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The oysters that got me obsessing. Thanks, Jamie.

I’m winging it tonight, and, while I feel good about the oysters, the beets are a crapshoot.  I’ve been craving oysters for the last three weeks, as several friends have posted photos on Facebook of brackish bivalve feasts they have enjoyed at home or at restaurants.  Some friends grilled them, and others did raw shooters, and both preparations triggered a Pavlovian reaction in me.  The briny mollusks have been calling to me, and I succumbed to their siren song today with a trip to our local farmers’ market, which features two seafood vendors.  At the first, I found the oysters for which I was longing.  $11 for a dozen is reasonable, but I feared a dozen oysters may not make for a full meal.  As a result, I ended up with a pound each of manila clams and mussels.  The mussels were offered by the second vendor along with fresh salmon and halibut filets.  A pound of mussels went for $4.50, while the halibut was going for $27.  In addition to the taste, another reason I like shellfish is that, as it is considered weird, and even gross, by a significant portion of the population, it tends to be cheaper than the fish that swim.  Being a well-stocked farmers’ market, I also found a lovely loaf of garlic rosemary focaccia bread that will serve nicely as a shellfish residue soaker-upper.

I think it’s going to be a good meal, but I have to figure out how to cook it since it is a grilling night.  The oysters will be easy: shuck ‘em; top them with a bit of melted butter, garlic, and herbage; and grill them on the half shell for about five minutes.  The clams and mussels are less obvious when it comes to the grill.  Most often, I steam them with white wine and garlic on the stove.  I perused a few cookbooks and Google results to see if there were any more direct fire options, but they didn’t offer a lot of good pot sauce for which to make use of the bread.  I think I’ll use my cast iron dutch oven to steam them on the grill.  I won’t get much smokiness infused into the critters, but I’ll make more use of the charcoal fuel.  I’ll also grill corn on the cob, but my wife insists that corn is not a vegetable, so I need to add another side dish.  We try to eat the proverbial well-balanced meal most nights, and while I argue that corn grows in a field and is therefore a vegetable, my bride says it’s a starch.  As I headed to the store to get white wine for the clam and mussel broth, my daughter suggested beets as the veggie.  I don’t recall the last time I ate a beet, but I saw it as another grilling challenge.  I know I’ve had them roasted, which is a methodological cousin to grilling, and Google provided corroboration that it could be done on the grill, so beets will be the vegetable part of the food pyramid tonight.  I’ll check later to find out if beets, as a tuberous bit of vegetation, is considered a starch, but I’m hopeful the novelty of it will pass my wife’s scrutiny.

All that is a preface to make clear that while I am not certain how everything will turn out tonight, I have some idea of what to expect.  I have experience cooking these types of foods in various preparations, and I know how to manage my grill to replicate an oven or stove environment with the added bonus of smoky goodness.  Experience is important, and as anyone who has some will tell you, experience comes from a lot of failure along the way.  Recipes don’t always give you the whole story, and you have to under- or overcook a lot of food before you figure out what went wrong.

I had a poignant reminder of this earlier in the year when we were invited to my in-laws for dinner.  I didn’t know what was planned for the meal, but I knew that whatever it was would be delicious, ready, and set out on the kitchen island for us to fill our plates.  There’s no idle pre-dinner sitting around and chit chatting at their house.  You arrive, get your food, sit at the table, and start eating.  We can talk later.  That’s how my in-laws roll: tasty and efficient dining.  So, imagine my surprise that night as we arrived to find the meal was not ready.  Mom was fretting in the kitchen, worrying over the oven and the roast beast inside.  She told us to relax and watch TV while it cooked, which is great for me, but after an hour of waiting, Mom asked for my assistance.  That’s when I learned that she had been lied to.  She told me the meat in the oven was a small pork shoulder, and the recipe said to cook it at 300º for two hours, at which time it would ready to pull apart and serve as the filling for pork tacos, but according to her instant read thermometer, the pork wasn’t done.  I explained to her that, based on my experience smoking pork shoulders, it would take approximately ten hours at 300º for this one to be ready to pull apart.  Based on the elapsed cooking time thus far, dinner would be served at 2 a.m.  While that would give me ample time to compose a sternly-worded letter to the publication that produced such a faulty recipe, I decided to help her try to salvage the meal.  We cranked up the heat to force the internal temperature of the pork to get up a little bit past raw within an hour, then removed it from the oven.  We cut a few hunks of roasted pork from the outer edge of the slab and diced them for use in the tacos, but as we didn’t have enough protein to feed the assembled masses, we cut up some of the rare bits and (the horror, the horror) microwaved them until any trichinosis was irradiated.  The tacos were not good.  The tortillas, salsa, and other fillings were fresh and flavorful, but the pork was a disaster born of a bad recipe and inexperience.  I do not blame my mother-in-law.  She was following the instructions carefully, but those instructions were provided by someone who has quite possibly caused thousands of Americans who read the same recipe magazine to eat raw pork tacos.  Mom learned a valuable lesson about how to cook a pork shoulder that night.  That lesson being: Let Todd do it.  I’m always happy to help.

I hope you are all enjoying tasty and safe grilled, or roasted or, gasp, even microwaved meals this evening.  I wish you all the best of luck in your culinary endeavors.  Cheers!

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Eclipsing Happiness

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Maybe I should spend some time in that Mindfulness Room I wrote about last week, as I’m not suffering from an overabundance of happiness at the moment.  A recent series of annoyances has been nagging at me.  For example, the expensive treadmill I built and blogged about broke down a couple weeks ago.  The main console that controls the machine burned out and had to be replaced.  While the manufacturer shipped a new console at no cost, installing it required disassembling a significant portion of the treadmill, which necessitated following the hieroglyphic-like assembly instructions in reverse order.  A degree in electronic engineering would have been helpful, too.

