Friday marked the end of my two year term on the Wisconsin Land Information Association's board of directors. WLIA is a statewide organization that works to advance Land Records modernization and distribution. Basically it's about 850 geospatial and GIS geeks.

The association organizes three gatherings a year, one annual conference and two regional meetings. In past years I always attended the annual conference but rarely made the regionals. I was a member of WLIA for 20 years before I finally ran for a position the board. It always seemed like a daunting commitment and one that I was hesitant to take on.

Now, having served on it for two years, I can only say it was an incredibly rewarding experience. I wish I had gotten involved earlier. Oh sure, I did some peripheral things, sitting on a committee here and there, but it was only when I got on the board that I was able to meet some peers that I would maybe have never gotten to know. I'm not one to go outside my circles to meet people, but when you are put in a position where you have to work alongside them, it changes everything.

And while Robert's Rules and long, drawn out board meetings are great, (sarcasm) I've discovered getting to know my peers was the best part of serving on the board. The people I met including:

  • Jim. The running joke during our tenure together was a play on our name because we were both named Jim and both our last names started with L. Tall Jim, and slightly less tall Jim, Jim v. 1.0 and Jim v. 2.0, Gopher Jim and Badger Jim and so on. Turns out Jim is building his own kayak from wood, a skill I admire from afar. A technically talented guy who pours more sweat and time into WLIA than most anyone I know.
  • Emily. A long time peer of mine that works in Milwaukee. She was brave enough to run for WLIA President, again something I admire from afar. And she killed it. She ran meetings tightly and organized a phenomenal conference. She is always smiling - even when things are going badly - a sign of someone who has the confidence in what they are doing.
  • Peter. Another guy who likes kayaks. Just for kicks Peter went to Greenland last summer for a kayak trip and in part to say he visited one of the least populated continents in the world. He has some amazing stories from his time there, both in and out of his kayak.
  • Ann. She is the Executive Services Manager for the association and I wouldn't be too far out of line to say she is the engine behind the whole organization. Without her we would not be where we are today. She is irreplaceable and now a good friend.
  • Martin. He was president my first year on the board and was a taskmaster. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind when he needed action taken by one or more of us. I remember at the board retreat I was sitting on the couch and he sat uncomfortably close to me, just because he knew it bothered me. (I told him as much and he stayed right there, which cracked me up.) It was the start of an ongoing back and forth between he and I over the past two years, and now we are good friends. Again, I may have never gotten to know him had we not served together.
  • Christine. She and I were sort of kindred spirits. We are both quiet introverts, but not afraid to speak our minds when the time is appropriate. We even had a back and forth over our last month on the board, but both of us respects the other enough to talk through our differences. 
  • Eric. A long time friend and confidant that also took the leap into running for President. I knew Eric well going into my term, but now feel like we've been through something together, which makes our friendship a little better. 
  • Tammy. We talked for a long time about concerts and music venues. She is a music nut like me, a quality I wouldn't have known had I not been on the board.
  • Mitch, Tony, and a host of other cool people on the board that I am not afraid to say hi to or email or call if I need advice.  
Because things were changing so dramatically at work, I couldn't commit to another 2 years on the board, so I stepped down after one term. I may run again someday.

I guess my point is that my regret with getting involved with WLIA is much like my delay in getting my writing career going. I wish I'd done both sooner. 

If you're on the bubble for something you don't feel comfortable I would urge you to:

Not wait for "someday." 

Take the leap now. 

You won't regret it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Another One In The Books

Last night was my Saint Paul bookstore debut at Subtext Books in downtown. I have been trying to get a St. Paul reading/signing gig for quite some time and was finally able to get into Subtext. The city of Saint Paul is the setting for the book, so it was a sort of homecoming for both of us.

When I arrived, I thought I had everything under control, but as the place slowly filled up, my nerves ratcheted up a bit. As much as I do this whole public appearance gig, I still get jittery from time to time and this was no different. I thought I'd be better in the company of family and friends, but it may have made it even a little more nerve wracking.

I started with an introduction which fed right into the readings. I typically do three readings per appearance. The three stories give the readers a feel for the book. In this case, I did two humorous stories and one more serious heartfelt one. The first was a little rough, but I managed to power through it and the other two and came away feeling pretty good.

Overall, the audience seemed genuinely engaged and laughter was sprinkled throughout.

But the best part of the evening was seeing so many family and friends show their support. The place was packed! There was standing room only at the back and I would guess there were 40-50 people in attendance. The crowd managed to buy ALL the books that the bookseller had purchased ahead of time, so I sent my wife and sister in law to the car (thank you both!) to get more from my own personal stash. They sold an additional 11 of those. It was a lifesaver. There's nothing worse than going to a book signing and not getting a book, right? They did an amazing job at the whole event and I am eternally grateful to Sarah Cassavant and Sue Zumberge of Subtext for hosting me. We need to support these small businesses!

Among the guests were two guys I went to grade school with that I had not seen since. I have been Facebook friends with them for some time, but when I saw them, I had to hug them. When people go out of their way to show their support for you, you reciprocate. It was positively humbling for me.

Then, a group of five women that I used to hang around with in college surprised me by showing up. Again, I hadn't seen any of them since my wedding, and it was SO GOOD to see them. We didn't get much time to catch up with each other, but they all looked fantastic and despite the passing of nearly 28 years since we saw one another, it was like picking up where we left off. I thoroughly believe that good friends are a gift from God and I was so glad to see them all again.

Jen, the sister of my good friend Pete from high school and college, also showed up with her husband, which was sweet.

Add to this my entire family, a cousin, and a friend and his whole family from my time at Montgomery Wards, and it was just overwhelming.

As I said at the reading, I was listening to REM on my iPod on the way up to St. Paul from Milwaukee. For some reason, REM always makes me reflect and I was thinking "It's good to be going home." Then it occurred to me that in two days I would be thinking the same thing heading back to Waukesha. "It's good to be going home."

But what it boils down to is my network of family and friends in both places makes them equally home. And when I mentioned that I'd like to have coffee with each person in the audience and talk about their life, I was serious. My writing has opened my eyes to the fact that everyone has a story. The fact that they can sometimes relate to MY stories only makes me want to hear theirs.

The evening ended with a social event at the Spot Bar a mile away from the reading. Again, quality time laughing and telling stories with family and friends.

