Sunday, October 14, 2018

At The Old, Local-Team-Participant, Postseason, Free TV Ball Game

Well, the Brewers are deep into the postseason and I'm starting to get jazzed about it. This makes me the kind of fan that most everyone hates, and I'm okay with it.

Baseball has never been my sport.

I should qualify that as regular season, televised baseball, by a team that is just mediocre, has never been my thing.

I am one of those people that won't watch a game on TV unless it is a playoff game. That doesn't mean I can't enjoy a live game, because when I am at the park I am totally into the game. I understand the strategy and do enjoy the energy of a good rally and the struggle of a pitching duel. I am all in for the home team, if only for that three hours a season.

But ever since the Minnesota Twins got into and won the '87 and '91 series, I've been a postseason fan...as long as someone I care about is in it. Namely, the Brewers or Twins.

Part of this is because, for years and years, the Twins were average to outright bad. To see them get into the playoffs was something I thought I'd never see. Then to see them advance and eventually win was nothing short of miraculous. I can remember sitting on pins and needles for every pitch in some of the tighter games against the Tigers and Cardinals back in '87. Somehow the energy of the moment gets to me, no matter what the sport, especially if there is something huge on the line.

This postseason has been broadcast strictly on FS1 or MLB Network, so I haven't seen a game. I am one of those that refuses to pay for cable TV or a streaming service to watch a game. But I am not a sitter. I get antsy after an hour and have trouble watching a slow moving game where a single batter can foul off balls for 5 minutes straight. Does that make me unAmerican? Probably.

 Furthermore this is the case with baseball. My formula for when I will watch televised baseball is simple:


  1. If it is postseason
  2. A team I care about
  3. On local Television
Yesterday, the first locally broadcast game was on and I watched most of it. It pulled me in, just like the Twins did in '87/'91.

As I said at the beginning, I am the kind of fan most baseball fans (and all cable TV folks) hate.And I'm totally okay with that. 

Go Brewers!!!

Blogging off...

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Other People's Vacation Pictures

I am busy with some forthcoming travel and visitors, so don't have much time to post. But there is part of me that can't stop thinking about our trip to London, so I thought I would post a few of my favorite pictures of the trip.

Marble Arch

Tower of London and Crown Jewels

Tower Bridge

Buckingham Palace

Bath Abbey

Abbey Road Zebra Crosswalk

Houses of Parliment

St. Paul's Cathedral

London from atop St. Paul's Cathedral
Queen Elizabeth Statue @ Buckingham Palace

Best Ale Ever

Westminster Abbey

Stonehenge (dates to 3000 BC)

Windsor Palace

It was an amazing trip. I want to go back. But for now, I'm...

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 7, 2018

One For The Road

Two weeks from today is the formal release of my poetry chapbook titled, On a Road by Unsolicited Press. It is a little hard to believe that this is my fifth published book, albeit just a 30 page chapbook. It is also my second published book of 2018. It's easy for us writers who struggle with self esteem issues to discount ourselves, but, all things aside, I am still pretty happy with the direction of my writing.

On a Road, is a travelogue of a sorts that tracks a trip I took from Minnesota to California in 1984 with two friends in a rental car, a 40 hour drive one way. I felt the trip had elements of Jack Kerouac's classic novel, On the Road, so my goal was to write these vignettes stylistically similar to Kerouac's book. I even went so far as to give my friends the names of characters in the book. It was originally designed as a 3 poem series, but when a fellow poet, Mary Jo Balistreri encouraged me to tell the whole story, I decided to write the rest of it.

It is also done in complete reverence for and out of total respect for the genius of Jack Kerouac. I remember reading his novel and thinking it was the most unconventional book I'd ever read, but also one that changed the way I looked at literature.

I do have to mention that On a Road is a little different than my other books. I was young and crazy and doing all the irresponsible things that a 23 year old does. Like memoir, I am putting myself out there, at least the myself of my past, if that makes sense. I lived it, I can't change it, but it was part of who I was at the time. On the other hand, the trip was a lot of fun and obviously the memories have held.

The book comes out on October 21st which is the anniversary of Kerouac's death (10/21/69). It is currently available for presale at the Unsolicited Press website. And I fully realize the cover price is steep at $16.00, so I want to give people a couple of options:

  1. The eBook is only $4.99
  2. I will have personalized copies for sale at all of my readings or the next time I see you for $9.99 which is my cost. 
I've always been a person who likes road trips and this was the biggest I've ever taken. I invite you to come along...on a road/

Blogging off...