Our wifi router also needed to be replaced in order to maintain family harmony.  The intermittent Internet service we had been experiencing was putting a strain on our ability to focus attention on our respective devices, and my son groaned each time he was forced to put down his phone and interact with his family.  Since those interactions were largely based on inquiries as to when we would get the router fixed, my wife took it upon herself to visit the local Comcast outlet.  The Comcasters offered her the opportunity to upgrade to their fancy xfinity wireless Internet and cable TV package at no extra cost.  That appeared to be a good deal until the installer came to our house and was unable to locate the cable splitter that he needed to tinker with.  The splitter is typically found behind an outlet cover on a wall in or near the garage.  In our house, the splitter is located somewhere behind several thousand feet of drywall.  We don’t know exactly where, because the drywall contractor didn’t cut an access hole for the splitter.  The cable installer made a few educated guesses about where it might be located, but the three holes he cut in our garage wall failed to reveal the location.  In the end, we have improved wifi service, but our cable TV is still operating on a sixteen-year-old splitter that won’t be replaced unless I succumb to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and cut a hole every sixteen inches along the walls of my home until I find it.  I doubt that would improve my mood.

My car insurance just doubled as a result of the fender-bender accident I wrote about previously, I decided I just don’t have it in me to run a marathon this year, my job continues to be a source of frustration, the country seems to be coming apart at the seams, and there is a total solar eclipse tomorrow, which could be a harbinger of doom, if the ancient Mayas are to be believed.  I know this litany of woe, aside from the eclipse, epitomizes “first world problems,” but they’re getting under my skin, so I’m going to try to solve them with a “first world solution”: a TED Talk.

I love TED Talks, and I recently watched Shawn Achor’s TED Talk called “The Happy Secret to Better Work” in which he posits the merits of positive psychology.  I could have dismissed the subject matter as being a bit too light and fluffy to be taken seriously, but Mr. Achor’s presentation was hilarious.  He is a skilled comedian with perfect timing, and laughter is a potent medicine for me.  I was still giggling as I wrote down his five steps to more happiness:

  1. Three Gratitudes – Write down three new things for which you are grateful each day.
  2. Journaling – Write about a positive experience you had today.
  3. Exercise – Get regular exercise.
  4. Meditation – There’s that mindfulness thing again.
  5. Random Acts of Kindness – Do something nice, such as sending a complimentary email, for someone.

I’m supposed to do those five things every day for 21 days in order to experience an improvement in my overall happiness, so I’ll start today.  I’m thinking this post counts for the journaling part.  I hope I can get exercise credit for the eight miles I ran yesterday, but I suppose I could do a few pull-ups, too.  I’ll work on the meditation and random act of kindness later, but, for now, here are my three gratitudes:

  • I’m grateful that I got a discounted entry into the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon.  I may not be up for a full marathon, but I can run a half and doing it for $25 is a bargain.
  • I’m grateful that I got to sit in front of a bonfire with my daughter last night and listen to stand-up comedians on her phone, streaming through our improved wifi service.
  • I’m grateful that my first world problems are the only ones I have at the moment.  Truly grateful.

If we all get through the eclipse tomorrow, and the earth doesn’t split open thereby releasing jaguars that will eat most of the people (as the Maya Lacandón people predicted), I encourage you to join me on this happiness journey.  If nothing else, you’ll get a little exercise and make some people feel good because of your random acts of kindness.  That’s probably a better approach than getting angry at the plethora of idiots on your fancy cable TV.

The Eightfold Path to Organizational Effectiveness

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I work in a five story office building, six if you include the basement.  There are close to 2,000 employees occupying the space each day.  Overall, it’s a cubicle farm, with rows of four to six foot high walls portioning out each employee’s workspace.  Since the building opened in 1992, there have been a few efforts to rearrange the space, but they have most often been about making more space for more people.  I was involved in one such effort in which dozens of work stations were moved eighteen inches to the left in order to make room for another row of cubicles.  We all had to box up our belongings so the facilities staff could make the change.  While moving to a new workstation can be stressful, or even exciting, most of us felt only a mild pang of annoyance at “scooching over” to make room on the metaphorical couch.

Recently, there have been efforts to create a “modern work environment.” According to the website promoting it, “Building a Modern Work Environment is about trying new ideas — thinking outside the cubicle — and creating an effective, efficient workplace that best suits the important work we do.”  In our agency, those efforts have been inconsistent and not universally embraced.  “Modern” amenities get added on, like fashion accessories, but the comfortable clothes underneath don’t vary much.  Our organization’s rate of culture change is glacial, even receding as new ideas calve off the face of innovation.

Some of the changes are cosmetic, such as the fancy digital signboards stationed in elevator lobbies, in place of paper flipchart easels, designed to communicate information about upcoming events or share important reminders with flashy graphics.  As employees rush by on their way back to their cozy cubicle, the signboards are little more than brightly lit subliminal message generators.  Hopefully the folks that create the messages are using their powers for good and not promoting Orwellian tenets.

Some changes are about where you do your work and with who (or whom, I can never remember that grammar rule).  Telework is being promoted and, recently, we adopted a “infants at work” policy, which allows new parents to bring their six week to six month old babies to the office, helping ease the transition from p/maternity leave to full-time work.  I thought it was a great idea and was surprised to hear criticism coming from several female colleagues.  I can see their point: if the baby is a colicky mess, no one will be happy, and if it’s a real cutie, cooing all day long, the work group might not be able to focus on their work in favor of waiting for their turn to hold the wee one.  As I recall, though, babies sleep for a significant portion of their first six months, so I think it will work out.

To be clear, I’m supportive of the “modern work environment” concept.  I’ve even gotten into the swing of it with my office.  A colleague and I decided we could share it, so we had her desk moved in to my space.  We worked well together, and sharing the office provided an opportunity to collaborate, just like the proverbial brochure advertised. However, she got a promotion and moved out, so now I just have a big office with two desks.  One of my employees, who works in another city visits every so often, but he isn’t paying the rent, so I’m accepting applicants for a full-time roommate.

The most recent addition to our modern work environment is the Mindfulness Room.  It’s on the third floor, behind a closed door.  I went through the door on Friday, and found a dimly lit space that looked a bit like a waiting room.  That is, a wading room near the ocean, as the only sound is a recording of waves lapping against a shore. There were several padded chairs next two tables.  A young man was sitting in one of the chairs reading.  To the right, I saw a folding screen room divider that partitioned the space.  When I walked behind the screen, I found two rows of three soft vinyl lounge chairs.  It looked a bit like a mass-production therapy lounge.  There were no psychiatrists, but the chairs were such that you are forced to lay down more than sit up.  I tried reclining in one of them, but it was almost painful to relax enough to allow my head to lay back on the chair.  Clearly, I wasn’t ready for this level of mindfulness.  I’m not accustomed to laying down at work.  It’s almost never on my to-do list.