The entire night filled my heart to full. I am surrounded by beauty and love and support and am immensely privileged to be able to do something I love and share it with others. It feeds me and is the impetus for doing more and more of it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Spring Jog

My alter-ego writer/author/poet life is busier than usual lately. Couple this with a day job that has taken on a new urgency since my boss retired, and well let's just say that life has gone from a casual winter stroll to a healthy spring jog. I barely have time to change shoes here, but I'll try and run down a little of what's going on from a writer/author of sub-atomic micro fame.

  •  I will be in my hometown, Saint Paul, Minnesota this coming Saturday for a reading/signing for The Portland House. The event will be held at Subtext Books in downtown. I am told that my event is competing with Lucky Palooza, so if you come, the best parking option is the parking ramp across the street (Lawson Ramp) or try and find metered parking. I am hoping turnout is door-busting, mostly because I want this place to remember me for future events. So, please come, bring a friend and buy a book. Note: Following the event there will be a social gathering at The Spot Bar a ten minute drive away. Please join us for that as well!

  • I have tentatively scheduled a signing with the Clement Manor Center for Enrichment in the fall. This is a continuing education program for seniors and was one of my better signing events for Dirty Shirt. When I contacted the director, she said that she had been checking my site to see when The Portland House was coming out because people were asking about getting me back. That is what an author lives to hear.
  • The Portland House received its fifth review on Amazon this week! It retains a 5 star rating. And I can't say enough how much it means to me when people take time to write a review of one of my books. If you haven't done so, please do. Amazon takes note after a certain number are credited to a book. I could use your help.
  • I begin my stay as Poet Laureate for the Village of Wales in April. I am looking forward to all the outreach and education that that position entails. 
  • There should be a review of The Portland House in the Pioneer Press (or at least online) this week. Mary Ann Grossmann was kind enough to read and review it for me.
  • I received an Author Packet from Unsolicited Press, publisher of my forthcoming chapbook, On A Road. (For those who don't know, a chapbook is a collection of up to 25-30 poems.) This is basically a packet containing all of my details regarding the publishing. They are requiring me to round up 25 beta readers, so don't be surprised if you get an email from me asking you to read a portion and say a few words about it. It is due out on 10/21.
  • I got a random email from a reader this week that said her husband read The Portland House and kept commenting how I was a good writer. You know, that made a really crappy long day into one of the better ones in a while. 
  • I continue to forge ahead with my WIP (Work in Progress) about my high school days. In addition, I am working on pieces for two different poetry themes, one on Love and one on the whole gun mess.  
  • I am serving on a panel for a Path to Publication workshop through AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop in May. AllWriters' has helped close to 100 authors get published, which is sort of amazing if you think about it. And I love talking about my publication experience, so am looking forward to this panel! Details are here
Whew. So that is a rundown of all things written. It is all good and keeps me from running the streets at night. Because we all know that's the kind of thug I would be if it wasn't for writing. Ha!

And, as always, I have to thank all of you for your continued support and words. I seriously want to have coffee with each of you at some point. (That's definitely my closet extrovert talkin' there.)

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shape Shifting A Book

An interview with Carrie Newberry
author of Pick Your Teeth With My Bones

As most of you know, I am part of a writing community at AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop. This has brought me exposure to a number of gifted writers, poets and authors. Carrie Newberry is one of the authors I met at a writing retreat. She has written a book titled Pick Your Teeth With My Bones, which might have one of the coolest covers I've seen in a while. I interviewed her to help you get a feel for what writers think and feel during the writing process.

Tell me a little about how you got into writing. Was it a lifelong love or more recent?  

Lifelong, definitely. When I was a kid, I loved to play pretend, to tell myself stories and pretend I was a character in those stories. Writing lets me play pretend as an adult.

Do you write longhand or computer? Why?  

Computer.  I do most of my writing on weekends in marathon sessions.  If I wrote longhand, my hand would give out long before my imagination did.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book Pick Your Teeth With My Bones?
It started when I went to see the Fellowship of the Ring, the first Lord of the Rings movie. The character of Strider really captured my imagination, so I started a story about a ranger who turned into Kellan, the main character of my book. I set the book in Madison, because I love the idea of this other supernatural world being right under our noses. But really, the heart of the story was born when my younger sister died. I think the currents of family, immortality and loss really all stem from that, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. It was the story I needed to write to help myself heal.

Where was your first piece of writing published? 

That’s easy. This is actually the first piece of writing I’ve ever had published. I got very lucky with my publisher.

If you could have dinner with one author, past or present, who would it be? 

Authors are like movie stars to me, so that’s a tough question. If I had to choose, I guess I’d go with Charles de Lint. He’s a master of urban fantasy, fantasy that’s set in the real world. His writing blows my mind, and I’d love to bask in his presence for a few hours.

Describe your experience working with your book publisher.  

It’s been completely surreal. The people at EDGE are amazing. They’re so patient with me. The editing process was so hard – Pick Your Teeth With My Bones was about 20,000 words longer than they wanted it to be. Cutting chunks of the book was like cutting chunks out of my flesh. Each one had to be debated, weighed, mourned. But my editor, Heather, was wonderful.  The woman who does marketing for EDGE, Janice, is a beautiful person. She’s the one I go to when I need a confidence boost. I still don’t really believe that this is happening. I’m so happy.

In one word, describe your experience as a student in AllWriters Workplace and Workshop?  

Humbling. In a good way. And empowering. Did you say just one word? You can see how my manuscript got to be so long.

I know you are also on staff at AllWriters. What would be your advice to anyone considering an online class as opposed to onsite?  

Well, the online classes are great because you can take them in your pajamas with your dogs lying on your lap. No, seriously, the onsite classes are wonderful. There’s nothing like sitting in a room full of writers. The energy follows you home. But that’s not an option for a lot of students, people who live too far away or who work too early in the morning to travel to Waukesha for an evening each week. So the online classes allow students in other states and even other countries to take AllWriters workshops. Plus, if you go with the online course, you can work with me.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what?  

Rock music. Pick Your Teeth With My Bones was written to disc one of Metallica’s S&M album. A lot of writers don’t like to write to music with lyrics, but I love it. The beat, the bass line, and the fact that if I get stuck, I can sing along for a while.

In your opinion, what is the hardest part/process of writing? 

Going all the way into an emotion. I find myself skimming the top of emotions sometimes, not wanting to dig all the way in and feel it completely. But that’s what you have to do if you want to put it on paper and make it real – you have to feel it. No turning away, no turning back.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee, hands down.

What writing project(s) are you working on at the moment?  