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Death, Taxes and Dentistry

So I went to the dentist today, perhaps my least favorite activity of all time, with the exception maybe of visiting the DMV. Every time I go, I notice something a little different, probably attributable to my high anxiety level.

Now, none of these fears are founded in any real reasoning. The truth is, I was traumatized as a kid by Dr. Whipple (True name, can't make this stuff up.) who didn't really believe in Novocaine. Being a kid, I did not know of Novocaine, so I just assumed every trip to the dentist involved a high speed drill and a trip through the ceiling. I just figured it was the price you pay for eating Quisp and Captain Crunch for breakfast every morning. I have a mouth full of metal to prove it.

So when I get there the hygienist - who was very nice and personable, by the way (It's not them, it's me.) tells me I'm due for a full set of X-Rays. She gives me a pair of spit sunglasses that remind me of bad Oakley glasses. Because if you're not humbled by the forthcoming pain, well, at least you look ridiculous while it's happening.

She then proceeds to put the equivalent of cooking tongs in my mouth and asks that I clamp down and sit still. I sit there with the bear trap in my mouth as she steps out of the room to avoid the radioactive blast that is being shot at my face. (Goodbye cavities, hello nasal cancer!)

She then removes the cooking tongs and moves them 1/2 inch to the left, signals to me to bite down, which I do. Exit room. Radioactive blast. Cancer growth fertilizer. Repeat.

This goes on for about 18 photos. It was like the radiation Paparazzi.

Then the nice hygienist (I mean it when I say it. So sweet. She means no harm, I'm sure.) grabs what feels like a coat hanger and starts picking away at my plaque for a bit.

Squirt of water.

Spit into the suction thing.

Pick again. Repeat 8 times.

I begin pondering if this is why CroMagnon man died out. Bad dentition caused by poor hygiene.

Then comes the polishing DRILL. I realize it's battery operated and just a polisher, but it always brings back memories of the Great Dr. Whipple. Brace yourself, son.

The polisher actually tickles more than it hurts so is a big nothing. It is followed by a flossing to go with the one I did this morning and the one from last night. (I'm an obsessive flosser, credit to the Great Dr. Whipple whose techniques scared me straight.)

When she's done, the Dentist comes in and after greeting me starts flicking through my x-rays like Instagram photos, evidently looking for the mother-of-all-cracks, that glorious Crown candidate that will get him further on his way to that Caribbean Cruise he's working on.

After spending all of 14 seconds looking in my mouth and reestablishing a "watch" on #14 and #22 - which I can only take to mean there's something expensive in my future - he tells me that everything looks great, no cavities.

Overall, dentists visits aren't what they used to be. The experience is much more pleasant. And I do apologize to all the dentists, hygienists and dental assistants in my life. It's nothing personal really!

But the beautiful thing is, I get to do this all again in 6 months. Well, maybe not the cooking tongs thing, but all the rest.

In the meantime, pass the Captain Crunch!

Blogging off...

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Looking For The Light

Finding Joy in Turbulent Times

In a country that sometimes seems like it is coming apart at the seems, it is important to keep one's eyes wide open for moments of light and joy. Every day has some, if you look hard enough. Here are a few of my own from the past week.

  1. Talking to my son or daughter on the phone and just hearing their voice. They're only 60 and 300 miles away, but I miss them like its 3000 miles.
  2. Having a church home that is literally a church in a home and a church family that is like a family.
  3. A kind word on Facebook. A week ago a friend complimented me and I've stashed the words away to call upon when I need a lift. It doesn't take much to help someone out, so be generous with kind words. 
  4. Having a team of coworkers that are competent, respectful and fun to work with. It makes going into work easy
  5.  A couple of friends who have two boys had their third baby this week. A girl! 
  6. It's refreshing to see the outpouring of support people have had for women who have experienced sexual assault after the bravery of Dr. Ford this week. Let the investigation reveal what it may, it does not reduce the wounds others have had brought to the surface by the events of the week. 
  7. I'm not a big baseball fan - barely one at all. But I have to admit it is a little exciting to see the Brewers actually poised to be playing in October. If they make it past the first round, I might even start watching. Yep, I'm a bandwagoneer and proud of it.
  8. A framed print I bought in London gives me a little happiness every time I look at it. A trigger of great memories.
  9. Laughing with my golfing buddies so hard I thought I might choke. These guys are like brothers to me and we razz each other so much it's ridiculous. We keep each other loose and humble as we drive golf balls deep into the forest or the creeks. I'd take a bullet for these guys.
  10. Re-hashing stories of London with my wife and our friends. It was a trip that brought us closer together and gives a shared experience that we will never lose.
So, as the days get shorter and current events get ugly and the dreaded W seasons approaches, I encourage you to look for moments of lightness and laughter. If you can't find any, make some. The world needs it more than ever.