There was another folding screen, and behind it was a third, more intriguing space.  Here, in this inner sanctum, the sound of waves was gone, the lights were even lower, and the space was deeply serene.  There were no chairs at all, just eight large square cushions, each topped with a smaller pillow, arranged in a circle on the floor.  My first thought was that there was not enough room for eight people to lay down with their heads on the pillows, unless they were a very cuddly group, which is discouraged in most workplaces.  Upon reflection, I suppose the pillows are intended for use as cushions to sit on and practice meditation, but it looks like nap time in a kindergarten class.

The idea of the Mindfulness Room is a quiet space where people can go and find some stress relief.  It’s a widely studied and highly regarded approach to stress reduction.  It’s legit, and I believe in the psychological science of it, but I had a lot of questions: Do you need permission from your supervisor to go there?  How long can you stay?  Our official breaks are fifteen minutes.  Would it be rude to set a timer?  Alarms and mindfulness seem contradictory.

I’m not sure I’m ready to explore my mindfulness at the office.  Personally, I would be very self-conscious – and not in the good Buddhist way – about going into a quiet room to pursue mindfulness.  Perhaps it’s my own shortcoming that I am uncomfortable with the possible stigma associated with it, but I don’t want to lie on a couch or the floor at work.  I confess I did it for a few weeks as part of a weekly yoga class, but I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, making it feel like a workout, which it was.  Perhaps that implies I’m more a proponent of Hiduism than Buddhism, but I assure you, I was in it for the fitness.

I know John Kabat-Zinn – the chief proponent of mindfulness – has tried to separate the practice from Buddhism, but I like source material.  My first encounter with the concept of mindfulness came via my study of Buddhism and the Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment.  Right mindfulness is one of the paths.  I am a fan of Buddhism – at least on paper. Like any religion, there are problems in practice and politics.  Buddhists have done some terrible things, too. But the spirituality of it, the search for truth and meaning, is valid and beautiful.  However, I know that right mindfulness is just one of seven other paths to enlightenment.  Specifically, right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, and right “samadhi” (I.e., meditative absorption).  I like to think, as public servants, we’ve got the right livelihood part down, but I’m not sure we’re ready for right mindfulness until we get a bit better at the speech and conduct.  Spending a few minutes being mindful doesn’t make the bad behavior of co-workers and crappy bosses go away.

While I won’t be visiting the Mindfulness Room too often, I will reserve judgment for those who find value in it.  Good for them, being who they are, liking what they like, and doing cool stuff.  Personally, I’ll keep my meditation upright and at home.  And I will work on the other paths, too, and I don’t mind being more public about them.  Considering the abhorrent speech, conduct, effort, and resolve shown by the racists who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, I have no intention of sitting quietly and allowing that sort of hate to go unchallenged.  Life is too short.  Be well, my friends, and take care of each other.  We are all in this together.

Road Trip, Part 2 – On the Road Again

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Two weeks on the road.  Officially, my wife and I were taking our son on a tour of college campuses so he can make an informed decision about his post-high school education.  Unofficially, I was pretending to be a roadie for a metal band touring the American West.  Each time we rolled into a new town, my son and I would “load in” our gear for the “gig.”  Our gear was luggage, the venues were hotels, and our gigs were dinners at some local restaurant.  No one in my family is a musician, so I had to settle for the road crew aspect of my heavy metal fantasy.  We enhanced the realism by packing heavy, so loading up the luggage cart was not unlike hauling stacks of Marshall amps into a club.  In twelve days, we covered five states, eight cities, and 3,500 miles.  The rock star life.

Our first stop was Medford, Oregon, and our first gig was at a pizza place with a Grateful Dead theme, album covers serving as decor.  While there’s nothing metal about the Dead, they were a band known for life on the road, so the fantasy held up.  Medford was little more than a refueling stop, which, by the way, I hate doing in Oregon, where drivers are forbidden from pumping their own gas.  I knew this going in, but I still find it unsettling.  I can only imagine the confrontations that must happen when drivers, unfamiliar with Oregon’s anti-self service fiat, try to grab a gas pump handle.  Viva la Revolucion!

The next stop was Santa Cruz, which, on the whole, was also Grateful Dead-themed.  We visited the famous boardwalk that my son dubbed “The Forever Carnival,” which was not a term of endearment.  He’s not a fan of large crowds.  Our true purpose for being there was to get a tour of the University of California, Santa Cruz.  UCSC is in the woods, and it looked as much like a challenge course as a college campus.  We thought zip lines might be helpful to get across the grounds.  Then again, my son and I are afraid of heights, so we were content to walk.

From Santa Cruz, we headed south towards Pasadena and CalTech.  Halfway there, my brother-in-law, who was stalking us with the “Find My Friends” app, texted us to roll up our windows and turn on the van’s air re-circulator when we got to Coalinga.  He wouldn’t explain why, but as we crossed State Route 198 on I-5, we saw Harris Ranch, the largest beef ranch on the West Coast, producing 150,000,000 pounds of beef each year.  We decided to find out just how dire the warning was, so I opened my window for a moment.  The stench was palpable, as if a cow had climbed in to our van and relieved itself.  It was a good five minutes before we could breathe freely again.

We spent three days in the Greater Los Angeles area and enjoyed seeing the CalTech campus.  For fans of The Big Bang Theory, CalTech is where Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard work.  Of note, the tour guide made no mention of the show, which I thought would be a selling point.  Then again, kids who are qualified to attend CalTech are smart enough to know that those are actors and, no, we couldn’t go visit their offices.  Later, we had dinner with my favorite groupies, which I wrote about previously (Thanks for dinner, Mike and Lisa!).  We also visited The Getty Museum, and my son made sure we saw every objet d’art on display.  He was under the impression we needed to get our money’s worth despite the museum not charging an entry fee.  I’m glad for his determination, though, as he ensured we saw the Impressionist gallery which we almost skipped after four hours of art appreciation. Van Gogh’s Irises and Monet’s Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning are sustaining, like a good Motorhead album.  Speaking of Motorhead, we visited Lemmy’s favorite bar, The Rainbow, after a day at the museum (which I also wrote about previously).  The only downside of our visit to L.A. was the hotel room’s coffee maker.  While I am caffeine free these days, I do still enjoy a morning cup of joe, but it was not to be.  The coffee maker was a constipated, asthmatic machine that spit hot water rather than percolate.  First world problems of the highest order.

