MY GRATITUDE IS ETCHED IN STONE

2000

My blog has reached the 2000 follower milestone.  I am grateful to each and every one of you… and should you stop over at my house anytime soon I’ll have a cold beer or a bottle of Ketel One waiting for you.  Seriously, I actually have more than Hamm’s on hand.

Thanks, one and all.

Eric

TAKING OFF MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A KID AGAIN

airbus-319

A US Airways Airbus 319

I don’t fly much.  I’ve taken to the sky a few times in the last couple of years, which is more than in the previous eight years combined, but I generally don’t travel much and when I do, it’s in a car with me behind the wheel.  With me in control.

My nephew, of whom I’m so very proud, graduated from Pitt this last weekend. Since I was so graciously invited to attend the festivities, I flew out there for a three day jaunt.  I had a great time, thank you, but I’ll admit that the events that held my attention the most throughout the weekend all involved airplanes.  The closest airport to me is Mitchell International in Milwaukee, and there are no direct flights with any airlines from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh so the entire round-trip required four take-offs and four landings.  We stopped in Chicago, at O’hare, on the way there… then flew to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh to catch another flight home.  This caused some minor amusement for me… as Philly is farther from Milwaukee than Pittsburgh.  Hee-hee.  So be it.

But like I said, I don’t fly much.  And although I am not really afraid to fly, I have found, in the past as well as now, that the longer I go between flights the greater the anxiety I feel for the act.  I still marvel at the fact that human beings can fly at all, let alone at 30,000 feet at a speed of Mach 0.78.  Sometimes I think it’s all just a grand illusion… or a trick… that planes are just advanced elevators or something.  Maybe once you board, an experienced ground crew just changes the scenery so that you think you’ve gone somewhere new.

Anyway, there have been several occasions — one this last weekend — when the plane is barely off the ground and climbing, maybe at an altitude of two thousand feet, where I have mildly freaked, my mind racing, thinking, “Holy Shit!  What the fuck is keeping us up here??!”

Of course, nobody can see my irrational thoughts, and I have a great poker face.  No one can tell by my body language or a look on my face that I nearly just shit my pants at the very beginning of a two-hour flight.  It’s now that I casually look about the cabin at the faces of those people that obviously travel all the time, because they’re already lost in a book, or an android-game, or they’re already asleep, as their gaping mouths are a tell-tale sign of slumber.  Asleep!  Already??  The damn gear isn’t even up yet and you’re already approaching REM?  I snicker.  No way.  That guy just shit his pants and he’s hiding it by pretending that he isn’t scared to death.  He’s got a better poker face than me.  Well done, fella!

Once we’ve leveled off I generally feel better.  Then the turbulence starts.  Tiny potholes in the sky.  Just where does our tax money go, anyway?  I’ve heard of turbulence being so severe that passengers have hit their heads on the ceiling.  Nothing like that has ever happened to me, in fact, I think I’ve been truly blessed on the flights I’ve taken, but a particularly moderate bout of turbulence on the way from Chicago to Pittsburgh caused a kindergarten-age boy across the aisle from me to exclaim, “Gee, the roads in the sky sure are bumpy!”

That’s right, kid.  I blame congress.

So what’s the worst part of the flight for me?  The part when we get back to earth.  Airplanes are built to fly.  And if you want to stop flying, then you need to alter the plane in ways that the plane doesn’t want to be altered.  You need to put the nose down for the gradual descent.  You need to reduce speed… a thing that seems like a horrible idea to me.  And then once you’re down, the flaps on the wings get into crazy positions and the engines reverse thrust and you pray that this monster of a machine will stop before it goes off the end of the runway.

Well, I pray for that, anyway.  Apparently, the guy that shit his pants at the beginning of the flight has just shit them again.  His eyes are closed and his mouth, agape.  What a wuss!

But not all of my childish feelings toward flying are negative.  I get the science for the most part… lift, torque, ailerons and wing flaps… but I’m always in awe of the engineering of it all.  Smart people — people waaayyyy smarter than me — found a way for an animal that can’t fly to fly.  To use an overused word, it’s awesome.  Awesome, as in, it inspires awe.  Only things like the science of flight should be allowed to attract the use of the word, “awesome.”  I feel like a kid again when I’m in a plane… and there are few things in life that do that for me.

New Day

Posted: April 21, 2015 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , ,

dawn

An amber dawn, radiant, rich.

Optimism personified,

an idea is born.