I’m editing the sequel to Pick Your Teeth With My Bones, and I just started a new book. The main character is a retired hitman. He’s a lot of fun. I have no idea where it’s going, but I find myself excited to get back to it.

Ever get writers block? If so, how do you get past it? 

Yes, when I start worrying about the big picture, I get blocked.  The best way for me to get past it is to sit down and start writing.  Even if it’s just to describe what I’m feeling in that moment, or to vent my frustration with my favorite swear words – get something on the page, and keep going.  Even if it’s “blah, blah, blah-de-blah.”

If you had one piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be? 

Trust your writing. So often we get caught up in wondering what this piece is, where is it going, how will I get there, will it be worth anything to anyone? That’s a great way to drive yourself crazy. You have a drive to write what you’re writing. Trust that. Let go and enjoy the ride.

How can people get your book?

Get it here!

How can people contact you or follow your work?

Twitter: Carrie Newberry (@shifter979)

Thank you Carrie and continued success in your writing pursuits!

Thank you, Jim!!!

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Uninterrupted Java

One of my favorite times of the week is Saturday morning. My wife and I have developed a routine of going to a local coffee shop, The Steaming Cup, for coffee. I don't know how it started, it just sort of happened one Saturday a couple of years ago and we thought it seemed like a good thing, so we just kept up with it. We are there with the rest of the regulars almost every week. It's like the TV show Cheers, but with coffee.

I think it started as a kind of "lets go for coffee and talk house projects," way back when and became a ritual. Now it has become a chance for us to catch up with what went on over the week as well as what is in front of us for the coming week. The best part of it is we have each other's undivided attention for an hour and a half. No distractions, no dog, no kids, just us.

The things we talk about cover the gamut. We talk about our kids; when they were little and the cool kids they've become. There are times when talking about them that Donna gets near tears, not out of sadness, but out of love. During our hectic weeks, we don't often get a chance to talk at such an intimate level and sometimes memories get triggered, and that's okay. Our kids have become great young human beings and that's all we can ask for.

And we laugh too. We laugh hard at the insanity that is our life from week to week. A couple of weekends ago we spent 10 minutes setting up a "Home Screen" for her phone, something I assured her would make her life easier. After some quick tips, she was off and running. We laughed that she's spent 2 years without this simple trick to make life a little easier. We also laughed because it's how we roll. We tend to put projects off for months or years and when it finally gets done, we're always hard pressed to figure out why we waited so long.
Running for a refill!

With both of our kids now away at college, this time every weekend has allowed (forced?) us to rediscover who the other person is and why we fell in love nearly 28 years ago. When we were first married, we used to go grocery shopping on Saturday afternoons. Afterwards we went out for pie and coffee at Baker's Square on the East Side of Milwaukee. I used to love those outings for all the same reason. And I realized that these new coffee dates every Saturday at The Steaming Cup stand as a sort of return to those days at Baker's Square.

The time gives us a chance to talk about our worries and concerns as well as our excitement and dreams. Donna is in a class right now about the book "It's Never Too Late to Begin Again" and it was fun talking to her about how it is stretching her as a person - in uncomfortable ways. We talked about her childhood and how it differed from my own, in part because of our parents, but in part because of our personalities.

I'm sure most people don't need this sort of one-on-one time every week. People might say that's what they do at home every night, and that's fine. I only know that it is something I've come to consider precious time. It's US time and it rounds out a crazy week and sets me right before the next one. In fact, if she has to work or something and we can't do coffee, I miss it.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Intersection Of Literature And Theater

So I went to a poetry reading last night. (These are the quotes you don't often hear me sharing in the boat with my fishing buddies but, hey, it's who I am.)

This one was held at Mama D's Coffee shop in Genesee Depot, about 15 minutes from my house. The event recognizes a featured poet, in this case Stephen Anderson an accomplished, prize-winning poet from the Milwaukee area. The way the event runs is the featured poet reads for about 30 minutes and then the microphone is open to anyone else who wants to share their work.

The event is run by Mama D's, with oversight by Paula Anderson, poet laureate for the Village of Wales.

Now, I know poetry is not for everyone. I get that. But I also know there is a lot to be gained from live performance art - which is what this is in every sense of the word. It is the intersection of literature and theater. (And, this goes for book reading/signing events as well.) The poet/author is not only putting their written work out there for people to react to, but they are in a sense performing it as well.

And this is what makes a good poetry/literature reading a great one. If the reader has an engaging stage presence, a commanding voice (or at least in command of their own work), it can make all the difference. In my last blog post I mentioned how I tend to start out my events nervous and choppy. Once I settle in, I can feel the change in my voice, inflection and demeanor. That is when it becomes more like a visceral experience - and a lot of fun.

But I've strayed from my point.

What I wanted to get across is how, if you haven't been to a live reading event ever, or lately, I would encourage you to try one out sometime. They are intimate affairs and can touch upon the human experience in ways that impact you. I look at it as another form of entertainment. I've been to a number of them in support of my writing colleagues and I'll be honest some are better than others. (For the really bad ones, there are even occasions where you beg for mercy, or wish you could vaporize and slide out the heat vent.) The key as an author is reading your audience and knowing when to stop. Like anything, doing it well requires a lot of practice.

Another cool part about this event was meeting a couple of the guys there afterward. They were both about my age or a little older, both male, both poets. We all talked about our work; One of the guys, Robert Nordstrom had a book out, The Sacred Monotony of Breath, and the other was just getting back into writing. One asked where he could get a copy of The Portland House. In turn, I may buy the other guy's poetry book because I liked his readings. It's all about connections.

At the event I was also formally introduced as the new poet laureate for the Village of Wales, effective in April, which was a nice shout out. I am looking forward to what all of that brings into my life.

Anyways, my point is, support local authors and poets. You won't regret it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Feared More Than Death

Yesterday I celebrated the launch of my latest book, The Portland House. It was a long awaited celebration after the online release of the book on January 23rd. (The publisher wanted lag time to insure that the books made it to me before the launch.)

Now, I've done a ton of these presentations with Dirty Shirt over the past 3.5 years, but I still go into them a bit of a nervous wreck. I've never liked giving speeches or presentations, but as I've been forced into doing them for Dirty Shirt, I've become much better at it. I didn't say more comfortable, but better.

Plus, I'd done the Dirty Shirt spiel a dozen times or more, so could almost recite it in my sleep. But this was a new book and new stories, so I wasn't sure how I'd do.

Before the signing I was tired and nervous. I tried to take a brief nap but it was mostly futile. I did a little yoga (now, there's a picture) and it seemed to help take some of the tension out of my body - always good.