After L.A., we traveled to Chandler, Arizona, where we reunited with former neighbors who had moved away eleven years ago.  Thanks to Facebook, we remained in contact, but we hadn’t been in the same room for all those years.  We talked about our kids and reminisced in a Thai restaurant until the evening cooled down to a comfy 95 degrees.  We didn’t visit any schools in Arizona, which is fine as my son functions optimally between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Thanks for dinner, Shae and Perry!)

From Chandler, we headed to the Grand Canyon, which, quite simply, was.  I won’t try to describe it.  I have decided that if photographs can’t do it justice, my vocabulary won’t fare any better.  Put it on your bucket list.  While my son and I had to confront our fear of heights head on, we persevered and looked across and down into the massive expanse.  It was breathtaking, and not just because of the 7,000 feet of altitude.  From there, we headed north to Kanab, Utah, and the drive was the most beautiful 200 miles I have ever experienced.  Between the Grand Canyon and the subsequent scenic drive, I had to recalibrate my definition of awesome.  I vow to use the word sparingly henceforth, as I have now seen its reference standard.

We arrived in Kanab as the sun was setting, and after loading into the hotel room, we crossed the street for dinner at the Iron Horse Restaurant and Saloon.  The waitress led us to a table in the all wood interior of the restaurant, which was my mind’s eye image of a Texas roadhouse.  We ordered drinks as two perfomers were wrapping up their set of country music, leading the crowd in a singalong of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”  Even a grizzled metal head like me can’t resist crooning along to that song, especially with a beer in hand after six hours on the road.  We were weary travelers, and we wallowed in the moment.

The next morning, we were back on the road towards Draper, Utah, where we would have dinner with my nephew and his family.  Along the way, we stopped at Bryce Canyon.  We ignored National Park Service warnings not to drive into the park due to limited parking options and still managed to stop at two of the view points.  Bryce is quite different from the Grand Canyon, but spectacular in its own right.  I would like to see more of these large holes in the ground.

Arriving in Draper, the GPS led us to the gate of the state correctional facility. It would probably be a cheap place to stay, but checking out is tricky.  We, thanks to Lynn’s sense of direction, made it to the hotel by dead reckoning towards a building which had a hotelish quality, even though it was largely unmarked.  The city of Draper was, apparently, built yesterday.  The streets were unfamiliar to GPS, and the hotel was shiny and new.  Even the sheets were scratchy in a never-been-washed way.  Hopefully they had never been slept in, either.

We visited family in nearby Herriman, including my two nephews, their wife and girlfriend (respectively), my niece-in-law’s parents, and my rambunctious grandniece and grandnephew, who serve as titular reminders that I’m getting older.  It was  fun evening, and our third free meal of the trip (thanks, Waltons!).  Technically, dinner came at a cost, as we helped assemble the trampoline given to my grandniece for her 4th birthday.  Then again, we volunteered for the job.  Driving through these suburbs of Salt Lake City, my wife noted that, with all due respect, churches in that area are like Starbucks in Seattle: ubiquitous.

Next stop: Boise, Idaho, where we had dinner at the Boise Fry Company, featuring gourmet french fries made from your choice of six types of potatoes cut five different ways and dozens of gourmet salts and dipping sauces.  They offer burgers as a side dish, and they are delicious.  Before even having visited the campus, my son was pretty sure he wanted to go to Boise State University so he could eat at Boise Fry Company every day.

From Boise, we headed back to Washington to visit Whitman College in Walla Walla.  It’s a small liberal arts school, and while my son liked what they had to offer, I was ready to enroll.  I fell in love with the campus and curriculum, and I found myself getting sentimental for my undergraduate years at the University of Puget Sound.  Walla Walla itself is a lovely town, and thriving thanks to the booming wine industry in the region.  We will return one day, regardless of my son’s final decision, to again partake of the Walla Walla Bread Company’s fare.

Our last stop on the 2017 College Tour was Washington State University in Pullman.  After the campus tour, we had a chance to meet with the head of the Physics department, who was most certainly not following the Admissions Office “How to Successfully Recruit” script.  He offered a brutally honest litany of reasons why WSU might not be the right school for anyone who wants to study Astrophysics, including the Washington State Legislature’s directive that public universities feature a “breadth” of education, rather than a focus in one discipline.  As he put it, my son would have to take a bunch of classes that are irrelevant, which I inferred were the liberal arts classes my wife and I got degrees in (not much offense taken), and he would be surrounded by other freshmen who didn’t “share his commitment to learning,” which, by his tone, I inferred to mean “morons.” He was successful in reducing my son’s list of college options by one.  WSU had one endearing feature: Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe, which is the storefront for the university’s creamery.  We each enjoyed a large cone of “concupiscent curds”* before heading west to our home in Olympia.

Twelve days on the road can be disastrous for a band, but our troubles were few.  Aside from the fact that all of us snore and thereby disrupted one another’s sleep each night, the scariest thing that happened was when the “Check Engine” light illuminated as we approached the Grand Canyon.  Rather than ignore it, as is always my default approach to problems, we retreated to a service station to have it checked.  While I raised the hood to allow the mechanic access to the engine, he climbed into the driver’s seat next to my wife and plugged a diagnostic device in beneath the dashboard.  His automotive stethoscope indicated that my Honda’s heart was beating appropriately, and he reassured us that, with no other symptoms presenting, it was probably a faulty sensor.  Of course, this only reinforced my faith in the “ignore it” philosophy.

The tour was great, but I dreaded returning home and being asked by friends whether we had seen “must see” sights and visited “must go” places along the way.  Aside from what I described above, we did not see it or do it.  We were driving most days, and, most days, the drive was six hours long.  I had imagined doing some writing on this trip, but it was not to be.  Aside from driving, eating dinner, and visiting college campuses, we didn’t do much at all.

You might think, with all those hours on the road, I would, at least, have time to reflect on life’s big questions, but, the most profound realization I had was to discover why I always assume I am traveling in a northerly direction.  It occurred to me that the GPS app on my phone always shows the vehicle traveling “up,” which, of course, means north when looking at a map.  It was perhaps not a true epiphany, but, as I said, I wasn’t delving deeply into the mysteries of the universe.  That will be my son’s job once he gets his degree in Astrophysics.  Mostly, I reflected on the road I was on: the odometer, the signage, and the geology along the way.  It focused my thinking, which was a pleasant distraction from troubles and woes of work life.

