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Showing posts from 2018

A Guest Appearance

Well, it's almost new years eve, and all of my teams have ungracefully bowed out of the NFL playoffs. I've watched less football this fall/winter than I have in recent memory mostly because the Packers and Vikings were playing such mediocre ball this year. I am of an age that barely has time for good football, let alone mediocre. Thankfully I was part of something bigger today.

Today I was part of a Guest House meal assembly with eleven other people. This is an event organized by my wife, funded by donors and assembled by volunteers. She sets up about four of these assemblies every year and because I'm a bit of hack in the kitchen, I never really took part in one.

As I've mentioned before, the Guest House is a transitional housing agency for 86 men. They provide job training, help with residency, AODA counseling and health care for homeless men.

Donna assured me she could use my help, so I went along. I was put on sandwich duty with my brother in-law. It was so cool to…

2018 Put To Words

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Today was the start of the second half of my Christmas/New Year break. I took advantage of it doing what I love to do most during down time, namely writing. I managed 1500 words over a few hours at it, not too bad for a day's work. I know to some 1500 words seems measly, but I'll take a 5 page day anytime.

This time of year I always like to look back on my writing accomplishments. I never really know what to expect from year to year, as I still look at this as a part-time gig, fitting it in around the edges where I can. That said, any and each published piece is a small victory in my eyes, and in that respect 2018 was a pretty good year, maybe the best yet.

From a book standpoint, any year where I have two books released is a good one. In January The Portland House was released by Electio Publishing. I tell people it is the second memoir I never dreamed I'd write, let alone get published.

Then, in October, my third poetry collection/chapbook, On a Road was released by Unso…

Christmas Together - Wherever

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Christmas celebrations have been an evolving thing in our family these past several years. As kids get older and houses are bought and sold, we move things and people and dates around to accomodate everyone as best we can. Our BIG family Christmas has moved from;


Aunt Helen's house in White BearPortland AvenueMom's new house on Larpenteur AvenueTom and Patty's house in ShoreviewRob and Jane's house in ShorveiewSister Jane's house on SterlingA Maplewood community centerSister Jane's new house

So the location changes, but the occasions are steeped in family togetherness. Over the years we've had boyfriends/girlfriends who became spouses, and some who did not. We've had friends who had no family in the area that we've invited in over the years.

But the strength of our holidays has always been that everyone knows Christmas Eve is reserved for getting together with mom and the aunts and uncles. This year brings three new babies and two new boyfriends to t…

Friends Of Old

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Having had three days in Minnesota during my concert visitation/book signing, I made it a point to reconnect with old friends.

The day after the Bob Seger concert, my friend Pat and I went out to eat at Perkins. Back in the day, we spent many late nights at Perkins, usually after a night out. It was our go-to location to catch up on life and share a meal. Our discussions over food were always deep, but were also sprinkled with lots of laughter. Neither of us knew what our future life would look like, so all we could do was talk about what was going on at that point in time, give advice and show support. But most of all what we did was listen. Neither of us needed to dominate the conversation, so we went back and forth as friends do.

At this particular outing, we pretty much picked up where we left off, even to the point of Pat ordering his trademark Omelette and me ordering a strawberry croissant french toast platter. It seems the more we'd changed, the more we were the same.

We t…

Still The Same

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These past couple days have been one of connecting with an old friend, Pat. I've talked about him in the past. He and I were best buddies in high school and much of our college years. He was in my wedding in New York, and I was in his in Tulsa.

Over the years, as we were growing our families and living our lives we dropped out of touch. There was an occasional letter, and then an email, but for the most part we drifted.

This last reconnect was driven by a text exchange we had last summer. He was texting about how a Bob Seger song, Like A Rock, had a big impact on him one night on his deck. We'd seen Seger together in 1980 and, like our friendship, we just sort of lost touch with his music over the years.

Well, just for grins Pat looked up to see if Seger was still even alive. When he did he saw that he wasn't only still alive, but he was in the middle of his "Final Tour." Pat was always "spontaneous" so he pulled the trigger and got tickets for us, mine…

Shockingly Normal

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So I will turn 57 on Tuesday. This is both a non-event and a shock to me.