THE END: PUNGENT, GENIAL

Posted: April 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

Honor and Empathy in Triumph and Humiliation

There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant… and I would rather die a thousand deaths.” – Gen Robert E Lee, Appomattox Court House, VA – April 9, 1865

On they come, with the old swinging route step and swaying battle flags. In the van, the proud Confederate ensign. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood; men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?” – Maj Gen Joshua L Chamberlain, after receiving the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Image

   Chamberlain

Chamberlain was clearly moved during the surrender ceremony, causing him to order his men to give the marching salute as the Rebels marched past. Confederate Major General John B Gordon was momentarily stunned, then he and his mount pivoted to face General Chamberlain. Removing his hat,  the General and his horse bowed, as one, before Gordon ordered his men to return the salute. This moment marked the beginning of the healing of our nation, and it is my favorite tidbit from all that is our Civil War. Revolutions, failed or not, do not normally end this way. It ranks as one of the most beautiful moments in our history.

Image

         Gordon

This is a re-blog of a story I wrote four years ago and finally blogged in February of last year.

NO JOY IN TITLETOWN OVER SEATTLE LOSS TO PATRIOTS IN SUPER BOWL XLIX

 

I am a Green Bay Packer fan.  At times, I claim to be the biggest, greatest, most loyal Green Bay Packer fan of all time, even though I know that I’m not.  I don’t have time to be anyone’s biggest fan.  Having been born in 1970, the year the Packers went on a thirty-year hiatus from greatness, I endured the worst years in Packer history, save the 1950’s, and bonded with a team that could seldom finish better than 8-8.  I loved them anyway.

I am a Packer owner.  I own one share of Green Bay Packer stock… an investment which shall never earn me a dividend, unless you count bragging about owning a piece of my team as a dividend.  In this aspect, the purchase has made me rich.  Yes, monetarily, it is a worthless piece of paper.  But Packer owners don’t buy stock in our team for personal financial reasons.  We buy stock in our team because the team has asked us to do so, and because our investment has helped the team survive extinction, bankruptcy, and being forced to disband because our small town market couldn’t keep up with the big market teams.  We buy stock in our team because we love our team.  Most of us will do it again the next time the Packers come calling.

Pack1 pack2

Pack3 pack4

THE PACKER ROOM, MY HOUSE

The NFC championship game that the Packers lost to the Seahawks on January 18, 2015 is still sitting in the bowels of Packer fans like a bad batch of pinto beans.  To have watched your team hold the lead for the entire game, only to give up 15 points in 44 seconds, plunging the game into overtime and then to lose that game in overtime is painful beyond belief.  But that pain isn’t just from the loss.  It isn’t ONLY because that loss kept your team from the Super Bowl and a possible 14th world championship.  The real pain is in the realization that such a loss shall go down in your opponents annals as their greatest win of all time, and that we Packer fans will have to endure the media discussing the game and its miracle outcome for the rest of our lives, much like Cowboy fans have had to endure the endless discussions of the infamous “Ice Bowl.”

Even so, many of the Packer fans I know were pulling for Seattle in the Super Bowl last week, largely because most of them are tired of the Patriots and their decade of success.  That said, a general neutrality fell over the state of Wisconsin during Super Bowl week, and many Packer fans refused to watch the game at all, as the pain was still far too intense to even get close to a football game.

We all know how the Super Bowl ended.  There needs to be no discussion here about play calling or blah, blah, blah.  But in the week since the Seahawks blew their chance at a second straight championship there has been a lot of talk and discussion — especially on social media pages — about karma.

The Cowboys shouldn’t have beaten the Lions; the Packers shouldn’t have beaten the Cowboys; the Seahawks shouldn’t have beaten the Packers; the Patriots shouldn’t have beaten the Seahawks.

Karma was responsible for all of it, evidently.

I’m not much of a “Karma” guy.  Generally, I treat people like I want to be treated, not because I think karma’s gonna get me if I’m an ass.

For a good example of the karma pitch, have a look at this link:

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=861394993899907&pnref=story

I find no comfort, no solace, no endearing emotions whatsoever in Seattle’s Super Bowl loss.  I’m not smirking, feeling smug, or resisting an urge to yell, “In your face!” to the Seattle faithful.  Likewise, I feel no sympathy, no remorse, and certainly no empathy for the Seahawks’ fans.  What is, simply is.

For a true fan of any team of any sport, there is never any real joy in the demise of another team.  Real happiness always comes from your team’s success, not another’s failure.

If there is ANY possible good that comes from the outcome of this football season, it’s that there’s a slight possibility that Packer Nation won’t have to endure Seattle’s version of the “Ice Bowl” quite as often as we would have if they’d have beaten the Patriots.