I did manage a few observations along the way, including:

  • Seeing 3,500 miles of new landscapes was a gift.
  • Singing “On the Road Again” with Willie Nelson (on the radio) 2,000 miles into the drive is perfection.
  • There are no better tasting beers than the ones that come after six-plus hours of driving.
  • FaceTiming on the phone with our daughter, and the dog, each night – since they were unable to join us – was a technological blessing.
  • Spending time with my wife and son was wonderful, even with the snoring.

I may not ever be a heavy metal rockstar, but I’ll always remember this tour with my fellow roadies.  I love you.

Road Trip, Part 1 – No One Like You

Apologies for the dearth of posts over the last few weeks, but I just got back from twelve days, and 3,500 miles, on the road with my wife and 17-year-old son visiting college campuses.  He is interested in pursuing a degree in astrophysics after graduating high school, and as we drove to California so he could ponder higher-ed  options, I pondered how a studio art major (my wife) and literature major (me) managed to produce an astrophysicist.  I have nothing against studying the nature and structure of the universe, but it requires more math than the tip calculator on my phone is capable of, so I’ll stick with poetry.  On that long drive south, I also reflected on my 30 year high school reunion that took place three weeks ago in Juneau, Alaska.  As regular readers know, I did not attend. Rather than join the festivities, I wrote a blog post about it, expressing my apprehension about reuniting with people I haven’t seen in 30 years.

I posted the article on the Facebook group page set up for the reunion, and the response was profound and humbling.  In sheer numbers, it was the most viewed post I’ve published.  Yes, I admit it, I monitor my post page view statistics…obsessively.  Since I’ve gone to the trouble to put my thoughts out into the world, I like to know how many people read them, and I do get an emotional boost when the numbers tick up.  I had hoped that I could measure my writing success based on book sales, but that’s proven to be an elusive measure.  For example, my last royalty check was for fourteen cents, which makes it clear I’m not in a position to quit my day job.  As a result, I watch the blog stats and pay attention to how many “likes” the linked posts get on Facebook, which is the only available proxy measure as to whether readers enjoy them.  With each new thumbs up or heart icon that floats across my screen, I get a little thrill.  I realize a “like” on a Facebook post is no measure of a person’s worth, but the numbers are often all I have to gauge the audience’s reaction to my writing.  I guess, as I mentioned in that reunion post, I’m still a bit intensely desperate.  Unlike the heavy metal bands I love, who get to hear the cheers from their fans every time they take the stage, I don’t get a lot of direct feedback on my writing.

I recognize I had a somewhat captive audience for that post.  When a couple hundred old friends get together and are given the opportunity to read what amounts to an occasional poem about them on the Internet, odds are good they will read it, so the numbers themselves are anomalous.  But it wasn’t the numbers that touched me, it was the comments.  Dozens of my classmates, many of whom also did not attend the reunion, expressed appreciation for what I had written.  Some said I had captured their feelings, including the fear and guilt they had about reuniting with the JDHS Class of ’87, and they felt better knowing they weren’t alone.  I was told that a friend read the post aloud to the attendees, eliciting laughter and tears.  It was a surprising response, as I had not written the post thinking this is what’s on everybody’s mind.  I just wrote my usual self-deprecating observations, and it resonated.  For that, I am grateful.  It was a rock star moment for me.

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The icing on the rock star cake came at dinner in Pasadena after visiting the CalTech campus, when I met with my very own groupie.  Three years ago, a guy named Mike had found my book, Metal Fatigue, and tracked me down on Facebook via his wife Lisa’s account to tell me how much he liked it.  We have been Facebook friends ever since, but this was our first chance to meet in person.  At the heavy metal-themed restaurant Grill ‘Em All, we enjoyed obnoxiously constructed burgers.  I chose the “Jump in the Fryer” – featuring waffle buns, cheeseburger, fried chicken, bacon, maple syrup, and sriracha – because us rock stars are all about excess.  I felt some relief that Mike wasn’t a serial killer who had been plotting my demise for years.  It turns out he is a city attorney, but my son was skeptical.  After all, he mused, the best serial killers seem like respectable people. Ted Bundy was a lawyer, you’ll recall.  Of course, we survived the evening unscathed, and I thanked Mike for tracking me down.  Lisa presented me their copy of my book along with a Sharpie marker so I could autograph it.  My ego was having a good run.

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I thought a lot about gratitude and thankfulness that night.  I am so grateful that my writing has had a positive effect on people, and I relished the opportunity to thank Mike and Lisa for reaching out to me.  I’m not sure Noah Webster would agree, but I think gratitude is about appreciating what you have and thankfulness is about expressing your appreciation.  That was on my mind the next day when I walked into the Rainbow Bar & Grill in Los Angeles.  After a day at the Getty Museum, I made my fellow travelers follow me to the Sunset Strip so I could visit the Rainbow where one of my metal idols, Lemmy of Motorhead, spent his time when not in a recording studio or on the road.  Lemmy died a year and a half ago, and it broke my heart.  A bronze statue in his honor is placed at the back of the lounge, and I posed for a requisite selfie.  I didn’t think it would help my husband and father credibility to sit in a seedy bar drinking Jack and Cokes for two hours while my wife and under-21 son waited in the alley, so I quickly took the picture and turned to leave the bar.  I only made it one step before I saw Lemmy’s unoccupied barstool and the digital poker machine he played sitting on the bar.  A rush of sadness hit me, as I realized if I had been here just two years ago, I could have walked into the Rainbow Bar & Grill, strolled to the end of the bar, and thanked Lemmy in person for his music, for being an important part of my life.  I might have even gotten a selfie with him.  I missed that chance, and I feel sorry for myself, but I also feel sorry that Lemmy didn’t get to hear a thank you from another fan.  Of course, he heard a lot of thank yous in his life.  Every time he took the stage, he would hear the screams of appreciative metal heads, but I think each of us needs all the thank yous we can get.  Life is hard and short enough without them.

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I am grateful that I have this outlet to put myself into the world a bit more publicly and for the kind words Mike, Lisa, and the Class of ’87 shared with me.  I am deeply moved that others are thankful for what I’ve written. It is as special a gift as any I have received to be told that my words made a difference.  I encourage you to reach out and thank an artist, painter, writer, dancer, singer, musician, teacher, friend, parent, or mentor who has inspired, supported, or moved you in some way.  They will love to hear it.