Blogging off...


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Highest of the Highlights

This past Tuesday we returned from our London vacation. There were simply too many good things to recount in a single or even multiple blog posts. It was phenomenal. And because I know how painful it can be to sit through other peoples' vacation pictures and stories, I thought I'd give a synopses of the high points. In no particular order, here's what I remember as moments I will never forget.

  1. Sitting in the Quire at Westminster Abbey for Evensong.  We made it a point to get to the evensong service at 3:00 on Sunday. We were 8th or 9th in line, so when it came time to be seated, we asked if we could sit in the quire section. (They spell it funny, but it's probably more correct than choir.) The attendant said sure and seated us in the front row. We were feet from the boys and adults doing the singing. It was an absolutely spiritual experience. The music echoed off the walls of history as we sat there thinking of the possible nobles and royalty that may have sat in our same seats. As a religious person, this one was top of the list.
  2. Tower of London/Crown Jewels. I am a bit of a history slouch, so to hear some of the history that took place at this old castle/fort was eye opening. To hear that men and women accused of being traitors were dragged up to tower hill and publicly beheaded was shocking. 
  3. Stonehenge. There is just something mystical and cool about this site and I can't explain why it meant so much to me to be there. The site goes back to 3100 BC, so there's that. When we got there the winds were pretty steady at about 30 MPH. It was chilly, but I couldn't get enough.
  4. Roman Baths: As part of the Stonehenge Tour, we also got to spend about 4 hours in Bath. It is a small town about 2 hours from London and is the site of an ancient Roman Bath set on the site of a mineral spring. This place was built in around 35 BC, so was not as old as Stonehenge, but provided its own mystique. To walk on rocks that the ancient Romans had before the days of Christ, was pretty cool. After the tour was done, we actually got to sample some of the spring water. I may have increased my life span by a few years, who knows?
  5. St. Paul's Chapel: This building, like so much of London's archictecture was over-the-top beautiful. Stunning building inside and out. We climbed the 528+ steps to the top lookout platform. The view of London was worth every step.
  6. Abbey Road: In a goofy side-trip we went to the crosswalk where the Beatles shot the Abbey Road album cover. Pop culture is not near as important as ancient culture, but it was a fun diversion from the many tours and museums we saw.
As I mentioned, there were too many good things to cover in one post. It was our first time abroad and it whet our appetite for more. On a related note, I can't say enough about the London Transit system. We found a train/subway that took us wherever we wanted to go and we were never more than a 20 minute walk from anything. 

I love London!

Blogging off...

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Intangibles

One of the unexpected benefits of my affair with this writing thing has been the events and the cool people I have met along the way. This includes peers, colleagues, readers, proprietors and fans. 

For example, at my reading last Wednesday, I was part of a panel that involved a good friend (Julie) and someone I'd never met (Connie). Both of these women had difficult (and, at times, unimaginably horrific) childhoods. Had I not chosen to follow my writing muse about 9 years ago, I would never have met them and my life would be that much less rich. 

Furthermore, the store proprietor, Lisa, is a great light and a beautiful person. She is all-in for promoting local and national authors. 

So, during the panel discussion, Lisa asked an interesting question of us. I can't quote it verbatim, but it was something like "What, if any, are the intangible benefits of writing your memoir?"

I started by mentioning the time a gentleman told me that he loved to go up to the Boundary Waters every year and he also had a brother who died of cancer. We ended up having coffee and talking as I signed a book he was buying for a friend. Add to that any number of the emails or book reviews I've received, and those are the feel-goods that I hadn't planned on when I wrote the book.