I say a shock because it is hard for me to believe that I am on the far side of fifty. I tell my wife that most days I feel like I'm twenty eight. On those days I do too much around the yard, house and on my bike, I am quickly brought back to reality that I am every bit of my 50 plus years. Those days are usually followed by mornings when I wake and every joint needs a little encouragement to get moving.

But I can't complain. My weight is the same as it was 20 years ago. Ever since I turned 40, it has been much more difficult to keep at a constant weight, but I've managed fairly well. It's an ongoing goal of mine not to increase my waist size on my jeans, (like Jerry Seinfeld) because, well, it's a slippery slope. Before you know it, it's sweatpants all the time, including at the grocery store.

And I am fairly healthy too. Sure I have some chronic things, like numbness in both my feet cau…

A Confluence Of Adventure Stories

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A week from tonight I will be in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am headed back for a couple of reasons, one of which is to co-present with another author at Subtext Books. Barb Geiger and I will be presenting our books, Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir and Paddle For A Purpose.

This promises to be a fun event as we discuss our adventures on, off and IN the water. Most of you know that Dirty Shirt chronicles trips I took up to the area in remote Minnesota with friends, brothers and, later, our children. Barb's book has a similar adventure theme to it. It is the story of how her husband's idea of paddling the length of the Mississippi River went from an half-joking crackpot idea to the actual pursuit of carrying it out.

But their journey takes on a noble purpose when they decide to volunteer for service projects at various stops along the way. While the boat carries just what they need to live on, at many of the stops, they put their hands and feet to work for non-profit and chur…

The Littlest Brother

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So it is my brother Paul's birthday today. He's three years younger than me so let's just say he's in his early fifties and I'll leave the math up to you.

In our family of seven kids, Paul is the youngest. He always touts, correctly so, that he was at the absolute tail end of the baby boomer generation. Of course, the youngest kid always get called the spoiled one, the one who had the road paved for him by their elder siblings. With seven kids, there was plenty of road paving in our family. There wasn't much Mom hadn't seen by the time Paul was in high school, so the leash was probably as long there as any of us.

Like any of my siblings, I owe much of who I am to Paul. He taught me a lot over the years. Because of our age difference, we didn't hang around much in high school, but I felt we got closer in our college years as we both muddled our way through the University of Minnesota.

If I had to narrow down the thing that I learned from Paul that stuck …

Writing For My Life

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I have taken a session off at the writing studio I have been involved in for the past 9 years or so. I was a little burnt and just needed to take some time to write new material and rest. Like any hobby or pastime, I think you can get into a rut and I just needed to break things up a bit.

That doesn't mean that there are a not a lot of things going on in my writing circles, because there are. I don't sit still well, so have been working on new things, promoting, submitting and networking. 
Here are a few things happening.
On December 9th I'll be reading my poem Guest House at the Bards Against Hunger reading at Good Harvest in Waukesha. This event charges a $5.00 admission or two food items which goes to the Waukesha Food Pantry. The collection of poetry, all about hunger and poverty will be for sale at the event as well. Very happy to be included in it.  I was asked to do a guest blog for a website focused on art in the country of Georgia. My first post is here, with more t…

Minneapolis, Madison, Me And Mom

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Well, another Thanksgiving holiday is in the books. Ours was spent with family and friends in differing numbers over the course of the last three days. It was relaxing and recharging. It was laughing until my stomach hurt, kid hugs and amazing conversations with everyone.

It was a time of quality moments with my wife and two grown kids, albeit fleeting at times.

And as I sat there listening to them talk about their lives, their encounters, their worries and anxieties, I realized they've arrived, and in a sense, so have we. They have begun adulthood -for real adulthood, not the "I'm 18" adulthood. The one where they are shopping for groceries and calling their mom for advice on what spices to put in their homemade chicken dumpling soup.