P.S., Mike, don’t forget to do your heavy metal research on the early bands.  I’ve provided a list of essential albums for you starting on page 228 of Metal Fatigue.  I expect a full report the next time we meet. Go Dawgs!

P.P.S, The title of the post is a reference to the Scorpions song of the same name. The night before I left on the road trip, I saw a Scorpions tribute band perform, and they were amazing. Thank you, Second Sting, for rocking me like a hurricane.

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On the Road Again

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I’m on vacation.  I’m on Day 3, each of which has featured a six-hour plus drive.  Tonight, I’m in Pasadena with the family.  We are on a college campus tour road trip for my soon-to-be-a-high-school-senior-with-aspirations-of-being-an-astrophysics-major-son.  I’m thinking about his impending graduation while at the same time reflecting on my last post about my 30 year high school reunion.  I’m still processing the impact that post had on my classmates: those who attended the reunion, and those who didn’t.  It’s been an emotional ten days reconnecting, via Facebook messages, with old friends.  Tears have been shed, mine and theirs.  I will have something to say about it, but for now, as the chauffeur on this sojourn through the western states, I don’t have a lot of time to write.  Instead – in laziness – I offer this post about last year’s road trip with my daughter (link is below).  Cheers, friends!

https://anddocoolstuff.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/may-the-road-rise-with-you/

When We Were Kings

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I’m feeling emotional as I sit here at home in Olympia, Washington, while my 30th high school reunion is happening in Juneau, Alaska. I never had any great longing to attend a high school reunion, but now that it’s underway, I feel some regret that I’m not there.

I loved high school, despite the fact I never had a girlfriend. I once received a bit of feedback suggesting I may have tried too hard and thereby came across as intensely desperate, which, apparently, is not what your average teenage girl is looking for. I didn’t let a dearth of romantic entanglements prevent me from enjoying all that my senior year had to offer, including the prom. At the time, it was generally understood that the prom was for couples, so I asked an acquaintance named Angela who was equally interested in attending and equally single. I had a great time, and I think she did, too, aside from the pre-prom dinner we had at the fancy Gold Room restaurant in the Baranof Hotel. I ordered escargot because I appreciate it as a garlic and butter delivery system, but I didn’t insist that Angela try it. Of her own volition, she bravely downed one of the mollusks and excused herself to the restroom. My romantic resume wasn’t helped by that incident: Intensely desperate and makes girls sick. Despite what you may think, I wasn’t afraid of seeing Angela at the reunion. I was, however, a little afraid to see a girl named Dawn, who I once slow-danced with but was so nervous that I shook involuntarily, which, to be clear, was embarrassing. Intensely desperate, makes girls sick, and tremors. What’s not to love?

The last time I gathered with a significant number of my high school friends was towards the end of the summer after our senior year. We took skiffs and motored to Eagle Beach, outside of town, to camp overnight and toast each other’s greatness as we embarked on our next respective post-high school adventures. I did my part, convincing my mom to contribute to the delinquency of minors and buy the beer for us, but somebody blew it in the food department. Our menu for the evening consisted of Rainier Beer, corn chips, hot dog buns, eggs, and Swisher Sweet cigars. We tried to overcome the lack of meat by going fishing but were unable to stop laughing and singing, which is not what your average salmon is looking for. It was an epic night.

I should have been eager to recapture a bit of the magic from those days when we were kings, but I was anxious about the reunion. After I moved away, I lost touch with most of those friends, and I feel guilty about it. Who was I to think I could just walk back into the room thirty years later and expect them to be interested in me. I dreaded the thought of hearing (or saying), “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember you.” I like to think I keep my self-loathing to a minimum, but it is there.

Someone created a Facebook group for the reunion, and over the last two days, I’ve been looking at the pictures my old classmates have been posting. It’s hard to recognize the 48-year olds that had been my fellow Crimson Bears, and I’m sure they would say the same about me. Life and time has a way of changing our appearance. While we all look more seasoned, they all look great, and I cracked many smiles as I perused the group selfies.

One of the pictures was of a small memorial that had been set up at the reunion dinner: a display of yearbook photos of classmates who died. I saw the picture of my friend Tony, who died in a car wreck when I was a sophomore in college. In my second book, I wrote about Tony and me sneaking into his older brother’s room to look at his copy of KISS’s Alive album, which was forbidden fruit. We didn’t even listen to it, as it would be too dangerous. Tony was a good friend, and his death hit me hard, but the blow has softened over the years.

It was the photo of Brian Fisher on that display that punched me in the gut. Brian was not a close friend in high school as he was a “stoner,” and I was not. I have nothing against people who smoke marijuana, but, as an asthmatic, smoking anything was a bad idea for me. Brian was also a fan of metal music, and that was where we connected. I was becoming a serious metal head in my high school years, but I didn’t have a lot of information. I knew the popular hard rock and metal bands of the time – AC/DC, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, etc. – because I could see them on MTV and hear them on the radio, but I wanted to know more. I read about bands in Circus and Hit Parader magazine that sounded exciting and dangerous – Celtic Frost, Slayer, Agent Steel, Venom – but I had no way to hear their music. They weren’t on the airwaves, and they weren’t for sale in our local record stores. How did we survive before YouTube and Spotify? Brian was a potential source for this darker side of metal. In my junior year, I acquired a copy of Metal Church’s album The Dark, and it quickly became a favorite. I thought it was pretty extreme stuff, so I asked Brian if he had heard it. He was familiar with it and thought it was o.k. While he was not especially impressed with my awareness of Metal Church, it at least provided evidence that I was serious in my interest. A few days later, he brought an album to class for me to borrow. It was one of his favorites, and he thought I needed to hear it: a live album by the English band Venom, called French Assault. I was nervous and excited when I got home and put it on the turntable. I knew Venom was considered a satanic band, and I feared for my immortal soul, but I was finally going to hear the hard stuff, true metal. The recording was rough, and, to be honest, I hated it. It was just noise to my ears. It would take a few years before I found my way back to Venom by way of my college friend Sean, but I’ve always given credit to Brian for making the introduction even if it was a bad first impression. Brian had touched my metal nerve and encouraged me to explore the extreme side. It’s a path I’ve never regretted taking. Thanks, Brian. We didn’t know each other well, but I have always thought of you as my original brother in metal. RIP, my friend. \m/

To my other Juneau Douglas High School Class of ’87 classmates, I’m sorry I’m missing the party just because I felt guilty about my 30 year absence. Whether we knew each other well, we were part of each other’s lives. Thank you for the part you played in mine. I wouldn’t be who I am without you. We grew up together and became a royal family of kings and queens in 1987, ready to take on the world. I hope you enjoy the party tonight, and I hope the rain is soft enough tomorrow for you to gather around a bonfire on Sandy Beach, raise cans of Raindog and sing “Never Say Goodbye,”the Bon Jovi ballad that served as the theme of our senior prom. Bon Jovi isn’t quite metal enough for Brian and me, but it’s our class song. It’s probably a good thing I’m not there for that. Can you imagine if Dawn wanted to dance with me for old times sake? Intensely desperate, makes girls sick, tremors, and gray hair. The complete package. I’m so grateful that my wife puts up with me.