Julie mentioned that the book represented the end of a long road of therapy for her. The writing of it alone was therapy - getting it out into the open. She also mentioned that when the first person told her they'd purchased the book, she sort of panicked. The reality of her story being out there for the whole world to see, caused her some internal angst - at least initially.  She eventually got over it and has come to realize that it was a story that needed to be told.

I mentioned that I shared that feeling of concern that my words will harm someone, when that is never my intent. Many of my stories are humorous, but are not written to make anyone look bad. They are for entertainment only. But the downside of memoir is that it's all out there. Part of the process is dealing with the fact that you think your story is worth being told. 

Lisa asked a couple of other great questions and the three of us answered as compelled and enjoyed hearing what the others had to say. The audience was engaged and rapt which made the evening so much more than just a simple book signing. It was more like an intimate gathering of people showing up to talk listen and share. The night itself was one of those intangibles that Lisa was asking about. 

And I was privileged to be a part of it.

Blogging off...

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fan Mail

I had a really cool thing happen at my panel discussion/reading last night at Books and Company. At the signing portion, a woman approached me and introduced herself. She said she was a 5th grade school teacher and that as part of her English class she told the kids about the authors that were going to be at the bookstore. She told them a bit about each author and our books.

Then, she told them to write letters to each of us, which she then brought to the reading and gave to each of us. She mentioned that one girl even wanted to be my friend (according to the letter.)

I thought the whole idea was great. It was humbling and touched my heart. I then told her I would write each of them back. I also mentioned my own series of 4th grade stories that I've blogged about here before. I plan to send her the scans of those stories so maybe she can read them to her class.

It was a neat exchange and one of the many intangible benefits of being a writer. The event was a roaring success and reminded me again how lucky I am to be doing what I'm doing. The closet extrovert in me loves those events and I can't wait for the next one.

Blogging off...

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Rage: Blinded By The Light

Try as I might to be upbeat and positive, yesterday was not my best day ever.

I had the greatest of intentions to get a lot done, but every time I started something it was thwarted.

It started with my usual routine of going to the Public Library and trying to write and catch up with some other tasks. Well, the WiFi wasn't working - at least on my computer, or my phone - so after struggling with it for 10 minutes I packed up my laptop and headed home. Argh! My time would be better spent on chores and errands, I figured.

I had a piece of art I wanted framed, so I went to Target. Of course the size was odd and there were no frames to be found. Argh!

I know, I'll by local and help a local merchant out. So I drove to the  shop in downtown Waukesha.  Upon arriving, I found a sign on the door saying, "I'm up the street changing out some art, call me at 555-1234." Well, being in a hurry, I thought I'd check back after going to Home Despot (sic) to rent a carpet cleaner.

So I go to Home Despot to rent a carpet shampooer to do a few rooms in my house. When I get it home and start it up, it appeared to be leaking a little out the back. Thinking it was just a minor leak, I continued on. As it went, the leak seemed to get worse. I was determined to finish though, so toughed it out and finished in about 3 hours. When I went to clean it up, I found a hose that was fully unhooked behind the receiving container. Argh!

When I took it back, I let the clerk know that the thing was a source of great angst. He was nice enough to refund me 1/2 the cost of the rental, which frankly I thought was a bit cheap. I thanked him anyway and left.

I went back to the frame shop thinking the owner must be done by now. Instead, I see a sign that says "We're closed. Please try back again," despite allegedly being open until 6:00. Argh! There were a few choice words muttered under my breath at the sight of this sign, and they might have even been harsher than Argh. Needless to say I won't try back at that store again and I encourage no one else to. Ever.

At this point in my day of frustration I'm seeing a trend, so I thought I needed a win.

So I took on a project involving hanging a new LED work light above my workbench to replace the fluorescent light that had gone bad. After removing the old light I literally had the new light up and working in 15 minutes.

Hallelujah!

Victory!

My work here is done.

It was the only thing that went right all day, so I basked in the glow of those LED tubes and might even have said a prayer of thanks for something actually going right.

Some days are like that. If you need me, I'll be in the basement.

Blogging off...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Fortune Takes Many Forms

I was a little too young to fight in Vietnam. I think my older brother might have had a draft card, but I can't recall for sure. I remember hearing that our neighbor a few doors down was caught at the draft office trying to burn draft cards, but again, details are sketchy.

I do remember seeing snippets of video on the nightly news. Soldiers walking through swamps with guns, Huey helicopters and battle scenes. They say it was the first war to come into peoples' living rooms...every night.

