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