Thursday, August 17, 2017

It Came As A Shock

Passing the age of 50 mark has its pros and cons, I've found. On the pro side, well, there are some who turn to you for advice or wisdom. If you're lucky younger folks treat you a little better than if you were 30, but not always. And sometimes on those days you look your age, you can even slide in a senior discount despite being 10 years away from retirement age.

That's pretty much where the pros stop.

When it comes to the cons, I have my body to blame. As I said on Facebook this week, after 50, it's pretty much always something. In the past three or four years I've had more nagging, irritating little gitchas with my health than I can count. And perhaps the only thing worse than me enduring them is you having to suffer through hearing about them. So, I will spare you that.

Suffice it to say that the ailments are from head to toe. None are debilitating, but most are reminders that I won't make the cut as a walk-on free agent for the Packers - perhaps ever. At least I won't have to worry about concussions - from football, anyways.

I will tell you about my most recent ailment because I think it's kind of funny.

The past few months I've had a numbness in the pads my left foot. It feels like a sock is scrunched up in my shoe. I can walk okay, but I figured I'd better get it checked out anyways. The last thing I want is someone to find a tumor on my spine after it's too late.

So I go to the Foot and Ankle Specialists clinic in town and end up with a doctor that looks just like Ben Stein of "Win Ben Stein's Money" fame. Once I got by that fact, he poked me with some poking devices and determined that I wasn't lying and yes, there was some numbness in my foot. He referred me to a radiology clinic for what is known as an Electromyogram or EMG.

What this is is a sadistic torture test for people to determine that yes, their is some numbness and loss of feeling in my foot.

This doctor had me lay on a table, and proceeded to poke me with even sharper poking devices including a "dull" poke and a "sharp WTF" needle poker. (WTF is a non-medical acronym, here.)

So after poking my feet and calves, the real fun starts.

The doc tapes some electrodes to my feet and says, "Okay there will be a series of electrical shocks that will increase with intensity."

As it turns out these are WTF electrodes too, designed I'm sure by the same company that designed the "sharp WTF" needle poker thingys.

The shocks start out not so bad, but by the third or fourth one, my leg is jumping like a meth addict at Starbucks. I'm not sure if it's jumping because of reflex or because it hurt like WTF. Then, when he was done shocking that spot, he'd move the electrodes and start shocking me in a new spot. This triggered more jumping legs and colorful internalized language generation. (or, CILG, another non-medical acronym).

This went on for about 20 minutes. I hope it is as close as I ever get to what mentally disturbed people went through with electroshock therapy years ago. Because it sorta sucked. Not unendurable, but kind of annoying. It was like a bully poking you with a needle to the point where you kinda wanted to slug the doctor.

Now, I know this is all necessary and modern science is great and all that, but near as I can tell the only thing it determined is that, yes, I do have some residual nerve damage from a back issue I had 15 years ago. And, no, there's nothing they can do about it.

Despite knowing this, I still have to schedule a follow-up with Dr. Ben Stein who's winning my money.

So, yeah. After 50, it's always something.

Blogging off...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Blues For All

My son and I went to an event called Bluesfest on Friday night. This is a relatively new event -the 11th year this year - held at Nagawaukee Park in Delafield. My friend Eugene Garrison and his band The Blues Harp Jimmie Band even played a set. I missed his time slot, but I've seen them before and they kick it!

My love for the blues goes way, way back to when I was a teenager. I don't know how I fell into them, but I probably owe a little credit to my brother Tom. He always loved Muddy Waters, BB King and a lot of the old greats. From there I took it upon myself and started my own journey of blues discovery.

And I found a few white guys who did it really well, like Eric Clapton, John Hammond, George Thorogood and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Something about the soul they put into the blues moved me to fall in love with the genre.

Then, these guys led me to discover the guys that influenced them. Guys that defined the genre like  Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, Luther Allison and my personal favorite, John Lee Hooker. Not to be outdone, there are the female greats too like Big Mama Thornton, Etta James, Koko Taylor and Bonnie Raitt.

I can remember staying up late listening to the blues after hours show, hosted by a DJ named Alison after I moved to Milwaukee. I thought it was refreshing that there was a station that could devote a couple of hours to playing good blues, old blues. I guess the station spoke to me at the time because I was still reeling from being away from home for the first time ever. I was living the blues. 

While the Bluesfest event was largely attended by the suburban, white over-50 crowd, I am of the firm opinion that the blues transcend all ages and social classes. Everyone gets blue once in a while. Everyone has a crappy day, a crappy week or a crappy spell in their life. It happens. And while you don't have to be in that bad place at the time, listening to the blues can help you work it out. Or, if not, at least they let you know that you're not alone.