I also remember a protest march going from West to East down Summit Avenue sometime in '71 or so. I didn't understand enough to grasp what the marchers were marching for, but it seemed weird to protest something that we were supposed to be trying to "win," if that's what you call bringing a war to an end.

As the years have gone by, I've gained a deep respect for the veterans of Vietnam. These guys were put into an unjust, unwinnable war and when we withdrew from South Vietnam, many of them came home to angry, disrespectful crowds.

Along those lines, my wife read a powerful Instagram post by Elizabeth Gilbert yesterday about the War vs. the Protest. Check it out here

Well, a writer friend of mine just wrote a book about his experience in the war. And while it is fictionalized, it gave me a good taste of what it was like being an unwanted stranger in a strange land. The book is titled "The Dragon Soldier's Good Fortune," by Bob Goswitz. It is a worthy read and I highly recommend it.

Anyway, last week Bob held his book launch at Books and Company in Oconomowoc. During it he mentioned he hadn't really talked or written about it in 45 years. But he thought it was a story that needed to be told, so he started writing. Many years later, he finished and had it published.

His launch reading and talk was riveting. A couple of times during it though, he had to stop because he was getting emotional. It goes to sho
w you that wartime experiences have long lasting effects, and this was no different. I was also humbled to see my blurb for his book made it into the print copy.

Bob and I go back a few years as he's followed my writing successes fairly closely. We've had coffee once and I will be interviewing him at the Southeastern Wisconsin Festival of Books in November. I am fortunate to know him and am super excited for his book release. I am also looking forward to hearing more about his story and his life.

Bob's book is available here.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't thank all the Vietnam Vets out there for their service. So, thank you!

Blogging off...

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Cabin Speed

It is Labor Day weekend. I sort of love/hate those words.

This is the weekend we typically end up as a family at a cabin up in Mercer. This year, it is just the two of us with our friends Steve and Jill, hanging out in Mount Morris at another friend's rental cabin.

Things are moving at "cabin speed," as expected. The days are long and full of flip flops, good books, adult beverages and the occasional nap. Of course there is fishing, and lots of it. Lots of little Bass in the boat, and just as many lost at retrieve.

And while I'm obviously not totally off the grid, I wanted to post because this end of Summer is always hard for me. I know there are warm days ahead yet, but the cold days loom heavily as well. So I will finish off this mini-vacation the best I know. At cabin speed.

But as I am here, a couple of my extended family are at cabins of their own. My brother is up in Mercer at Pine Forest Lodge with his daughter. He is pursuing the "big one" again, that we all know is in that lake somewhere, but mostly he is doing it to "get away." Get away from time and social demands of home.

Get away to cabin time. Where listening to the blue jays and loons is considered productive time.

Meanwhile my sister is up on Lake Winnibigoshish in Minnesota. Again, us Landwehrs have a thing for cabins in August. I know mom would be at one too if she was feeling a little better. My brother Tom is talking of taking her to Duluth and Grand Marais. It's hard to keep her down.

This trip again reminds me how important it to slow down and breathe.

So that's what I'm going to do right now.

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Inspiration I Never Asked For

So, seven years ago today I lost a brother after a long battle with cancer. He left behind a wife and two beautiful daughters as well as friends and a family that loved him. His legacy for me was to live life with a sense of urgency.

Our time is short.

Love hard.

Forgive often.

Don't waste your days.

Things don't matter, people do.

His death also inspired much reflection and, as a result, some poetry. Here are a few that I've written about him and his life.


The Closer Side of Heaven*

You’re on the closer side of heaven
a lower stratosphere place
for the young ones
the strong ones
who can still climb.


I wonder what it’s like
on that closer side of heaven
near to God
but still near to us
left down here to wait it out.


Is it beautiful and stunning
this closer side of heaven?
Better than any earthly day
on the farther side
of our earth?

I await your reply.



One Cast*                                                                               

My daughter wanted to catch a Musky
With her dad
Our family has a long fishing tradition
Her uncles Tom, Rob, and Paul all had a Musky
But only one
And she wanted to be part of it -
The Musky part

Now, Rob was in heaven
God called him there to help scout Smallmouth
Because He was having trouble Himself
Rob knew he could be a big help
But when he heard about Sarah,
He said to God, “Here’s the deal…
I’ll help you, if you help her.”