I always use the first 15 minutes of a signing to do a meet and greet. It gets my conversational tone going and sort of serves to warm me up.

So, when I started with my introduction, I was nervous. I thanked a few folks and then gave an intro into the first story. When I started reading, my tempo was choppy and shaky. Within the first minute though, I got my first laugh from the audience.

And everything changed.

There is something about that first laugh, or that first gasp, or that first audience reaction that reminds me that I am okay. It is a reminder that they are listening and genuinely hoping to be entertained. That they are rooting for me. Then, when I get the second and third laughs, I settle in. I'm in the zone and back to breathing natural and reading like I hope to read.

At the end of the last reading, I kind of didn't want it to end - which is totally weird, given my feelings 15 minutes earlier. I do get a bit of a rush by people responding positively to my work. It is humbling and makes me grateful I get to do what I am doing.

To write is a gift, to read and get audience feedback is privilege.

And I am glad I get to do it.

Thank you to each and every one of you who showed up to help me celebrate my work. It meant the world to me.

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Amongst The Shell Casings

With all the pain and hurt of yesterday's high school Valentine's Day massacre, I thought that rather than feed into the rage and sadness that plenty of others are taking care of, I'd share some beauty.

Because, there's nothing beautiful about assault rifles. Mental illness aside, I've never seen an unarmed mentally ill person kill 17 people in a matter of minutes. Maybe I'm missing something, though.

So beauty it is.

Beauty is the 18 month old girl that sits behind us with her mother every Saturday at coffee. She smile melts my heart. Whenever I see such innocence, it restores my faith in humanity - at least momentarily. 

Beauty is serving dinner alongside a few others to 40 adults and children in poverty at a local church. The program is called Coming Together to Get Ahead or CTGA. It is designed to give people opportunities to get training, education, counseling and a hot meal.

Beauty is my wife asking if people could step up and help cover a meal for the Guest House of Milwaukee and getting an immediate response of enough to cover 3 meals. I am convinced that people want to help and are just looking for a conduit to do it through. Changing lives, one meal at a time.

Beauty is a local family I know who have 5 foster kids (8 total kids) and are currently working on adopting 3 of them. Pulling kids out of hopeless situations to help them experience love and safety.

Beauty is my daughter texting me yesterday asking (in her 5 year old voice) "Will you be my balentine?"  Yank my heart out and stomp on it, already.

Beauty is a friend sharing her poetry cards with the world on Random Acts of Poetry and Art (RAPA) on February 20th. She does this on her own dime of her own volition. Solely because she believes in the power of words, art and positivity.

Beauty is a winter sky.

Beauty is hearing my son on WUWM radio every Thursday with his friend Ethan, talking about silly news stories, giving advice to strange questions, etc. Students getting their 60 minutes of fame every week in the name of fun.

Beauty is a number of my author friends donating books to my WLIA Annual Conference silent auction. The money raised from this auction goes to fund student scholarships. With tuitions being off the charts expensive, every little bit helps these kids get through college.

Beauty is hearing an encouraging word about my writing - almost always when I am at a serious point of self-doubt.

Beauty is reading a book like Confessions of a Funeral Director. This author uses his experiences with death to change his perspective on life, living and the "death negative narrative." This book should be required reading for anyone who has dealt with a lot of loss. 

So I would challenge you to find some beautiful moments in every day. A smile from a kid, an encouraging word, a sunset or a great song.

Because we could all use a lot more of it lately.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Writing Roundup

A rundown on all things writing related.

Portland House Giveaway

As part of my Portland House book release, I am running a giveaway contest. I ask people to take a photo of them with the book in a unique place, or even just around the house somewhere. Then, on March 17th, I plan to draw two winners from the entries and send them a signed copy of the book.

I ran the contest with Dirty Shirt and had a lot of fun with it. I look at it as a unique way to engage people with the celebration of launching a book as well as getting a chance at a free book. In this day and age, people are all about selfies and pictures from their phones, so it seems like a good match.

To date, I've had 11 entries and suspect I will get a bunch more after the formal launch parties/book signings I'm having in the coming weeks. (Feb. 17th in Waukesha and March 10th in St. Paul, MN.)

Some of the entries have been from sunny beaches, including Florida and California. Others were taken with pet cats and even a goat. I can't wait to see what else comes in as more people get the book.

On a Road Chapbook

In an interesting and unexpected development, my chapbook On a Road was recently accepted for publication by Unsolicited Press. For those who don't know, and it appears more don't know than do, a chapbook is a collection of less than 25 poems.

This one is a series of poems about a road trip to California that I took with a couple of friends in 1984 when I was just 22 years old. It is styled after, and in homage to, Kerouac's novel, On The Road. I don't know much more than the contract that I signed is being reviewed, but it is certainly exciting news on the heels of The Portland House book release.


There is a good chance I will have a review from The Shepherd Express newspaper this week. They typically come out on Thursdays, so look for it wherever you find the Express!

There is also a good chance Mary Ann Grossman from the St. Paul Pioneer Press will be reviewing The Portland House in the next couple of weeks. This is huge visibility for me. I also have inquiries out for a couple of radio interviews, but no word yet. Fingers crossed.

More good news

There is another very exciting development brewing. I can't say much about it until it actually happens, but I will certainly make it known if it does.

A Plea

I am always looking for Amazon reviews. If you've read the book and enjoyed it, I'd love to get a few words on the Amazon site for the book. I am up to four, but for a little perspective, Dirty Shirt has 41 reviews. They help me as an Author and don't take too much effort from readers. It is appreciated!

So, it is all coming together. I am blessed to be where I am with my writing right now. Lots of work, but all good.

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter's Lemon

It seems full-on winter has finally arrived. We had a lot of that cold with no snow crap for the first two months, but last weekend we finally got enough of a snowfall to enable a little skiing.

I have been cross country skiing since I was 18 years old. In Minnesota is almost a mandatory skill - or should be, in my opinion.

So this past Sunday, before the Super Bowl, I took a little jaunt on my new skis that I got last year. It was a cold affair, but a beautiful windless day, so I had a blast. I am a fool for speed, so I even blazed the trail on the big sledding hill. I've long purported that I have a zeal for speed that regularly exceeds my ability to control the whole hurtling humanity element.

Well, after such a successful day on the slopes, I was determined to do a little night skiing tonight. I'd done some night skiing probably 15 years ago and enjoyed the quiet and darkness so much I thought I'd recreate it.