One of the better concerts I went to was to see John Lee Hooker at the Cabooze in Minneapolis. It is a small venue, but John Lee blew the roof off the place. He was well into his sixties when he played and he killed it.

We got there in time to see Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, a blues group from Chicago. They were really, really good. I'd won free tickets and didn't want to go alone, so Ben agreed to go with me after I promised we'd only stay for an hour or two. When we got there, he mentioned that Blues moves at its own pace, and I think he needed something with just a little more move to it.

Next year, maybe I'll make a night of it.

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Electronic Hoarding

There is a running joke around my house about the fact that I can't resist turning down an aging electronic device, particularly laptops.

I think I know where it stems from. As little as eight years ago I didn't have a laptop. I wasn't even really writing at that point because the last thing I wanted to do after looking at a screen all day would be to log on to a desktop computer and stare at a screen at night.

Until I bought a secondhand laptop.

The ability to sit in a comfortable chair and type (or surf the web, as the case often is) was made easy with a second-hand laptop that I purchased from Craigs List for $100.00, or so. It opened new doors.

But, it's been an endless upgrade cycle ever since. Mostly because I am drawn to newer, faster and, well, I'm frugally cheap.

The way it works is that I will buy the kids' two-year old laptops or tablets for $100 when they decide they need newer, shinier machines. Because it never fails that their "old technology" is better than my existing laptop, and so it's always an upgrade for me. And it typically only cost
s me $100, which the kids always happily take to help them out with the purchase of their new machines.

I am a technology hoarder.

So when Ben mentioned that Sarah offered to sell her 2 year old laptop to him for college so she could upgrade, I told him that if he didn't buy it, I would for $100.

To which he said, "What, so you can add it to your Rolodex of laptops? How many do you need?"

He has a point. I currently have 3. I am on Sarah's old HP at the moment, but I have an old working Dell Inspiron and a small 11 inch Acer that is little used that I got as part of a class action lawsuit.

And I have Sarah's old Samsung 8" tablet that works like a dream. For some unknown reason, I was looking forward to upgrading to Ben's Microsoft Surface tablet (For $100), until I learned he planned to keep it as a reading device for college. So why do I need a new tablet if the one I have is working just fine? I have no idea. It's like an addiction. My behavior is erratic when it comes to electronic gadgetry, especially aging technology that has considerable life expectancy to it.

It's a disorder, really. And I need help.

And you know what I've discovered? It's really weird, but you can only type on one screen or device at a time.

But that's not going to stop me from upgrading at the next possible opportunity. (For $100).

Blogging off...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

75,438 Untitled Words

Well, it's done.

Book number two, or four, depending on how you look at it, is finished. I look at it as two, but that's just me.

I'd tell you the title if I knew it myself yet, but I don't yet. I'm still waiting for it to come to me. And, like every word in the book, it will eventually. I feel like I'm zeroing in on it, with the help of friends and family.

A few statistics about the work:

It stands right now at 75,438 words. This might trend downward a bit depending on what a publisher might do to it. My goal once I saw where it was at was to keep it above 75K words. Why? Should that ever be a criteria for how to write? No. But once I hit it I was determined to keep it around that number. Okay, I'm weird.

It also stands at 240 pages - including introduction, acknowledgements, dedication, and page breaks. I'm guessing this may go up as it gets formatted by a publisher. Again, I wanted to keep it above 240 pages for some unknown bad reason. Dirty Shirt formatted came out to 262 pages which is where I think this one might land. I'm a page geek.

At the moment there is an introduction and eighteen chapters. Like everything else, this could change as the publisher sees fit.

The book is broken, figuratively, into three parts - much like Dirty Shirt. I say figuratively because there are not literal page breaks between the three. Read it though, and you'll figure it out.

It took about seven years to write - not continuous, mind you, but on and off. It would be tough to put an exact number on how long it really took if I hadn't been writing Dirty Shirt and poetry and other things at the same time. I have a short attention span.

It's about the house I grew up in with my 5 siblings and our single-parent mother. It is largely built around humor and the love that turned a house into a home.

So, from here I go on to the submittal process. Hopefully my publisher will like it and it will come to fruition in early 2018.

Whatever the case, it's done. And there's something pretty cool about that.

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 3, 2017


My wife posted and interesting question on Facebook the other day. It was simple:

Who inspires you, and why?