Then Rob said, “One cast.”

God dropped his jaw.
“But you know that just doesn’t happen.”
Rob wouldn’t budge
“One cast.”
“They’re the fish of 10,000 casts,” God argued.
“I caught a seven smallmouth yesterday…” Rob said.
“But she’s using the wrong line and no leader!”
“One cast.”

On the first cast
The wrong lure
Thrown with the wrong rod
Using the wrong line
And no leader (wrong again)
Hit the water with a splash
And immediately erupted
With heavenly Musky thunder.

Rob turned to God and winked.


What’s Happening?*

The passion of people
The color of fall
The love of a dog
The artist in the art
The smell of the rain
The hug of a child
The majesty of a sunset
The joy in the music
The smile of a wife
The death of a brother
The brevity of life
The power of God


This is my midlife



Spider Lake*

The memory replays over and over
as I desperately attempt to relive it or
reanimate it in some way.
A night at the cabin up north
fishing with my brother
small boat, minnows, a cooler with beers.
Fishing what we termed the “Dead Sea”
we cast, talk, laugh like schoolboys
until we can’t anymore – only one fish.
We bait our hooks with hope, tip our beers
and share stories of life back home, work,
the joys and struggles of young fatherhood.
He takes a moment to point out
the beauty of the water’s mirrored surface
and says quietly, “Life is good.”
We bare our souls to one another
and smoke cheap covert cigars
to the soundtrack wail of the loons.
Fishbone clouds, scarlet sunset, his laughter
these are what I recall – what I must remember –
about that night – fishing with my brother.

-because he’s gone.
*From Reciting From Memory

Blogging off...

Sunday, August 26, 2018

St. Mary Of Portland Avenue

In my second book, The Portland House: a '70's memoir, I delve into a bit of history about our family ties to my step family, the McKasys. My mom, Mary Lou, dated Jack McKasy for nearly ten years before they finally married in 1979. Jack had divorced his first wife, Mary Ann, a few years earlier leaving her to raise eight, (count 'em, eight!) children on her own.

Now, coming from a kid from a family of six kids who was raised by a single parent for many years, I recognize that what Mary Ann did as a single parent was nothing less than a feat. To take what my mother had done and add two kids to it leaves me with nothing but admiration for Mary Ann.

What I don't know is what the day-to-day was like for her. I've kept in touch with many of my step siblings over the years, mostly via Facebook and in particular, my stepsister, Maggie. In our exchanges she has told me some shocking stories about the struggles they had as a family. Because we were mired in our own struggles as a family, I never knew much about the struggles of our step-family literally two blocks away.

There were stories like the electricity being shut off because they had no money for the electric bill at times. Stories of living check to check and ongoing financial burdens. Stories of the pain of suffering through the death of her son at a young age. Stories that would make most people bend and break.

And yet, like my own mother, Mary Ann persevered. She raised the whole family through the Catholic school system and they all came out to be beautiful, healthy kids with families of their own. Like my own mother, she could have given up, checked out and left her kids to figure it out. But she didn't. She steeled up, pushed on and did the best she could. Maggie told me recently that her mother loved to write poetry and nonfiction and, after reading some of her work, I gained a new appreciation for who she became after the kids moved out.
The 3 Mary's of Portland. L-R. Mary Pat, Mary Lou, Mary Ann

When my mother was dating Jack, Mary Ann was not too keen on the McKasy kids hanging with "the other team," namely us Landwehrs. I can remember Timmy saying once that if she asked who I was, he'd tell her a false name, which I thought was hilarious. Over time, she softened her stance and eventually, after Mom divorced Jack, Mary Ann and my mother became friends. They shared war stories of some of what it was like raising kids both with and without Jack around.

The pinnacle of the blending of the two families though came to the fore when my sister Pat married my stepbrother Kevin, making him my stepbrother in-law, if there is such a thing. There were a few other crushes between the families, but none that ever manifest themselves in anything more than puppy love.

In my book, I mention that at one point there were two Mary McKasys living on Portland Avenue, both with 6+ kids to their name. I also mention that both should have been referred to as Saint Marys, because nothing short of sainthood would be a worthy descriptor of who they were as women and mothers and people.