A few days ago when I mentioned that I was thinking about going out after work tonight, my wife said, "In the dark?"

"Yep. It's great."

"Do you have a headlamp?"

"Nope, but there's enough light. I've done this before." (The only thing missing was, "Trust me, I'm a professional.")

"Well, don't fall and break a hip or something."

Well, tonight was fun, but there were some moments of clarity and revelation, let me tell you.

For starters either my eyes are getting worse, or it's darker in the winter than it was 15 years ago. Or, maybe both. The hardest thing was keeping in the tracks. My eyes played tricks on me as I drifted in and out once the darkness hit.

It was almost like I could have used a headlamp or something.

Then, on my first challenging downhill I sensed the tracks were a ticket to too much speed, so chose to kind of snowplow it in the middle lane where the skate ski showoffs ski. Well, the middle was fast too. I had it all under complete control until I didn't. I fell in hip breaking fashion and managed to come out unscathed.

It was wicked fun.

I continued on, huffing and puffing to the next challenging downhill. Determined to master the center lane snowplow technique, I opted to go that route again. And 3/4 of the way into it I wiped out hard. This time I fell to my right side and as I was getting up I thought to myself:

Oh, please don't let my phone be crushed. (In case you're wondering, I carry it so I can call 911 when I break a hip.)

It wasn't which made this fall as wickedly fun as the last.

So, I have to do something about this need for speed. I aim to work on my technique of course, but if you're thinking I'd be better off staying home, I can only say it's not happening.

I would rather die from a broken hip from a skiing accident than sit on the sidelines worrying about the inherent dangers of a little bunny hill type XC skiing. I'm not dumb enough to get on downhill skis, maybe ever again, because that would be giving a flamethrower to a pyro. I know my limits.

Plus, for a few minutes, when I stopped among the trees in the darkness the quiet was soul soothing. I'm out there trying to make lemonade out of this lemon called winter.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Not So Super Bowly

Super Bowl Sunday is a local day of mourning around this house. With a combined 9 Super Bowl losses between the Vikings, (4) the Bills (4) and the Packers (1) this day has ended badly more than well. 8 of the losses were redeemed in 1997 when the Packers crushed the New England Patriots in SB 31. It was a great day, Brett Favre on his game, Desmond Howard showing up for special teams like he had all year, and even the outcast Andre Bad Moon Rison catching his big TD. We both finally felt what it was like to win it all.

And it was very good.

That glory was short lived when they lost next year by going into Denver over confident and were outplayed by veteran Elway, loser of 3 Super Bowls himself, determined to get his own redemption. I always liked Elway and couldn't help but feel a little happy for him despite the sting of the loss.

Then in Super Bowl 40 when the Packers went from squeaking their way into the playoffs to Super Bowl Cinderellas, We again got to experience the feeling of total victory. For me is was especially redemptive because I've hated the Steelers since they beat the Vikes in the Super Bowl of 75. (I know, I need to get over it.)

So as my various teams were eliminated from the playoffs, (Vikings, Bills) i was left to root for anyone who played the Evil Empire New England Patriots. And I was pulling for Philadelphia until their fan base showed, AGAIN, who they really are. Namely, the worst fans in all of American sports. They treated the Vikings fans like a bunch of hoods and my allegiances shifted on Monday Morning.

I normally root for the underdogs, but the events of that Sunday have changed all that. If anyone knows me, they know that while I like to win, winning with sportsmanship and class will take precedence over the final score every time. I think back to the Vikings playoff loss where a fan threw a whiskey bottle at a ref and cut his head, It made me cringe. I was ashamed to be a part of that fan group. Losers who lose with grace and poise have my allegiance.

So, today I will cross country ski. I will probably watch the game, maybe with the sound turned down. And I will reluctantly root for Tom Brady to win his 15th Super Bowl, based entirely on the actions of a fan base. Plus, I have always thought he's the greatest of all time, and today, regardless of the outcome, he will retain that title.

So, go Patriots. If you have to. I guess...

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 1, 2018


My wife and I are what might be called seasonal empty nesters. We have two kids in college (can you say money drain?) and so for 9 months of the year we are us. Her and I. Me and her.

And our two cats and our dog.

But for the most part, our nest is empty.

We've gotten quite used to it already. Nothing against our kids of course, we love them to death. But sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. I've noticed a few things that I am kind of getting used to. Things like:

  • I own a car that I'd forgotten I owned. It's a 2004 Hyundai and it's kind of nice being able to take it when I want it and not have to schedule it a week out or sign a rental agreement to drive it. 
  • Along those lines, when I get in this same car, my seat is exactly where I left it. And there are no water bottles left in the cup holders. It's weird, but I like it this way.
  • My phone charger has not been stolen, borrowed or forgotten at a friend's house. 
  • I am sleeping better not worrying what time my kids will come home. Even past 18, as adults, I worried until I heard their door close every night.
  • My internet speed doesn't really suck. I have absolutely no issue with it. Of course I'm not multi-player online gaming on my PC while my phone streams Netflix. The complaints are frequent and editorial during the summer months. 
  • Our weekly trash is about 1/3 of what it used to be. 
  • If the house is cold, we put on more clothes. There are no complaints between us two.
These things said, there are things I genuinely miss.

  • Dinner around the table with my kids was always a time of catch up. How was your day? What's going on in school? What's your week look like?
  • Believe it or not, I kind of miss my son jumping out from behind closed doors or when I open the bathroom door. It's a mean thing to do, but we both always get a laugh from it.
  • I miss their hugs.
  • I really miss their smiles and laughter. Even if it is while they're playing a video game, it is music to me to hear them laugh.
  • I miss their calling me out on things. Sometimes my age shows and they are quick to point it out. I know they mean no harm and it kind of keeps me honest.
  • I miss their wicked senses of humor.
So, there are upsides and downsides to kids in school. Talk to me mid-summer, but there are moments I miss them greatly and moments I want them to be doing exactly what they are doing. 

Living their own lives. 
Making their way in the world.

Because they are doing great at all three, and I love that about them.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sub-Atomic Micro Fame Revisited

A little less than a week ago The Portland House was released.

My second memoir and my fourth book.

If you'd have told me as little as eight years ago that I would be saying that I would have laughed my head off at you. Yeah, right. A writing fool. 

But here I am. And, whenever I get all puffy chested, I always bring myself back to earth by referring to my success as just a glimmer of "Sub-atomic micro fame."