Now, I have to admit that Facebook prompts don't usually trigger me to act. There was something a little more provoking about this one though, so I felt compelled to answer. I answered that my mom inspires me. She was faced with a lot of loss and adversity early on in her life and still managed to raise seven of us kids. She is still active in the community as a worker/volunteer and has a great friend group - all of which I think plays an important part in having a healthy senior life.

But there are lots of others that inspire me too. I'll just touch on a few.

Men and women in their forties, fifties and sixties who are actively writing. The same goes for those doing art, or trying to master an instrument. I favor this group for obvious reasons, but I just think it's so cool that people at these stages of life still see themselves as worthy contributors to the art world. 
Granted, most of them are probably doing it because they enjoy it - some with a goal of getting published, but some not. The point is not why they are doing it, the point is that they're doing it despite not having to do it. To me, people like this are the five percenters. They are driven to something bigger than themselves. This is admirable and inspiring.

Foster and adoptive parents. Anyone who is selfless enough to take on someone else's kids, whether short term or permanently, I have great respect for. They make me feel like I'm not doing enough - which is probably true. But they inspire me nonetheless.
Dawes @Pabst Theater
Musicians. Any and all. Tuesday night I saw the band Dawes, and was floored by the amazing talent of each and every member. These guys can sing, song write and, in many cases, play multiple instruments. So I admire them all, mostly because I could never master an instrument. (I may be tone deaf, but that is no excuse.) I took guitar lessons for a few weeks and gave up when my friend gave up. It's one thing I wish I'd kept pursuing. It still might be something I pursue in my retirement. Know any geriatric bands who need a bassist?

High School kids who are taking multiple Advanced Placement courses. The same principle as above applies here. These kids are for the most part not required to take these more difficult courses. But when they do, and they do well in them, well, it's even more impressive. Many of these kids take them because they like to push themselves to excel. Admirable for such a young age.

Bands that keep on rockin' into their 60's and 70's. Lots of people think rock music is for the young and that any rock star over 50 should not be doing it anymore. I beg to differ. I think if you like something, and you're good at it - and many of the old rockers are - go for it. Roger Waters on Saturday was proof, as I suspect Stevie Nicks will be when I see her in September. Why wouldn't you stop doing something you're very passionate about? If you're good, people will follow - because they're fans, but also because they're inspired.

That's just a sampling of people who inspire me.

Who inspires you? Why?

Blogging off...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Comfortably Sung

A few posts back I mentioned that this has kind of become the summer of chasing aging rock stars. There was a realization that many of the rock heroes of my youth were dying off, and so to counter act any grief, I thought I'd try and be proactive and see a few that are in their 60's and 70's before they too kicked the rock bucket.

I knocked a few of them off my list in a single night at Summerfest a few weeks ago, including Soul Asylum, The Suburbs, Tommy Tutone and of course my personal favorite, The Church.

Last night was Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd. Roger is 73 and the band has been broken up almost longer than it was together, but me, my son and my friend Ryan went because we're all fans and thought this might be one of the last chances to see him.

It is tough to put into words how amazing the whole spectacle was. When we got to our nosebleed seats, I was a little upset that there were big speakers hanging in middle of the sight line to the huge screen backdrop for the band. So much of their show is visual that I thought we'd miss so much.

Well, after intermission, they took care of that issue.

Down the center of the arena floor they unfurled a half a dozen huge screens. They projected the power plant image from their Animals album, complete with real smoking chimneys. The screens stayed up for most of the second set and served as a video screen to those of us unfortunate minions in the cheap seats. The imagery and special effects displayed on them was nothing short of astonishing.

Because I'm not terribly familiar with a lot of Roger Waters' recent music, I was hoping he'd play a lot of old stuff. Of course he did and it was, musically, spot on.

There was even a couple of moments where the backup singers, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the Indie band, Lucius took over the vocals and blew it out of the water. Ben turned to me and said he got goosebumps. I told him I was on the brink of tears.

Roger had his moments as well. It is nothing short of amazing to see a guy 73 years young, strutting around the stage, having a blast and singing songs from 40-50 years ago. He was genuine and appreciative of the reception he received, almost coming to tears himself near the end of the show.


Of course the show got political at times, and while I share many of his current political sentiments, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the music behind it. Some were offended, some even left, but as he said in an interview, if you know Pink Floyd, you'd have known this was coming. Furthermore, if you don't want to be confronted with controversial images and subjects, go see Katy Perry.