Mary Ann passed away quietly this week after fighting some health and Alzheimer's issues over the past few years. Up until a few weeks ago, her son Patrick was still taking her out to the casino every couple weeks to gamble a little. That pretty much sums up her character. Loving, fun and in the moment.

She will be missed by many people, including her family, our family and her friends. Her kids all inherited her wicked sense of humor and I think they would all agree that after a life of 88 years, many of it raising kids, she can finally get some peace and quiet.

I thought I'd publish one of her poems that was written as she reinvented herself. It speaks for everything she became in life.

No Guarantees    by Mary Ann McKasy

Excuse me please
I'm coming through
A new model
Long overdue

I'm scratched and dented
Here and there
I lean to the left
Drive with no spare

I made some changes
Reclaimed what was mine
Smoothed out the dents
Put on a new shine

I unloaded the trunk
Threw out the debris
When I finally finished
Voila' a new me

I come as you see me
Open and free
Laughing and loving
With no guarantees.


God bless you, Mary Ann.

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Words About Words

It has been a while, so here goes an update on all things writing related.


  • I will be appearing with fellow AllWriters' author, Julie Beekman and Constance Malloy at Books and Company in Oconomowoc on September 12th at 7:00. This will be a panel event featuring a book overview, interviews, Q & A and a signing to follow. Julie is coming all the way from Colorado and her book, Two Trees, is worth checking out! Click here for more details.
  • I have been soliciting signed poetry books as part of my outreach as Poet Laureate for the Village of Wales for a few months now. I am getting books in at a good pace lately and am approaching forty books from nearly twenty different authors. My goal is to raise 50 books and donate them to Kettle Moraine High School's library. It will get local poets into the hands of young people and that's a win-win.
  • I am about 60,000 words into my Work In Progress (WIP), a memoir about my high school experience at an all-male, Christian, military academy in the '70s. It will be a book about the school but also about what it was like growing up as a teenager in the late '70s. There will be lots of humor, as usual, but some great moments of teen stupidity as well. My goal would be to have it done by next year's 40th high school reunion, but that might be a bit ambitious. (I'm writing as fast as I can, here!)
  • The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books will see me in three different roles.
    • I will be co presenting with author Colleen Glatzel at Waukesha South High School on Friday, November 2nd. This should be a panel like discussion featuring a brief overview of out writing experiences followed by a Q&A session. I really enjoyed doing this venue last year.
    • Author Bob Goswitz who just released his first book, Dragon Soldier's Good Fortune, loosely based on his Vietnam war experience will be interviewed by me. Bob's book was a great read and I look forward to hearing more about his writing experience.
    • I will be giving a 45 minute workshop titled "I never intended to write a book!" I will be talking about how I went from writing stories about my family to publishing my first memoir, Dirty Shirt. This should be a lot of fun and it is followed by a book signing immediately following.
  • My completed chapbook of poems about my father is currently out to about 12 publishers. I am extremely hopeful about this collection and am keeping my fingers crossed. 
  • My forthcoming chapbook, On a Road, is in the galley review stage. We are waiting for a publishing date from the printer, but the planned release date is October 21st, the anniversary of Jack Kerouac's death. The book documents a trip I took to California with 2 friends in 1984 and is styled after the Kerouac novel On The Road. The cover reveal will be happening sometime in late September. I love how it turned out. 
  • My poem, "Talking Around The Problem" was recently accepted for publication in Rising Phoenix Press' Disarm publication themed around the recent upsurge in mass shootings.
  • I continue to be a part of the Mama D's monthly poetry night. The event has a featured poet and is followed by an open mic for anyone who might want to read.
  • Am looking to get into the Untitled Town Book Festival in Green Bay with a panel of two other authors. That happens in April. We will see what happens with our pitch. 
  • I have a dozen other poems and/or short memoir pieces out there right now awaiting review. These are the things that keep me going.
So, I've got a few plates spinning and am working on getting a few more going as well. I think I do best when I've got a lot going on, so I plan on keeping at it. It's all good and I am lucky to be able to be a part of it all.

Blogging off...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Setting The Hook

Every summer, I take a friend's three kids fishing to a nearby park. I offered again this year with the kids being 9, 7 and 5.

One thing I love to do is help people catch fish, especially kids. I love seeing their reactions and excitement as they reel in bluegills. I always hope that it plants the seed for a lifelong love of fishing, but am happy if they simply come away having had a good time.