And Bucat, I’m going to drink a Rainier in your honor tonight, you beast! Cheers, Class of ’87. Go Bears!

P.S., For those readers who aren’t from Juneau, I should explain that I’m not in that picture up there at the top. I’m in this one, from prom night.  No, I’m not high.  Just intensely desperate.

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Zen and the Art of Bookshelf Maintenance

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I stared at my bookshelf this morning, trying to figure out which of the tomes stored there is my favorite.  A friend asked me that question Friday night, and it’s been rambling around in my head since.  My first response was The Sea Wolf by Jack London.  It was the first “classic” novel of adult literature I had read, and I loved the action, moral struggle, and overwrought language.  I wasn’t entirely comfortable declaring it as my favorite, though, as I don’t think The Sea Wolf is particularly well written – everyone’s a critic – but it set me on a path to read more great books.  After spending the first two years of college actively avoiding a specific course of study by taking every class that piqued my interest, I settled on a major in Literature.  It was the closest thing I could find to getting a degree in Everything.  As a result, I have a significant inventory of books from which to select my favorite.

There is irony in that while I have a degree in literature, I don’t like to read.  More specifically, I don’t like starting to read, and I will go to some lengths to avoid it.  Starting a book means I will have to finish it, and that can take a lot of time.  I dread spending long stretches not watching TV, so I tend to put off reading.  Despite my reservations, and laziness, I have read a lot.

I read many novels in pursuit of my bachelor’s degree, but I preferred poetry.  Poems are almost always shorter than novels, which appeals to my inherent laziness.  My favorite poet is Wallace Stevens.  Some of his poems are quite long, and I find them tiresome.  I prefer his shorter works, and I went so far as to argue in my senior thesis that Stevens’ epic poems were failures in their attempt to elucidate truth simply because he talked too much.  I’m still not sure if I believe that, or if I was just making an excuse to not have to read the long ones.  Stevens’ The Palm at the End of the Mind is my favorite book of poetry, but I presume when someone asks a literature major about his favorite book, they are expecting it to be a novel.

It’s hard to pick a favorite novel since, for the most part, I’ve read each one only once.  I’m not a re-reader.  My memory is such that I’m unable to recall storyline details no matter how many times I read them.  I am well read but not well remembered, and I would lose a trivia contest about plot points so badly that you would doubt whether I had, in fact, read anything at all.

Based on what I could recall about each book, as I ran my eyes over the shelves, I noted a few nominees for favorite:

  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier was the first book I read that didn’t have a happy ending, which is mind-boggling when you’re a fifteen-year-old, living a somewhat sheltered middle class life.
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton was the first time I experienced the truth that the book is almost always better than the movie.  The movie is good, though, and I recommend it if you are similarly reluctant to crack the spine on a book.
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse eloquently captured the spiritual longing I felt in college.  I had studied many sacred texts of world religions, but Hesse brought the quest for truth to life.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac felt like reading a song.  I had never before so enjoyed the simple act of reading words on a page.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain was the first novel that made me laugh out loud.
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein inspired me to believe that even the most humble of us can achieve great things.  I read the epic tale at a moment in my life when my career took a new direction, and I identified with Samwise as he followed Frodo into Mordor to save the world.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig made me want to be a writer.  I could never write with the elegance of Hesse or the music of Kerouac, but I could obsess over small details like Pirsig.
  • The Year the Cloud Fell by Kurt R.A. Giambastiani was the first published novel I had read by an author that I knew personally.  It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and mentorship for which I am eternally grateful.

When I turned away from the bookshelf, I was facing my writing desk.  Of course that’s a misnomer, as I don’t do much writing there. I should call it my fretting desk, at which I fret about not writing.  On the right side of the desk, I saw my two favorite books.  They are the ones that I wrote.  No, they’re not the best books – the first one desperately needs editing – but I can honestly say they are my favorites.  I take pride and pleasure recalling the effort I exerted to write them, to forge them into shape.  I was Siddhartha or Samwise on a journey into the unknown and uncertain.  I was joined on the path by Pirsig, Twain, and Giambastiani (and Bill Bryson), helping me find my way.  I stumbled many times and almost gave up hope, but I finished.  Despite them being memoirs, I wish I could remember the plots better.  I’ll have to re-read them sometime.

I hope you take pride and pleasure in your own creations, whether you write books, tend a garden, repair an engine, bake cakes, or some other expression of craft and imagination.  No matter how humble your creation may seem, you can achieve great things.

Go Up Front

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I was wrapping up a meeting on a recent Thursday afternoon when my phone buzzed, letting me know my wife had sent me a text.  She is not a frequent texter, so it caught my attention and, since the meeting was at an end, I tapped the screen to look at the message.  I hoped it might be an emoji-based expression of affection, but, figured it was more likely a request for me to pick up something from the grocery store on my way home.  I was not expecting a photo of my garage filled with a mountain of trash with the caption: “Look what I came home to.”  Upon closer inspection, which required taking off my glasses so my late middle-age eyes could focus on the details, I realized the trash was not trash, but was, in fact, a pile of everything in my garage that is normally found on the shelves therein.