No best sellers
No Pushcart Prizes
No early retirement
Not selling out Wembley
No national book tours
And certainly no movie rights

The only way to go is up from here. That's a good philosophy for all of life, not just writing.

At the same time, my writing journey has helped me in so many intangible ways.

  • It has given me a community of writer friends both locally and nationally. Friends that feel like family, these people encourage me, bolster my confidence when I'm doubting my work and cheering me when I hit a win. It is two way though, as I do the same for them and celebrate their victories as well.
  • My book, Dirty Shirt had quite a long road show that went with it. It usually meant a 45-50 minute presentation and reading in front of big and small groups. Initially the thought of doing this caused me great distress. As I started doing it more and more, I got better and better at it and have to admit, almost kind of enjoy it at times. Again, eight years ago, if you'd have told me I'd be getting up in front of people and not mind it, I'd still be laughing. 
  • My writing studio's director has helped me by recommending me for panel discussions and, more recently, an all-morning Meet the Author session at the local high school. There is also talk of getting some of our books into the County Jail for a book study among those inmates interested. These events have elevated my confidence and presentation savvy. These skills carry over then into my work environment as well. A win-win.
  • Overall well being and happiness. There are days where just knowing that I have two books out in the world makes life so much richer. Sure it's sub-atomic micro fame, but it makes a difference in my mental health and happiness. 
So, because I can never say thank you enough, I want to again thank everyone out there who has read my work, bought my books, supported the magazines I'm in, left a review, shouted me out on Facebook, sent an encouraging inbox, cheered me on, or believed in me when I myself did not. I've always been my own worst critic, and it helps having folks out there reminding me to shut that crap down. 

Thank you Donna, thank you AllWriters, thank you family, thank you friends, thank you Electio Publishing, and thank you Lord. 

This is about as cool as it gets right now and I didn't do it alone.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Next Chapter

If you follow this blog, you know that I don't write about work a lot. For the most part, I have chosen  to keep work separate from my writing pursuits. The events of the last week however call for a post dedicated to work for a bit, so please indulge me.

I work in a small division housed inside a large Parks and Land Use department. The Land Information Systems Division is four people in size. We are small but mighty mappers.

Well, last week, my boss and friend of 21 years retired. This guy hired me literally 6 months after he started at the County. He and I worked together - but separate - at SEWRPC before that and barely knew each other. Based on what he'd heard from others, when I applied at the County, it was my job to lose. I interviewed, he hired me and well, the rest is history.

There are too many funny stories to recount of our days together at the County. One of the more memorable ones though was when we were gathering a bunch of software together to send back to the vendor. We were essentially trading it in for an upgrade to the brand new product. For some reason, the vendor wanted the old stuff back.

So in the middle of inventorying the stack of boxes of old software I alluded to how absurd it was that we were sending outdated boxes of software back to Huntsville, AL. Don chided in that if I think that's absurd, think about the lackey on the receiving end who's going to have to put it back on the shelf!
ESRI GIS Award Presentation - 2004

For some reason the two of us cracked up laughing so hard we both had tears in our eyes. It was one of the funniest moments in those 21 years together.

Another funny story that Don loved to tell was about my first day on the job. He showed me my cubicle and my computer and phone. When I moved the mouse I saw that the screen had an error that read "Fatal Exception". When I said, "What's with this?"

Don said, "That right there would be your first job." Then he ambled away laughing his rolling laugh that was his trademark.

Turns out the machine booted up fine, but it was one of those "What have I gotten myself into?" moments for a second or two.

I guess it's become a little more rare to work with someone for 21 years, but I was privileged to work with Don. He had expectations for where he wanted the division to go, but he also let us prioritize what we thought we needed to work on from project to project. I always respected his ability to grant us autonomy. We're all adults here, no need to micro manage.

Over the years we suffered through the death of his mother and father as well as my brother and stepfather. We saw our kids through grade school, high school and college, and accomplished so much for the advancement of the County's Land Information System. Twenty one years breeds a lot of shared stories. He was a good leader and a good friend.

So, this past Monday, when he didn't walk into the office, it was a little weird. We've all agreed that we will make our own way and continue in the legacy of excellence he left us, but it's still going to take a while before it feels normal again.

I wish him well in his retirement. With 21 years at the county and 17 at SEWRPC, he has certainly earned it. I only hope I can exit with the same level of dignity and sense of accomplishment that he has.

Happy retirement, Don!

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Portland Perimeter

The big day is almost here. The Portland House comes out and will be available via eLectio Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble Online this Tuesday, 1/23.

As part of the lead in to the release, I have been showcasing a few of the characters in the book. Today rather than focusing on one specific character, I'd like to focus on the neighborhood as a whole. We had such a great neighborhood back then, and I think the days of sending kids out the door to "come home when the streetlights come on" are gone forever, and that's too bad.
A big pile of neighborhood

Of course, what makes a neighborhood are the people. I can still go down our block from end to end and name almost every family that lived on our block. Fifteen years in a place will do that for you. A few of the memorable ones that may or may not be mentioned in the book include:

  • My friend Michael from across the street. We grew up together through our high school and college years. He was a gifted athlete and guitarist. I found out a few years ago that he was a session player with both Prince and Morris Day, Robert Palmer and a handful of other famous musicians. None of that mattered to me or him at the time we were growing up though. We were just buddies who liked hanging out and kicking the soccer ball around. 
  • My sister was girlfriends with Judy Molitor, Paul Molitor's sister. They lived a block away and while we all knew Paul was a good ball player, no one ever knew he would be a Hall of Famer. Growing up a block away from him is just one of those seven-levels-from-Kevin-Bacon factoids, I guess. 
  • My buddy from high school lived a few blocks away on Summit Avenue, a street lined with large houses and a number of mansions. His father was a successful attorney, so the fact that they lived on the "rich street" made sense. I felt like an "insider" hanging around Pete in his family's mansion. It was a few steps above our humble house and just being there made me feel richer. It's funny because years later when I was dating a woman, her brother brother referred to our house on Portland as "a mansion," compared to their own. Housing is all a matter of perspective it seems.
  • Another family across the street had five kids and three of them ended up as good friends to three of us. Their parents had a "no friends in the house" policy, so it was a shock when after Christmas one year I was allowed to go down their basement and play a bit of electric football with my friend Pat for a bit. On another occasion, when his parents were "gone" he showed me his Quadraphonic stereo. He cranked it up and before long his mother surprisingly showed up at the bedroom door and put a quick end to the unannounced tour. 
  • A block away lived a huge family of 8 or so kids who all had first names starting with M. There was one in every one of my sister and brothers' grades, so we kind of grew up together. You just don't see a ton of huge families living in such close proximity to each other. It was a unique time. What is sort of cool is that we are still Facebook friends with a few of them. 
So there are more specifics about these friends and more in the book, but you'll just have to read it. It is my hope that it will take you back to a simpler time of families building neighborhoods and neighborhoods building a city.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Making Of A Trailer

Writing a book is a whole lot of work. It takes hundreds of hours of writing followed by more hundreds of hours revising. Then, on the chance that you get published, it's a whole lot more work of promotion, platform building, selling, etc.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love every step and every stage of it. I am blessed to be where I am - no doubt about that.