Years ago, when our kids were small, my brothers and I would help our young kids on the dock at the cabin. It was both the best and most stressful hour at the cabin. Between the crossed lines, the need for hook baiting, the near miss lip-hooks due to inattentive casting and the fish releases, there is always a need to be met. All of this assumes there are no personality clashes among the cousins during the fracas.

Well, yesterday was all of that. But as I said, part of me thrives on it. The other part needs a nap.

It started with me opening the night crawlers I'd bought from Walmart and finding them all rotten and dead. I now remember why I don't shop at Walmart.

Anyways, plan B had me borrowing some worms from a guy the next spot over. He saved the day and the fishing began.

So I start baiting hooks and helping them cast them out. No sooner do the bobbers hit the water than they start bobbing up and down. Running triage at this point, I can only do verbal coaching for the kids as I bait someone else's hook.

As the day progresses, the eldest manages to get his line in a nearby tree. It hangs perilously over the water and requires cutting my losses and a redo of his line. All the while, his sister has taken to saying "My worm is toast!" which makes me laugh every time which pleases her, no end. The more I laugh at it, the more she says it. I joke about it with her and it becomes a term of endearment between us. These kids remind me of my own. Well behaved, happy and respectful.

Well, not to be outdone, the youngest gets his line in such a rats nest that it requires a total redo. While I do that he takes the opportunity to play with the worms. Meanwhile, the girl tells me her worm is toast and the eldest cracks up when he manages to get his line snagged in a nearby bush.

Everybody has their cross that I must bear on this hot day in August. I tie, I bait, I unstick the stuck. In between all of this chaos an occasional fish is even caught.

All of it is work and I love that everyone is laughing and having fun.

After two hours of this, we finish out the day with the eldest catching a nice largemouth bass. It is the cap on top of a fun day and a great chance to leave on a high note.
In all seriousness.

We celebrate it all with ice cream at Dairy Queen, which poses its own form of triage and damage control.

But as I said, it is all a labor of love for me. I miss having kids this young sometimes. An outing like yesterday reminds me of how fast they grow up, and how important it is to have fun with them while you have the chance.

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Born To Run

It has become a tradition of sorts that my son and I attend the Waukesha Classic Car Show every August in Frame Park. I got him hooked on old cars a few years back and now we look forward to it every year. We made it again this year and it didn't disappoint.

Cars are the universal American conversation piece. (Most) everyone had a first car, and most everyone had a car that was sketchy, one bad muffler away from the junk yard. I wrote about cars a fair amount in my memoirs, only because in the '70s and '80's they didn't make them to last like they do now.

Furthermore, back then cars were made so the common person could work on them. Nowadays when I pop the hood I stand there looking at a hulking black engine block cover that stares back daring me to touch it. I am able to check the oil and other major fluids, but when it comes to say, changing an alternator, well, I have two tools; a phone and a checkbook.

In my book in progress, I lament and describe my first car, a '68 Oldsmobile Cutlass with over 110,000 miles on it. Got it for a "deal," only $400.00. This served as essentially a down payment for the next $2000.00 I put into it trying to keep it running for the next 8 months. It was a piece of junk that taught me a good lesson.

Not to let on too much about the forthcoming book, but there are a couple of car stories there that will make my mom's hair stand on end. I'll save them for the book, but suffice it to say that the car show brought those memories back to life.

Almost every car at the show held a memory for me, which I am certain wore on my son. He was just there to ogle the cars, but at times he seemed to enjoy my stories about a particular model.

So, here's a few shots from the show and what memory the car triggered.

My brother in-law Steve restored one of these. A favorite from '57

This was my first car, albeit a different year. Picture this in vomit green with no hub caps, lots of rust and snow tires, and you'll have my first car.

My buddy Ross had an '80s version of this Cutlass that he pulled out of storage with expired tabs when we drove out to South Dakota. (Our friend Ron's car was leaking gas, so we had to resort to pulling Ross' car out of storage. A little strategically placed mud over the expired tabs and we were good-to-go!


My girlfriend in college had a Chevy Nova. Nice car.

My sister had a '68 Impala with a 327 engine in it. Mom one-upped her with a 72 Impala with a 350 in it. Those engines were the best.

Wood siding. Why was that ever a good idea? 
'
{{{Wipes away drool}}}

Still on my bucket list to get one of these before death. Charger R/T or Super Bee.

Blogging off...