The shelving system I had built three years ago had collapsed.  Specifically, the standards that held the shelf brackets had ripped away from the wall on the left side of the garage, causing everything that had been neatly stored to be ejected onto the concrete floor.  I did a mental inventory of the shelf contents and realized the heap included boxes of old toys that we are keeping until our children have kids of their own and an extensive collection of paint supplies, including drop cloths, paint brushes, paint thinner, and dozens of quarts and gallons of every shade of house paint we have ever applied to the walls of our abodes over the years.  We are minor league hoarders when it comes to retaining cans of paint.  More troubling was the knowledge that there was a Mason jar filled with acetone somewhere in that pile.  I had put the volatile solvent in a glass jar because a) the plastic jug the acetone was originally contained within had cracked and b) I had an empty glass mason jar handy.  I should have known better, since we live in an earthquake zone and glass jars filled with toxic chemicals are in a constant state of tectonic jeopardy.  I also recalled that I owned two gallons of Thompson’s Water Seal waterproofer. I bought them on separate occasions for two different projects, neither of which required a whole gallon, but that’s how they sell the stuff and, when starting the second project, I had forgotten I already owned an almost full gallon can.  When the opportunity to go to a hardware store presents itself, my default is to go shopping rather than check to see if I actually need anything.  I scrutinized the photo and saw the concrete driveway in front of the garage was discolored due to some moisture.  It was not a rainy day, so I assumed that a nasty swill of turpentine, acetone, and waterproofer were coating the driveway.  While waterproofing my driveway could have merit, I figured the paint thinner and acetone would counteract any good qualities.  I thanked everyone for their participation in the meeting and headed out the door to get home to help my bride.

I rushed to my truck in the office parking lot, started it up, and pulled out quickly.  Too quickly, as I almost T-boned a co-worker’s car passing in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes and felt my heart racing from the shock of the near miss and my fears about what waited for me at home.  The ten-minute drive was blur of anxious thoughts.  I knew no one got hurt, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what almost happened: my wife could have been seriously hurt, the minivan could have been badly damaged, and undoubtedly I would have a difficult clean-up process to minimize the environmental disaster that my failed storage system had inflicted on the driveway.

When I got home, I found the reality didn’t match my fears.  The shelf standards came away from the wall because the screws holding them had pulled straight out of the wood they were screwed into.  The standards, brackets, and wood shelves were all in good condition, and I could rebuild it.  The toys were unbroken for the most part, no paint spilled, the two gallons of waterproofer were still contained, and, inexplicably, the glass jar of acetone didn’t break.  The fluid that had watered down my driveway was a gallon of windshield washer fluid.  My driveway was not a superfund cleanup site. In fact, it was more hygienic now, having been doused with a gallon of soap.  More importantly, no one got hurt.  My wife had backed the minivan out of the driveway twenty minutes earlier to pick up our son at school.  It could have been so much worse.  With one trip to the hardware store, I had new, and bigger, screws and an extra standard with brackets to distribute the load.  I remounted the shelves and loaded them up before the night was over.

Even though it had all worked out, I was in a foreboding mood the following Saturday as I drove north to see a metal show in Tacoma.  I had almost talked myself out of going, but I was meeting my metal brother Sean, so I decided to press on so I could spend time with my friend even if I wasn’t feeling like a metal warrior that night.  The venue didn’t have much to offer in terms of parking, so I drove a couple blocks, ending up parked behind two other cars on a street in front of a house in a residential neighborhood.  While I should have been happy that parking was free, I feared my car would be ticketed or towed away.  To ratchet my anxiety up a notch, I walked to the venue wondering whether I had remembered to lock the car.  I knew I was fretting unnecessarily, but I couldn’t help but think my car would probably be broken into shortly before the cop wrote a ticket and called the tow truck driver.  It’s not unusual for me to consider everything that could go wrong while I’m trying to enjoy myself at a metal show.

The venue was a large bar, so Sean and I found seats at a table near the back where we could watch the opening acts perform.  When the headliners – Metal Church – took the stage, my mood had only slightly improved.  I was still wallowing in my fear and loathing of my decision to attend the show and put my vehicle at risk.  The band played well, and halfway through their set, I got over myself and decided to get out of my chair and go up front to stand near the stage.  It was time to bang my head with the “Gods of Wrath.”  It was a good decision.

The music poured over me like a warm shower, washing away my anxiety.  Live metal music is a tonic that quiets my worried mind and allows me to live only in the moment.  There are no risks, dangers, or what-might-have-happened.  There is only the music.  The guitar riffs shredded my tension, the drums became my heartbeat, and the only voice in my head was the voice of vocalist Mike Howe standing in front of me shouting, “I know these are the badlands, somehow I’ll find my way!” I reached up and shook his hand, making a momentary connection with another old school brother in metal.  As the band generated a joyous crescendo of heavy metal noise to bring the proceedings to an end, I raised my hands in a full metal salute.  Jubilation, triumph, and exultation had replaced fear, dread, and apprehension.

I was happy and calm as Sean and I walked out of the venue.  I’m grateful that we share a passion for metal music that can take us out of ourselves and wallow in exhilaration free of worry and woe. We said our goodbyes, and when I walked back to the neighborhood where I had parked, I found my car just as I left it: locked, unscathed, and unticketed.  I had wasted a lot of energy worrying about what could go wrong before I walked into the joyful waters of the front row at the Metal Church show.

On the drive home, I reflected on the previous few days and come to a few realizations:

1. Yes, bad things do happen, they can really suck, and sometimes you can’t fix it.

2. I’m grateful for the disasters that aren’t so disastrous, like the garage shelving collapse that didn’t really do any damage.

3. I should try not to be afraid of small screws, Mason jars of acetone, tow trucks, parking tickets and all the other things that could go wrong.

4. I should go up front and experience joy whenever I can.

I got home safely around 1 a.m. with a grin on my face and the music of Metal Church reverberating in my body and mind.  I have spent the days since reveling in how fortunate we were that the garage disaster was so uneventful.  I’m strangely happy that my shelves collapsed so harmlessly.  I have good friends that are facing real struggles that aren’t so easily escaped, and to them I send all the positive energy I have, so they can find their way through those badlands.

Don’t hesitate to “go up front” whenever you can.  \m/

Maybe Next Week

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It’s been a busy couple weeks, and I’ve not taken time to sit and work on a new post.  For that, for anyone that looks forward to these, I am sorry.  At the moment, I feel a bit like that (adorable) puppy in the picture.  I will, however, be back soon with new material.  For now, I hope you’ll enjoy this one from last year.  Cheers!

Click the link to read about The Fellowship of Fretting 

https://anddocoolstuff.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/the-fellowship-of-fretting/