There were Milwaukee kids on the stage for Another Brick in the Wall, Flying Pigs, Floating Dark Side of the Moon orbs, a laser pyramid and three hours of sonic thunder. It was phenomenal.

At the end, Ben and I both agreed that we were now spoiled for concerts for the rest of our lives. Nothing short of a 3D hologram could outdo the lasers, imagery and music of Roger Waters, 2017. And as a purist who loves the music first - and sometimes puts up with the message behind it, second - this was one for the ages. I'm glad I made time for it.

Blogging off...

Set List (Courtesy of

  1. (Pink Floyd song)
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  2. (Pink Floyd song)
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  3. (Pink Floyd song)
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  4. (Pink Floyd song)
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  5. (Pink Floyd song)
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  6. Play Video
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  10. (Pink Floyd song)
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  11. (Pink Floyd song)
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  12. (Pink Floyd song)
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  13. (Pink Floyd song)
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  14. Set 2:
  15. (Pink Floyd song)
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  16. (Pink Floyd song)
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  17. (Pink Floyd song)
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  18. (Pink Floyd song)
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  19. Play Video
  20. (Pink Floyd song)
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  21. (Pink Floyd song)
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  22. Encore:
  23. (Pink Floyd song)
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  24. (Pink Floyd song)
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  25. (Pink Floyd song)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Blowin' 'Em Up Real Good

As has become tradition, I went to the Waukesha County Fair with my son Ben last Saturday. We've made it the last three or four years now, primarily to see America's stupidest human trick, the Demolition Derby.

There are many things that say Americana, but few that say it like the Demo Derby. It also says a few other choice words like roughneck, 'Murica and hillbilly, but Americana is certainly up there among those less flattering terms.

What drives us to this spectacle every year? I don't know exactly, but I think it has a lot to do with the lawlessness of it all. Where else can you back your car into multiple other cars and get cheered on for it? I mean, c'mon! Does it get any better? Not only do you get cheered on, but if you are effective and a little lucky, they give you a trophy and a cash prize to go with your now nearly non-functioning car.

Needless to say, Saturday's derby did not disappoint in any way. Because of all the rain we've had, it was a muddy affair, which made for some tough sledding at times, but for the most part, the drivers were able to navigate it. It certainly led to a lot of necessary high rev tire spinning which added to the whole experience. Some of these cars have torqued up engines that sound throaty and powerful. Nevermind that they look like, well, like they've been in a demo derby.

One of my favorite sayings painted on a truck was "Trucky McTruckface." If you remember the British polar vessel naming contest you'll get the joke. Ben saw it and pointed it out to me. I do have to hand it to these drivers, not only are they courageous and crazy, but they usually have a sense of humor about things. I mean, you crash cars into each other, what is not funny about that?

Almost as interesting as the spectacle itself was people watching at the event. Now, I don't expect high culture at these things, but it's always a little bit of a wake up call on what we've become as a culture. Most of the perimeter was surrounded with pickup trucks with lawn chairs and coolers full of watered down American lagers backed up to the snow fence.

Ben and I stood between a couple of these and had the pleasure of listening to the owner of one getting cranked up and yelling at the officials about a car that had been spinning his wheels for a few minutes. I guess this is a sport some people take more seriously than me. I've never been one for yelling at the ref anyway - but evidently that beer brings it out of people.

Then there was the nine year old kid holding the handle of a blowup emoji of a pile of crap (yes, they sell these, and yes, people actually purchase them) and bonking his younger sister on the head with it.

I guess there's just no putting a label on a scene. First we go to the moon, then invent the iPhone, then purchase and bonk people with fake crap.

Ben took a picture of the derby and snapchatted it with the phrase "Meeting of the Minds." It kind of summed up the whole event.

And while I was as guilty and probably as redneck as the rest of the folks just for being there, I'd like to think I'm above yelling at the ref and the whole inflatable crap thing.

That's where I draw the line.

Wait till next year!

Blogging off...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ready For The Next Best Thing

I had another book signing event on Saturday. This time it was held at Tribeca GalleryCafe and Books in Watertown, a great little town about 45 minutes from Waukesha. I was approached by the owner last winter about booking a signing which I was grateful for. Most of my marketing has to be done by me, so when they come to me, I act.

As I assembled my stuff for my standard presentation - projector, laptop, placard and books, I kind of griped a bit to Donna about how I am getting tired of giving the "Dirty Shirt show." We both laughed a little and she said, "You need to get your new book done and out there."