But at the same time, one of the funnest parts of the publishing/promotion process, for me at least, is putting together a book trailer. For this book, two of the guys, Nick and Bill, who helped with the last trailer, agreed to get the band back together and do another. They are good friends who make the process a lot of fun.

It started with Nick putting together a skeleton music track. As you'll hear in the video, it's dramatically different than the one for Dirty Shirt. We were shooting for a 70's vibe to match the book, and I think the electric organ does that well - a sort of Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog sort of sound.

A week ago today, the three of us convened for the voiceover recording. Nick has a studio and lots of sound gadgetry to make a professional level recording. It was clear from the start that I was just there to coach and encourage, while the two guys worked through the script.

I discovered that doing a vocal recording using a script is pretty close to trying to record a song. There are nuances and inflections that I wanted to impose on the transcription of the text to make it interesting and dramatic. I am not sure, but would guess that it took close to 30 takes to get the whole script sounding how we wanted it. It's funny how many different ways you can inflect and or, in some cases, murder a word. At times this led to giggling and the resulting outtake. But these guys are patient and professional, like none other. So we pushed on.

So the whole evening was just cool watching all the talent in the room work together. I hate my voice, so that is why I asked Bill to fill in again. He has a radio voice that I do not. And I can't say enough about Nick and his multitude of acoustic and technical talents. When I thanked Bill for a fun night, we both agreed that we are not the strength of the group.

Like Bill said, "You have to be sure to stay friends with Nick forever if you want to keep doing these." Well, it's my goal not to piss him off anytime soon. Book number 3 is in the works.

I hope you enjoy the trailer. It sure was fun putting it together!

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Map For The Story

It has been a great weekend of old friends, writing friends, and work friends. One event after another for the past four days. And that Viking game. Whoa. It's all good and I'm not even totally drained yet, so I'm not sure what's up with that.

But I wanted to post anyway with something I think is about the coolest thing going. I put together something called a Story Map. It is a geeky GIS thing, but I am so happy with the way it's turned out.

What it does is combines my writing with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and puts both into a fun little application called a Story Map. It is essentially that - a map with a story to it. Or, in this case, a story with a map to it. I plan to put it on my website and, more importantly, enter it into a contest at the statewide GIS conference coming up in a couple of months.

Note: I built this with a free ESRI account totally on my own personal time. These things can be made for parks and any other number of things at work, but I thought it would be cool to do it for something personal.

It is my hope that it builds some interest for the book (as well as maybe an award at the conference, but I digress) but more importantly, it gives readers some context for the story of The Portland House. I have a friend who did a similar thing using Google Maps for her book Paddle for a Purpose. It is very cool too!

So, here is the link. Please take a look and let me know what you think either via Facebook, Blog comments or in person.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Our Minnesota Twins

In continuing my character peeks for The Portland House: a 70's memoir, which releases on 1/23/18, I would like to introduce a couple of my step siblings that make an appearance in the book. Their appearance is brief, but as stepsisters, they were a fun part of my life growing up.

My mom (Mary Lou) dated Jack for nearly 10 years before they married in 1979. Jack had 8 kids by his first marriage, ironically enough to another Mary (Ann) who also lived, ironically enough, on Portland Avenue. So we were corporately, over a dozen strong as a step-family on Portland.
Theresa (front) Maggie (in grey.)

His youngest girls were identical twins named, Maggie and Theresa. And I mean identical. They were more often referred to as "Hey, Twinnie" by their blood family because they were that hard to tell apart.

These two were the ones that came to most of the joint family events Jack and Mom arranged, like trips to the beach, the cabin, and a few camping trips. They were both very athletic, cute and wicked funny. I'm probably tipping my hand, but there were more than a couple of undisclosed step sibling crushes in our family between the fourteen of us. One even resulted in a marriage. (Pat and Kevin).

The twins were a couple of years younger than me, their older sister Maureen was my age. All three of them went to Derham Hall, the all-girls Catholic high school across the field from Cretin, where I attended. They both worked for Northwest Airlines for a significant time.

Anyways, I'd fallen out of touch with them for the most part until about 5 years ago. Facebook put Maggie and I back into contact, especially with regards to my book, Dirty Shirt. She was nice enough to take it overseas and publicize it along the way. She took pictures of herself with the book in front of several famous landmarks. It was her Flat Stanley of sorts.
Maggie (red rugby), Theresa (yellow rugby)

The two of us will periodically spar back and forth on Messenger and keep pledging to get together, but for one reason or another, we can't seem to coordinate it. We will someday, I'm sure. Until then, she keeps me appraised of how the rest of the family is doing.

So, if you want to know how her Portland House cameo happens, well, you'll just have to get the book.

It's Available January 23rd, 2018 on:

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Black Hole Years

In continuing to give a quick expose' on some of the characters in The Portland House: a 70's memoir, today I will talk about a character who plays a much bigger role in the book, namely my mom.

Obviously, Mom is a central character in the book , after all she is the one who got us to the house and the one running it. But that doesn't mean she is always present in every story. Many of the stories involve interactions with siblings that ultimately ended up at mom.
Mom turns 40. April, '73.

Mom worked full time during our years on Portland Avenue and as a result, she had to rule remotely. Sometimes this was done over the phone, She says she used to hate it when my sister Jane and my brother Rob would call her from separate extensions in the middle of a fight they were having. To add to this scenario, Rob was hearing impaired so had trouble hearing mom's responses on the phone. She shouted, "You two figure it out and I will deal with you when I get home!"

To which Rob replied, "Huh?"

At which point, Mom would repeat the threat again in a slightly louder register. All of this done within earshot of the clerical staff she was in charge of.

I can only imagine her rage.

When I was trying to decide on a title for this book, my wife recommended, "Black hole years." This may sound like an odd title, but it refers to what Mom used to say when we told her a story that she had no recollection of.