It is funny because I can remember those very moments when I was in their place so many years ago. I remember shopping for groceries and wondering if the green bananas I was buying would ripen okay or should I skip them that week and wa…

Thanksgiving Nineteen Eighty Something

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It was a zillion years ago, but my brothers and I used to have a sort of tradition on Thanksgiving eve. After dinner was over the three or four of us would go out to a local tavern and shoot pool. Sometimes it was the Grand Tavern (aka the old O'Connell's, on Grand Avenue) other times it was the Spot Bar. I also remember one time we ended up at the Highland Tap (aka the Highland Trap) which was a 3.2 joint serving only 3.2% beer and wine. A neighbor guy we'd grown up with was tending bar and thought it was cool to see the Landwehr boys all together.

When we got there Paul and Rob would say hi to the locals, with Tom and me just along for the ride. We'd put quarters on the table and in the jukebox and spend a couple hours critiquing each others' shots, as brothers are prone to do. We were usually still in our Thanksgiving clothes, so were looking as spanky as we probably could.

And as weird as the tradition sounds, I can remember thinking that I would always remembe…

Of Chainsaws And Sonnets

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Yesterday saw two sides of my life that one might see as polar opposites. Some days I think I have a Jekyll/Hyde persona with regards to my interest or skills. It doesn't make me ashamed of who I am and certainly one side is not better than the other. I just find it funny when both sides happen to occur on the same day or the same week.

I was slated to help a couple of guys cut down some trees yesterday. The trees were dead ash trees, victims of the Emerald Ash Borer, and they were over forty feet tall. I've cut wood with my friend Claude before, so I knew we would be safe and smart about it, but there is always my sense of trepidation and excitement that go with running a chainsaw and a little dangerous tree felling.

So we got to it and focused on the biggest problem tree. Claude had the chains hooked up when I got there and he was trying to take the first of two main trunks. After some key notches were cut and the chains were tightened, the first fell with a great crash, a p…

Plugging Away Despite

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If you're scoring from home, my presentation on The Portland House today was a slam dunk. There was a good crowd of people, 35 or so. They were engaged and laughed at all of my humor. They asked some great questions and I got great applause. Furthermore, the feedback from the people who came up to me afterward was that they loved my style and my presentation. A couple even said they hope I come back.
So, score this as a win for the author, right?
Well, I managed to sell four books. 
Four. 
If you're still scoring from home, I would have been better served staying at work for the afternoon. It certainly pays better. 
When the talk was over I felt great, because I held their attention for over an hour. No one dozed off and as I said, right until the end they were really engaged. However, unlike the last time I presented at this location, people didn't linger. The place cleared out, I sold my few books and packed up and left.
On my ride home, I'll confess, I felt a little…

Subtle Moments Of Great Brilliance

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There is plenty of bad news happening all around us. Fires in California, political vitriol, mass shootings, political lies and posturing, racial tensions spurred by racist groups and individuals, silencing and reprimanding of legitimate media, and so much more.

So I'd like to focus on some moments of gratitude that I've seen in my life in the past week in the hopes you will reflect on some that may be in front of you.
It's simple things like:

My son, a sophomore at UW Madison, randomly texting me "Goodnight dad, love you." Four words. The best four words of the day in this case. It only takes a minute to do this for people. I regularly do it to my kids as well. 
A half hour phone call with my mom, who's 85. Trust me when I say I don't take this privilege for granted. We talk about what's new in her life, how my kids are doing and what's coming down the road for the holidays. We end every call with "Take care. I love you." I'm 56, but …

A Honda Astronaut

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It happens every ten years or so. We are forced to cross the threshold of a car dealership and begin the process of self-loathing that comes with buying a car.

I hate everything about it.

Everything.

It always starts at the desk of the guy who is selling cars between jobs who I'll call Soulless Steve. I guess that's a little harsh because they might have a shred of a soul left because they want you to say yes, you'll buy a car from them.

And it always ends at the desk of the finance guy who used to sell cars between jobs but then got a raise and a promotion to financial henchman. This guy gave up having a soul as part of the promotional ceremony.