It has been three years since it came out and I have probably given the spiel a couple dozen times. And while I get a little charge out of doing the reading/slide show/presentation, I feel it's become a little like the number one hit by a band that they've play because they have to for the fans. Not that it's become something I dread, just a little robotic is all.

As it turns out I never gave the presentation. It was a small venue, with  a small crowd, and I ended up just selling a few books. The upside to it though was that I had some great conversations with each of the guys that bought books. Some had lived near the BWCA, while others had visited there. One guy even said he'd always meant to get up there for his 40th birthday, but never got around to it.

So, yeah, I had my inner extrovert in high gear for the signing. I tend to do that when I get to talking about my book. I find people and their stories fascinating. My wife thinks this is kind of shocking and hysterical because she knows the real me. I'd never leave the house if I could get away with it. Yet I do it, and every time I do these signings I am glad I did.

I guess the moral of the story is that the experiences I've had with Dirty Shirt have been invaluable in preparing me for the next book.

In case you're wondering, I hope to have it through my final edits sometime in the next 30 days. Then it's off to the publisher to see if they like it as much as I hope they will. With a little luck I hope to have it released in late 2017 or early 2018. I love how it came together and can't wait to get out there and push it like I did with Dirty Shirt.

Blogging off...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pop and Percocet

I am beginning this post using my phone in the waiting room of my son's oral surgeon. He is having his wisdom teeth pulled and, like most medical visits, it is taking considerably longer than expected.

So, while i realize that this fact makes me kind of pathetic, the pop/rock/beat is soul sucking.

Its an hour later and now I'm wairing in Walgreens for his meds and I think they tapped into the same godawdul music stream as the dentist's. It's some sort of wellness bad joke, I think.

What is it about the world today that we MUST be assaulted at every turn by bad music? This includes movie theaters before the feature, sports events, restaurants, and the doctor's office. It is a milqiutoast slow death for me, like cut bamboo being rubbed across the back of my neck.

So, this post has been hijacked by bad pop stars and all I can do is thank the good Lord for the hearing loss I have. It's a small blessing, but hey, it's something.

I've never done a whole post on my phone, most of it one handed, but when you're dying an audiological death, you resort to extreme measures.

The drugs are ready, I may take a Percocet myself.

Blogging off, one handed, on my phone...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

West Coast Revelations

As I mentioned in the previous post, I spent last week in Southern California - specifically, San Diego - at a conference for work. Every year 15,000+ people come from all over the globe to talk software, maps, apps and other GIS geeky kinds of things.

I also mentioned that this year would be different because I was going out a couple days early and bringing my son Ben along for part of it. I wasn't sure how things would go, particularly on the days I was at the conference and Ben was left to fend for himself in a strange city, 2000+ miles from home.

Let me just say that all my fears were unfounded.

Let me also say, that if any of you ever get the chance to travel one-on-one with any of your kids, DO IT!

Now, to be honest, my wife and I have basically raised our kids in the back seat of a moving vehicle. With parents and family in two states, Minnesota and New York, it seems every six months we were packing up to go one direction or the other. 

But with no offense intended to my wife, there is a completely different feel to a "boys trip," with just the two of us. I'll add that the same goes with a trip with just my daughter and I however. There is something about the one-on-one time with either kid, that changes the tone and openness of all conversations on a trip. I've experienced it taking Sarah to and from College and taking Ben to and from the BWCA for a book signing. I'm certain my wife would agree with my assessment. 

There was so much we did that it's hard to try and summarize it all. Add to that the fact that it would be like sitting through someone else's vacation picture slide show, so I'll spare you that.

When I got back from the trip, I thought of our many shared experiences (in the best climate in the world, in my honest opinion) and came to realize that had I not taken him out there, I wouldn't have these experiences to laugh with him about in the future.

I mean things like:

  • Taking the train up to Oceanside, where we took turns body surfing in the pounding waves. 
  • Seeing the crazy guy stomping hue cockroaches outside Ralph's grocery store at ten o'clock at night. We laughed so hard at this - as mundane as it was. 
  • Reading the list of men who had lost their lives while serving on the USS Midway aircraft carrier - which we toured one day. Ben was in disbelief at the number of men who were simply listed as "Lost at sea." We both wondered how things like that happened and how you could tell the family of someone something as vague and sad as that. 
  • Eating a lunch of Mexican food on the beach at Oceanside and, later, watching the cars cruise the strip by the beach. You see a little bit of everything in California.
  • Reuniting for lunch with cousins Ben hadn't seen since my brother Rob's Celebration of Life party in 2010. Ben thought his cousin Johnny was hilarious and that Erin and her boyfriend were super nice too. A family interaction that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't taken him along.
  • Meeting a homeless guy in the Gaslamp District and having him tell Ben that he needed to try and get a condo on the beach and a Camaro in return for not disclosing a blackmailing picture I posed in with the guy. (You'll have to ask me to see the picture sometime.) 
  • A dinner with two co-workers where I sat and watched Ben conduct himself like an engaging  adult gentleman. My coworker even pointed out that she said she so enjoyed dinner with him. The dude makes me so proud sometimes.
  • Another dinner at Sorrento's a great restaurant in Little Italy on the last night he was in town. We ate like kings and I had the chance to tell him how proud I was of all that he'd become and that I couldn't wait to see where life takes him. It was one of those nights that is forever burned in my mind.
So I guess I did just subject you to a virtual slide show of my working vacation. At the same time, I did it to illustrate a point.

You see, I never had these kinds of one-on-one's with my own dad, for obvious reasons. So, maybe I'm a little more wispy or sappy than most about one-on-one quality time with my kids. Because life is short, time is precious and things change quickly. I think both he and I realized that this was a great chance to connect one last time before the commitments of college and jobs and girlfriends (for him, LOL) become the drivers for where his life takes him.

And I, for one, can't wait to see where it does. But until then, I'm going to snatch these moments and hold them tightly.

Blogging off...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Best Medicine

Soon I will be headed to San Diego for the 2017 ESRI User's Conference. This year will be a bit different though, as I am bringing my son, Ben for part of the week. We're headed out a couple of days prior to the conference to get in some sightseeing and down time before I hit the pavement running on Monday morning.

Ben has never been to California, so my wife and I thought it might be a nice high school graduation gift to have him tag along with me. Much like my senior year, he had plans to go out to the west coast with a buddy, but plans fell through. The difference is, I ended up going to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and he still gets to go to California. That may be the difference between growing up with two parents instead of one. Or, maybe it's just because I happen to go out there every year.

In any case, I am looking forward to spending lots of quality time with him, which I don't get to do nearly enough these days.

We were together the other day for a bit though and I laughed my head off. We went out to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew his license and get a problem figured out with my license plate tabs. In case you didn't know, I am not a fan of the DMV, so as we sat there we picked away at everything that was wrong with the processes we were undertaking. I love his wit and he used it with frequency.

Needless to say, I was unable to resolve my problem. It turns out the dealership where we had the emissions tested didn't change the VIN number between the testing of our two vehicles. So, it looked to the DMV like we never had the Santa Fe tested, even though I had a sheet saying PASSED.

So Ben and I went back to the dealership and were told to wait in the waiting room. Like any good teen, Ben noticed there was a popcorn machine nearby.

"Do you think that popcorn is for customers or employees?" he asked.

"I'd say probably for the customers."

So, he wandered over to the machine and ended up coming back with a donut.

"Where'd you get that?" I asked.

"By the popcorn,"

"Well, those donuts might be for the employees, but I won't tell," I said. We both laughed a little.

After he was done with the donut, he went up and bagged himself a bag of popcorn. When he sat next to me and started eating, I said "I hope they hurry with my emissions test, because they're losing money here with you hanging around."

He cracked up. Then I said that based on how long the test was taking, I'd give this dealership about a two-star rating. He said, based on the food, he'd give it five-stars.

I cracked up and his comment started a string of silliness that reminded me how much I like it that my kid is old enough to have an adult sense of humor. It is one of the benefits of making it through the high school years.

I love that we both get to laugh together at the ways, and the craziness and the absurdities of our culture and the world around us.

And I look forward to doing a lot more of it in the coming week.

Blogging off...

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Re-Dawning Of An Age

Yesterday, I got to thinking about my past week. It had a little bit of everything in it. Then it occurred to me that much of what happened during it, all tied together in a way. I'll talk about that at the end of this post, but first, here's what my week brought me.

Monday: After a full day of work, I went down to the Guest House of Milwaukee with my wife and another family. Guest House is a men's transitional housing and job placement facility in downtown Milwaukee. I hate to call it a homeless shelter, because it really is so much more than that. This is not just a bed and a meal, it's a program to get homeless, jobless men back into the workforce and living on their own. They help address addictions, mental health issues, abuse and other things.

Because my wife and I are not experts in those areas, we help where we can. She does the lion's share of the work - planning and shopping for food and then preparing it, whereas I show up and help serve the men when I can. We serve monthly, but lately she has been doing it twice a month as part of our church, CollectiveMKE. I can't say enough about how blessed we are by the responses and gratefulness of the guys at the shelter. They thank us profusely and help us where they can. We do this because it's the right thing to do, and we're the ones who end up coming away blessed.