I doubt it, though.

WORDS

Posted: December 7, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

A picture is worth a thousand words.

More often than not, I’ll take the words.

ENGLISH INDIE BAND DELIVERS DELICIOUS DIVERGENCE

 

It isn’t often that this writer is moved to write about music.  I’m not much for reviewing things in general, and it’s difficult to write anything about the arts without adding a hard critique to the copy.  I’m writing this in the first person… something that most reviewers avoid, if only to distance themselves from the hate that pours out from a fan base when a critique is negative.  Even now, while I’m consumed by the topic I am shifting uncomfortably in my chair.  This will NOT be a review, but rather, an astonished listener’s admittance to being awed by Alt-J’s eclectic library of influences.  I find it amazing and comical that a band can remind me of “The Maccabees” and “Vampire Weekend” at the same time.  I don’t claim to be moved by the band’s message.  I don’t think they’re the greatest thing since ________.  Truthfully, I’m not even sure if I like most of their stuff.  I like most of what I believe has influenced them, however, and it is through comparisons to these other artists that I feel motivated to write about Alt-J.

The local alternative rock station here in southeastern Wisconsin has embraced Alt-J’s single “Left Hand Free,” much as the band had hoped.  “Left Hand Free” is the most mainstream sound on “This is all Yours,” the band’s second major release.  By the band’s own admission, “Left Hand Free” was written solely to be a single, and is “the least Alt-J song ever.”

I like this song a lot and so does my daughter.  Weirdly, my sixteen year old daughter and I share similar music interests, something that I cannot say about my relationship with my own father.  So, the way I see it, I’m either the coolest dad ever or my daughter is strange.  I prefer the former.  “Left Hand Free” caught my ear instantly, and after allowing it to bounce around in my brain for a while I told my daughter about how this song by Alt-J was my newest obsession.  Of course, she already owned the CD and was generous enough to give it up to me for a few days so that I could get more acquainted with the band.

 

alt j live

ALT-J, LIVE

I had expected to hear songs that were comparable to the library of “Muse” or “Imagine Dragons.”  Just a few seconds into “Intro,” however, I thought I was listening to a “Glee” production similar to their cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”  Strange, for sure.  When the song morphed into some sort of abstract “Gregorian Chant” a few minutes in, I knew I was in for a ride.

By the fourth track I had been reminded of The Kingston Trio, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, and early Pink Floyd — mainly the resonance of the “Atom Heart Mother” album.  The bells in the 3rd track “Nara” sang as if Trans Siberian Orchestra was ringing them.  By the eighth track I’d heard The Black Angels, The Killers, Dave Matthews, and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Soft percussion and synthesized leads seem to be the norm for these guys, but changes in cadence and style leave the listener wondering what might be lurking around the corner.  Although I find none of their songs to be hard-driving or catchy – save for “Left Hand Free,” the melodies alone are engaging enough to draw one in.  The lyrics, abstract and murky, are almost goofy to the point of dismissal.  But don’t do it.  There’s deep meaning encoded within them.  “Nara,” for example, articulates the oppression of homosexuals in today’s society.  The singer pleads with his suitor to “Saut dans le vide (leap into the dark), my lover,” imploring him to jump into an unknown future with him. Later, there are references to Republican Party founder Alvan Bovey and the conservative state of Alabama… after which they call out the hosts of the 2014 games in Sochi, pleading with them to “Unpin your butterflies, Russia.”

I don’t find greatness in this album, but I find it in the band.  Their insistence on being complex and transcendent in the face of failure is admirable.  Their ability to write a song for the mainstream, releasing it as a single and having the foresight to calculate their actions for effect, proves they’re smarter than the average bears, putting a song in the ears of the public that can trap a Pooh Bear like honey.

Have a listen.  You might like ’em.  You might hate ’em.  You might think I’m nuts.

 

 

DECORATIVE TOWELS: THE FARCICAL CUSTOM

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Humor

There’s a custom in America, and I suspect a few other countries, to place useful things on a useful space in a useful room and then to issue an edict throughout the house, stating that such things are hereby off-limits, rendering those things useless.

The custom of placing decorative towels on a hook or a rack or upon a shelf next to the dried flowers or above the wicker basket that holds the decorative soaps that we are not allowed to use has been going on for at least three generations, testing the self-discipline of children — and grown men — since the end of the depression.  

decorative towels

Look, but don’t touch… and by God, keep your damn hands off my flower, too.

