Thursday, October 25, 2018

Northern Retreat

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 and journaled while I worked on four small writing projects and one bigger one.

It was an introvert writers dream.

I took a short break on Monday to do a little trout fishing. This is a sport I do not love. Lots of casting and putzing and snags and messing with moving water. It's super annoying actually. All I wanted to do was catch a trout. Eventually I did, after about 20 minutes of flailing futility. I reaffirmed that I am a born and raised LAKE fisherman.

So, I can't say enough about the value in getting away to do your writing. I could have stayed at home and written and saved myself a couple hundred dollars, but I know I wouldn't have accomplished as much as I did at this cabin. Plus, as a friend pointed out, I was in nature with my loved one.

So there's that.

Today I will be heading back into the pines, further up north, to fish for the elusive Esox (Muskellunge). I won't be doing any writing, but I will definitely be listening for the wind in the pines. That is my jam. I'm an avid outdoorsman, and I can't wait.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ode To Jack

Today marks the official release of my poetry chapbook On a Road by 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.
Jack Kerouac, 3/12/1922 – 10/21/1969

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 living was not our style and likely never would be. Once a midwesterner, always a midwesterner.

I've always had a thing for road trips. It's in my blood, I think. As a kid, it was trips to campgrounds and cabins that I looked forward to most every summer. As high school seniors, we once took a trip to Kentucky for spring break (because it's such a destination!) in my friend Pete's Ford Pinto. And in College, it was spontaneous road trips up to Saint Cloud, Minnesota with my friend Pat that I remember most. There were some disastrous ends to a couple of those trips, both involving Volkswagen Beetles - stories for another time.

After I moved to Wisconsin, my travelling became much more frequent as I had to make trips back to Minnesota for holidays and special occasions. To further complicate matters, I married Donna whose family lives in New York, so there were countless trips cross country for that. Long trips with kids, and Goldfish crackers, and whiteout snowstorms and near-death encounters with falling asleep at the wheel.

Being on the road meant music in different forms over the years. As a boy, it was listening to my stepfather's car radio playing elevator music or the crackle of trying to pull in the distant Viking football game. As a teenager, it was cassette tapes of Jackson Brown's Running on Empty, or George Thorogood's Move It On Over. In college and beyond I moved to CD's of REM and Talking Heads.

Now, as an adult, empty nester, we are travelling as much as anything. In the past week I have gone to Sturgeon Bay, I am currently in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, as I writer this and am headed to Presque Isle, 5 hours north of the cities next week for musky fishing. As I said, being on the road is in my blood.

But I think the trip out to California may have been the one that whet my appetite for it all. There's something reckless and irresponsible about driving 2000 miles straight through to get to a place. At the same time, I saw so much of the country and ultimately learned something about who I was to become and where I ultimately wanted to live in the process.

So the chapbook tips my hat to Jack Kerouac, but as much as anything it is a series of vignettes about chasing a dream only to find out that the fast life of Southern California in the eighties was only thinly veiled superficiality.

But that doesn't mean I don't like being...On a Road.

Copies will be available from me at all future book signings or via mail. Contact me here.

Blogging off...

Thursday, October 18, 2018


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 "girlfriend" at the time, (now wife) it became hers too.

So, much like their Blurred Crusade tour, which I've written about here, this tour became a must-see for both of us.

We were lucky enough to get a seat half way back from the stage with good sight lines. After a decent warmup from a cool band named, Rose of the West, The Church came on and worked their way through Starfish, from start to finish.

It was fantastic. A roll-back of all the great hits of those '80s so many years ago.

At intermission I went up and bought a print painted by the bassist and lead singer Steve Kilbey, who is an accomplished painter and poet as well. I absolutely love it and it will hang in my office as a reminder of that night.

These guys are getting old, so I don't know how many more tours they have in them.

I hope to be a part of them though.

Blogging off...

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 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...