Wednesday: The Waukesha Public Library hosted a presentation called The Hidden Impact of Racial Segregation in Waukesha County. It was presented by Reggie Jackson a teacher at Milwaukee Public Schools and head griot at the Black Holocaust Museum. His presentation, ideas and the statistics he brought to light were eye opening. I've always known Milwaukee was the most segregated city in the US, but what I learned was how it is as much a regional and even statewide issue as it is at the city level.

The talk even mentioned housing covenants drawn up in the 30's that are still actively on the books (though not legally enforced) today. These covenants restricted housing ownership in certain subdivisions and neighborhoods to whites only. More eye opening were some of the steps our government took (and is still subtly taking) to red line areas and restrict where low income housing could be built. The whole thing was shocking and sad.

And the part that I have the hardest time with is reconciling that I'm part of the problem. I moved to Waukesha in part to be closer to my job, but also because we had some criminal incidents near us (some racial, some not) when we lived on the East Side of Milwaukee. I might have been better served to stay and work toward better solutions than to just flee. But here I am. Now what can I do to make Waukesha a better place to live for all?

Mr. Jackson ended the message with hope giving the audience ideas on where they can make a difference. It begins with acceptance, understanding and getting to know one another. He said something to the effect of, "We all bleed the same when we're cut." That kind of sums it up.

Thursday:  I went down to Summerfest for the first time in over 20 years on Thursday, primarily to hear my favorite band, The Church. My wife and a friend of ours and I ended up seeing not only them, but some old bands from our past, The Suburbs (an 80's band from Minneapolis), Soul Asylum (also from Minneapolis), Tommy Tutone (of 867-5309 fame), a Smiths cover band and a couple of local acts.

And it occurred to me how much I love the concert experience. It brings people together to share a common appreciation for a band. I have been to over 40 major concerts over the years and I've got a few more coming up yet this summer.

And so thinking my week through, I couldn't help but tie all of these activities to what I like to call the hippie ideals. All of these behaviors, for me personally anyway, came out of growing up in the 60's and 70's. I was taught to care for those with less, to love ALL people - especially those not like us, and to work toward a better world by staying educated, engaged and involved to social justice issues.

Even the concerts come out of the whole rock and roll awakenings of the 60's and 70's. Because as a generation that was born on Bob Dylan and Crosby Stills and Nash singing about change, action and revolution, we need to have fun too. And there's nothing better than live music to help with that. It brings people together and is the great equalizer. If you want to dance, black, white or brown, go for it. No judging here.

So, while I don't pretend to have been a hippie - I was a little young for that - I saw enough of the protests and riots and unrest to have it affect my world view. And I had brothers, sister and a mother who instilled some of the core values of the generation in me. We're all people and we're in this thing together.

While I don't feel like any one person can change the world, everyone can do a small part to change it and if we did, it'd be a much, much better place today. Because if we aren't living out what we learned during the dawning of the age of Aquarius, then we maybe never learned it in the first place.

Blogging off...

Below are some links to help you become more involved.

RidRacism Website
Guest House of Milwaukee
Shepherd Express Article on Segregation
Radio Interview with Reggie Jackson
Black Holocaust Museum

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Chasing Aging Rockers

If you recall, last year we saw the loss of a number of iconic rock stars. Prince, Bowie, Glenn Frey, George Michael and two thirds of Emerson Lake and Palmer with Greg Lake and Keith Emerson turning over to the "show that never ends."
The Church, 2016

For some reason, these deaths always come as a shock. I don't know why they do, because the majority of them are pretty old and, well, everyone's gotta go sometime.

But part of the shock is that in many cases they are someone I saw 30 years ago, and that's how I'll always remember them. Prince is a great example. He was a phenomenal showman and one of the best guitarists I've ever seen, but now he's gone.

So as an answer to this apparent epidemic, my wife and I are committed to attempting to see more aging rockers before they kick the proverbial bucket. Sure there's plenty of new talent out there and we see/listen to many of them as well. But when it comes to the classics, we figure, see them now, or never.

As a result, in the next few weeks, we are seeing some good ones.

This afternoon for example, we are going to Summerfest to see The Church, who are definitively my favorite group ever. The two remaining core members in their early 60's and still recording new, great material. In a couple of months they are coming out with a new album and probably a tour to back it. So why not just wait and go then?