"That must have happened during the black hole years," she'd say.

I imagine that having six kids would require a certain amount of memory loss or blackouts. Memory suppression may be the secret behind her making it to the age of eighty four.

None of this is to say that Mom wasn't there for any of us. She was. I remember once she brought home a new desk for my room. I forget whether it was given to her or was one of those unpainted things that was cheaply made, but mom was determined it would work. Anyhow, as I was working on it it seemed rickety and had a few popped nails. I complained to her that it was falling apart and that I wasn't happy with it. As an ungrateful kid, I wanted a new one.

The next thing I knew she was holding nails in her lips and was pounding away, fixing the desk. When she was done, the thing was rock solid, as good as new. And she said to me, "I bet you didn't know your mom was a carpenter, too."

Indeed, I did not.

But that is my mom's role in the book in a nutshell. She was keeper of the piece, writer of the checks, and maker of the pork chops. She taught us that family came first, that we could be whatever we wanted if we put our minds to it, and that a house is made into a home by the love therein.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Other Portland House

Yesterday marked three weeks until the release of The Portland House: a 70's memoir. On January 23rd, it becomes available on the eLectio Publishing website as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble online and iTunes. As a prelude, over the next few blog posts, I'd like to introduce you to a few random characters in the book. Some will be more significant characters than others, but all played a part in my childhood, whatever their role.

Today I'd like to introduce my grade school friend Pat S. I have three friends named Pat in the book as well as my sister Pat, so I try and use last names in the book to keep them straight.

Pat (Red), Me (Yellow)
This Pat was one of my better friends through the grade school and middle school years. He lived almost exactly one block away, on the 1200 block of Portland.

As I allude to in the book, I met him more out of a sense of curiosity than anything. He had a crew cut haircut, and would occasionally stop his bike across the street from our house and stare. Because his haircut and menacing stare unnerved us as new kids in the neighborhood, I think it was my brother Rob who called him "Flathead."

It's funny how kids think.

Anyway, it turns out he went to my school and over time we met and got to be pretty good friends. I wasn't one much for going over to friends' houses and such, but at school at least, we pretty good friends.

I think it was seventh grade or so when Pat's father died suddenly and unexpectedly. As one would expect, Pat was pretty devastated. At the same time, because of my own situation, we suddenly held a bond that we hadn't planned on. We were both fatherless. It is nothing to aspire building a friendship around, but there were some times he confided in me and, well, I did and said what I could, I guess. I had been without a dad for so long, in some ways, I could hardly relate with the emotional shock he was feeling. But, I was there inasmuch as I could be.

Pat and I were also on the eighth grade football team together. We were both second stringers and both had the same style of cleats purchased at Montgomery Wards. Don't know why I remember a detail like that. He was as tough as nails on the team and played all-out every down. It's how he rolled in sports and in life.

Somewhere along the way in grade school, Pat picked up the nickname, Scummy. Some guys just have all the luck with nicknames, I guess. It kind of stuck and became him and his persona.

I lost touch with Pat after we both went to different high schools. I did hear that he worked a lot as a sort of roadie/sound/light guy for a few Twin Cities bands over the years which I always thought was kind of a cool gig. But, for the most part we lost touch until a few years ago when we reconnected on Facebook. It is refreshing how the social media world can connect two people who had lost touch for nearly forty years.

Anyways, he mentioned he'd read Dirty Shirt and became a fan, which was great news.

Little did he know he'd be a character in The Portland House.

Blogging off...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Long Live Rock

As part of our Christmas vacation trip back and forth to upstate New York, we built in a two and a half hour visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. I've been wanting to get to this place for a number of years, so when my wife mentioned it as a possibility a few months back, I thought it was a great idea.

And, frankly, it was a side trip that almost didn't happen. After all the battles with snowy road conditions and the busy-ness of the holidays, we were all feeling the pull of home strongly by the time the end of our stay rolled around. At the last minute, we decided to stick with our original plan and go see the museum.

I am so glad we did.

For those of you considering it, I would say that you should allow at least 2.5 - 3 hours to see it all, more if possible. There is so much to see, especially if you are a rock aficionado.

We started at the top floor where there was an exhibit recognizing the 50 years of Rolling Stone magazine. While I realize that this magazine is much more corporately slick than it was when it started, there were some cool exhibits.
Life's Been Good original lyrics

As a writer, I can appreciate all that goes into the making of a magazine like this, especially the interviews. Because of this, some of the things that stood out for me were writing related. Three in particular were letters to Rolling Stone, one by Paul McCartney, one by Hunter S. Thompson who used to write a column for RS, and one from Charles Manson. The one from Manson was questioning some of the points that the interview with him emphasized. It was creepy weird, but cool that things like this are preserved.

Of course there were lots of famous guitars and other instruments too. Everything from the acoustics of the old blues masters, to the square electric of Bo Diddley, to the ornate piece of artwork that Jerry Garcia had custom made for his years with the Grateful Dead.  It is almost a bit tragic knowing that these instruments that brought such beauty to the world are now silent. At the same time they evoke great memories from everyone that sees them. There were even a couple of smashed guitars that didn't make it past the moment of rock rage.

A few other cool things I saw:
Peter Criss' makeup kit.

  • Peter Criss' makeup kit. He was the drummer for KISS a band whose music built around their garish makeup and costuming. I was never a fan of them, but I can appreciate this piece of history. 
  • Pre-concert contract agreement for the Replacements including the venue providing 2 cases of Heineken beer backstage before the show.
  • The lyrics to Joe Walsh's song, Life's Been Good, in his own handwriting. Same for Warren Zevon (Play It All Night Long) and The Clash (London Calling).
  • Michael Jackson's sequined glove. 
  • One of the dresses worn by Deborah Harry of  Blondie.
The list goes on and on. 

And after spending 2017 chasing the aging rock stars like Stevie Nicks, The Church and Roger Waters, this cruise through the Hall meant a lot to me. And with two of the 2018 inductees, (The Cars and Dire Straits) being among groups I count among my favorite of all time, the trip seemed even more like a pilgrimage. 
Jerry Garcia's guitar

Now, I realize the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a touristy, kitschy, pop culture wasteland to most people. And there are many that will claim that the HOF is a sham because of who ISN'T in it. (For me that band is the J Geils Band).

But for me, it was a walk down memory lane. I am a music lover and could spend all day there, if given the chance. Like it or hate it, Rock and Roll has brought a lot to the world. And this gives you a glimpse into much of it.

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