Of course the financial guy had to give us the hard sell on the "extended warranty." A couple of classic lines were:

"Ya know, I read the other day that the space shuttle was programmed with only 500,000 lines of code and that todays cars are programmed with over 100 million lines of code. So, you might want to consi…

Books And The People Who Write Them

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This weekend was a celebration of one of my favorite literary events of the year. The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books was held for the ninth year in a row at the University of Wisconsin at Waukesha. Like many of my colleagues, I was fairly involved this year, taking part in three events as well as donating a couple of books to a couple different raffles.

My Friday morning was spent at Waukesha South High School with two other authors, Barb Geiger and Colleen June Glatzel. We held a panel discussion with two class periods of students, one about 60 students in size, the other about 40. We had a series of pre-canned questions that we took turns talking about.

One of the more memorable moments was when Colleen talked about her struggles as a teen and twenty something with some mental health issues. She said the book was a bit of a working out of those issues. I could see a visible reaction from several of the students who seemed both empathetic and compassionate. While Barb and I we…

Insanity Reset

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It has been a four year drought since I managed to get a musky into the boat. This is despite great efforts once a year fishing hard for them for two straight days, and one or two other instances where I tried twice in a season during a second trip up to Pine Forest Lodge.

It is well known that they are hard fish to catch. Outside of sturgeon, in Wisconsin at least, they might be the hardest fish to catch of any species. They are hard to find and sometimes finicky when you do find them. They are the most active in Fall when they start their winter feed, so fishing for them often means cold, windy or rainy conditions. It is the price you pay for pursuing them.

Well, as many of you have seen on Facebook, this fall during what I call Muskyfest, I got one.

Let me preface it by saying that I would probably have zero muskies to my credit without the help of my friends Steve and John. Steve was the guy who initially convinced me to try musky fishing despite my reluctance as what I called mys…

Northern Retreat

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My wife made a point of scheduling a two day stay at a cabin in central Wisconsin to enable me to write and her to read. She is brutally aware how important my writing time is to me and she really loves to read, so she found a place online.

The cabin was near Big Flats with the closest town being Hancock. It was a quaint little A Frame cottage in the middle of tall pine trees. It is surrounded by farm land, but you would never know it once you were on this property. The front yard butts up to a wonderful little trout stream that winds through the area.

When I got there, the first thing I noticed was the quiet. Nothing but the trees whispering in the breeze. It is something we never get in the city, so when I hear it - or don't hear anything - it kind of shocks me.

Anyway, the writing started that night and carried on for practically the whole time. Of course I took time out for eating and conversations with Donna, but for the most part it was BIC's. Butts In Chairs. She read a…

Ode To Jack

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Today marks the official release of my poetry chapbook On a Roadby Unsolicited Press. It was a release planned around this date, as it marks the 49th anniversary of the death of Jack Kerouac, the beat generation author of the classic book, On the Road. The chapbook was written stylistically in part to pay homage to On the Road, but also because it recounts a trip that reminded me of the book.

As I've mentioned before, the chapbook is a series of poems that chronicles a road trip two buddies and I took from Minnesota to California in a rental car in 1984. It was a long strange trip with the destination being a friend's house in suburban Los Angeles.

The description of the book explains that it is the story of youths heading west to see what "life in fast lane" was all about. What we discovered was that our Midwestern practicality and sensibilities were not cut out for life in Cali. We came back to Minnesota with great memories but the realization that California livin…

Churched

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A couple of nights ago, my wife and I went and saw The Church for their "Thirty Year" Starfish tour. It was held at Turner Hall in Milwaukee, a creepily beautiful structure across the street from the brand new Fiserv Center, home of the Milwaukee Bucks. Turner is in rough shape, but is a magnificent structure and is a great place to see a show. There isn't a bad seat in the place and acoustically, it is not too bad.

If you know me, you know The Church is my favorite band of all. I've followed them since 1985 or so, and have been fairly loyal over the years. There was a ten year stretch or so, when their music got a little too dark and psychadelic, where I drifted away. In the past 10 years, I came back into the fold and have not been disappointed.

They released Starfish in 1988, and it was a breakout album for them. It had a couple of mega hits on it, including Under the Milky Way. It quickly became one of my favorite LP's and after sharing it with my "girlf…

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

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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 …

Other People's Vacation Pictures

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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...
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