Because you never know. Especially lately.

You know they are my favorite when I am willing to deal with the hassles of Summerfest to go see them. In fact, depending on the crowd, I may just go, watch them, and leave. Last time I was at Summerfest was probably 20 years ago. But I can't miss this.

Then, in a few weeks I will be going to see Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame. He is 73 years old, but still rocking it. I actually saw Pink Floyd at County Stadium in 1987 for $5.50. There is a great story behind that transaction. Be sure and ask me about it sometime.

So, I am going with another huge fan and my son, Ben. And I actually prefer Waters' cohort, David Gilmour's songs - he tours himself at times, but I didn't want to miss this chance.

Because if I were to skip it, the question is:

What if?

And finally in September we are going to see Stevie Nicks at Ravinia. Now, I saw Fleetwood Mac in 1984 or so, but I have always been a Stevie fan. But she is 69, and, like the others...

you never know. 

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rainbow After The Rain

I last posted about a place that I and many others just refer to as "Up North." It holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of my family, both immediate and extended.

As I mentioned, I had a chance to fish with my daughter, Sarah, when I was up there. She was looking forward to getting out on the water in my buddy Steve's boat to hopefully catch some bass and spend time with us. 

We met at the launch of Eagle Lake in Conover, hugged and got ready to launch the boat. Once we got it in the water, Steve struggled a bit trying to start the motor. On the fifth pull, the engine started and Steve stood there with the ripcord dangling in his hand. 
Like any good motor, the ripcord is supposed to retract and, more importantly, it's supposed to stay attached to the motor. 

Steve looked at me like a deer in the headlights. Sarah and I looked at him and laughed that tragic sort of laugh when something so bad happens that you can only laugh. I think I may have said, "I don't like the looks of that!" 

Shortly after that it began to rain. Because, like the old saying, when it rains it pours.

Luckily, he brought his tools, which he went and retrieved. In a half hour he had the thing running like it should. 

So we set out in the rain and fished for 3 hours. 

We had some great laughs and the only one who caught fish was Steve. But the thing that struck me most was that I did not hear one complaint from my daughter the whole time. Not about the broken motor. Not about the rain. Not about the fishing line snags. Not about the cold. By the end of the afternoon her jeans were soaked, but she kept on fishing. 

Because she's my daughter. Like me, she's obsessed with fishing. Like me, she's experienced the adverse conditions of remote places like the Boundary Waters. I think she even said "A little rain never hurt anyone."

She told me a story about her roommate Nate who is working with her at her internship. She said the two of them went fishing in the canoe and needed an anchor. She corrected Nate on how to tie a rock to a rope so it would hold. She said "I've seen my dad do this a hundred times in the Boundary Waters."

It kinda made my heart soar with pride. You work with your kids to raise them right and show them the beauty and majesty of the great outdoors. You teach them to try and be no-nonsense/no drama kinds of people. You tell them to be polite, engaging and work hard.

And when they come to be adults and begin to reflect many of the values you try and instill and you see that they've become all grown up, well, there's nothing much better than that.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Way Past Wausau

I am writing this on Wednesday evening and by the time this is posted on Thursday, I will be 300 miles north. It is another fishing trip for me in my favorite part of the state, namely, "Up North."

As part of this trip we will be visiting my daughter who is up there working on an internship for the Clean Boats/Clean Water program. It is focused on invasive species awareness and education. She will be spending the wholes Summer there. While I originally feared she'd be homesick and bored, all reports are quite the opposite.

She says she's never coming home.

I can't say I don't envy her. She basically has a dream job that is 4 days on, 3 off, spent at various boat landings. On her off days she fishes, reads and hangs out at her cabin.

Yesterday she texted me a couple of fish pictures, and while they were small, she was fishing and I was not. In fact, her friend/roommate from the cabin actually went back home to get a canoe so the two of them could get out on the water for better fishing. It's these kinds of things that make me think I've instilled the love of the outdoors in my kids.

It's hard to explain what makes this place we call "Up North" or "The Cabin" so special in out family. We've been going up there nearly every year for the past 15 years or so because we are drawn to it. There's something about the slow change in the terrain once you pass Wausau. The trees get taller, the sky gets bigger and the air gets cleaner.

Once we're up there, the noise level drops and you become aware how noisy your life back home is. If you're on a lake, you have access to beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I can feel my blood pressure lower the minute I get out of the car. It is a magical place.

And for the next three days, I'll be part of that magic.

Off the grid.

Fishing pictures pending.

Blogging off...