In my house, such towels often become the magnet for the toothpaste left over after tooth-brushing regimens, the streaks of white or blue evidencing the failed self-discipline of a teenager living under this roof.  I, as a grown man, would certainly never do such a thing.  I always wait until three or nine months of dust has accumulated on my decorative towels before deciding to wash them.  I wouldn’t even think of forcing the issue by wiping the corner of my mouth with one of them.

I’m thinking of installing a second toilet in my bathroom.  It’ll be right along side the other one, but I’ll put a pretty purple bow upon it and then I’ll issue a new house rule:

“No pooping in the decorative toilet.”  

I mean, really… look how beautiful it is.

Photo courtesy of Bestdesignersresources.com

TEARS AND SORROW EMBEDDED IN MYTH AND SONG

 

“Thirteen hundred died that day…

It took ten good men just to dig the graves.”

There’s an old song that tells the legendary tale of an American Civil War battle fought a week after the war’s end.  “Dry Run Creek” has been played perhaps ten thousand times by over a thousand artists,

“They buried them shallow, they buried them deep…

They buried them next to Dry Run Creek.”

The song has long been a favorite of bluegrass fans and civil war enthusiasts alike, but is there any truth behind the lyrics?

“Well, they weren’t just blue and they weren’t just gray,

Death took no sides when it came that day.

They laid them down side by each

They placed no stones at their head or feet.

And their mommas cried…

Oh my Lord, how their mommas cried…”

Dry Run Creek runs through the Ozark Mountains, spurring from the gorgeous Norfolk Lake, which is constantly drawing tourists and fishermen to the town of Mountain Home, Arkansas.  The creek boasts beauty, clarity, and, if you’re mobility impaired or under the age of 16, an amazing trout fishing experience.  What it does not boast is a civil war cemetery with 1300 unmarked graves.

Dry run creek

Dry Run Creek, Arkansas

There is also a Dry Run Creek in Iowa and a “Dry Run Creek Cemetery” in Boise, Idaho.  Need we even discuss these?

The song “Dry Run Creek” is often credited to the McPeak Brothers Band, or, more directly, to bluegrass legend Larry McPeak, one of the original VW Boys.  A fine version of the song, covered by “The Seldom Scene,” can be found here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/search/song?q=The+Seldom+Scene+Dry+Run+Creek

But the McPeak boys were Virginians, not Arkansans… so any motivation for local legend can be ruled out.  Some believe the song’s title is from a combination of the Battles of Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek.

“The war’d been over for about a week

But word hadn’t gotten to Dry Run Creek.

They fought and died right to the end

A battle that should have never been…”

Wherever you might believe the origins of the song came from, the number “1300” should give a clue as to the validity of the story.  Although 1300 is not a high casualty amount for a civil war battle, it would be an extremely high number of killed for a battle fought after the surrender at Appomattox.

By comparison, the battle fought at Palmito Ranch, considered to be the last major engagement of our civil war, is well documented and known by anyone who claims to be a true civil war buff.  It was fought in Cameron County, Texas on May 12th and 13th, 1865, more than a full month after Lee surrendered to Grant in Virginia.

The casualty count at Palmito Ranch?  Four killed, 18 wounded, 104 captured.

Likewise, the Battle of New Orleans is submerged in legend and folklore for being fought more than two weeks after the War of 1812 had ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

How many died during the Battle of New Orleans?  440 or so, depending on your source.

A battle that saw 1300 die would see at least twice that many wounded, another gross or two captured, and if it had been fought after the end of a war it would be forever seared into the minds of generations to come.

Still, it’s a darn good song.

Thank you to my new friend and fellow blogger, David Zethmayr, for inspiring this topic.  You can find his blog here:

http://earfirst.wordpress.com

SOURCES:

Arkansas.com

Bluegrasstoday.com

Grooveshark.com

Ibluegrass.com

Cedarwoodslodge.com

Encyclopedia Britannica

YOUR VENTING RECEPTACLE

Posted: August 9, 2014 in Life

I can be your lightning rod

Life is full of ups and downs, certainly.  Those around us, in the physical world as well as the virtual world, have an uncanny knack for making us feel small.  Sometimes we all need an emotional piggy back ride to get us through an event, a day, an hour, a moment.

trixienirma

Irma the schnauzer, supporting her friend, Trixie

 

What’s got you down today?  Is something eating at you?  Who went and made you feel small?

Go ahead and tell me.  I’ll be your sponge, your receptacle, your lightning rod, your schnauzer.  Go ahead… you may feel better for the effort.