A kick ass American weekend

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The first time that I ever felt any national pride over a sporting event was the Miracle on Ice hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics. I was 11 years old, and giddy at the prospect of beating the big, bad Soviets at what appeared to be their own game.

Flash forward 35 years, to Sunday’s triumph of the U.S. National Women’s Team at the World Cup. Again, soccer doesn’t seem to really be America’s game, particularly since the rest of the world calls it “football” instead. But when America’s best matched up against the rest of the world, the Red, White, and Blue came out on top. A better way to cap off the 4th of July weekend cannot be imagined, at least in the sporting realm.

The proceedings in Soldier Field were also a pretty good capper, in the artistic realm. It was a great weekend for America, all the way around.

4 more years?

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I wanted to have a blog for a long time before I started this one, four years ago today. What held me back? I have no idea. But now that I’ve spent four years–and who knows how many hours sitting in front of a keyboard–throwing my thoughts and images out into the world, I can hardly remember what the delay was.

I often say that if Hemingway had a blog, it would make for quite an amazing read. But since he couldn’t have one, the rest of us have a chance to pick up the slack. I’m not Hemingway and never will be, but I do have opportunities that he and thousands of other writers over the centuries never did. And I don’t intend to let that go to waste.

4 years can be a long time–when you want to get on with your life–or they can be the bat of an eye, when you’re in a good place and hoping it can last and last. I’ve been in both places, sometimes within the very same day. But the world keeps on spinning, and I’ll be along for the ride over an as-yet-undetermined length of time. I may as well keep rollin’ along in this space, too.

Paying my respects to B.B. King

image I was on a business trip in Seattle when I heard of the death of B.B. King. For reasons I may never understand, I had packed two shirts for a one-day meeting: one white and one with white and blue stripes.

Is there a better way to pay tribute to the King of the blues than by wearing the partially blue shirt? Perhaps, but this was something I wanted to do, and it felt good to do it.

Thanks for all the good licks, Riley B. King. You done good.

My Grateful Beard has disappeared

I spent much of February 2015 growing a beard. It originally grew out of the hockey-related idea of a playoff beard.
If you keep a routine that does not allow for shaving to intrude, the thinking goes, it will somehow create a benefit for one’s team. Or at least it allows you to share the experience with others who do the same silly thing.

I called this phenomenon the Grateful Beard, since it grew out of a waiting to see if I was going to get tickets to one of the reunion/farewell shows the Grateful Dead is playing this summer in Chicago.

I’ve been to four Dead shows over the years, with the last one being almost 22 years ago now. Four shows isn’t much by some standards, but most people haven’t even been to one show, so I’m happy to be as experienced as I am. For a rock lifer like me, hearing Jerry and his band play live confers some degree of street cred that few other bands can match.

Jerry Garcia once said that the trick is not to do something better than everyone else does it, but to do something that no one else is doing. The band was singular in their time, and that shows in what will surely be a hyper-crazy demand to be a part of the three shows this summer. this is a one-time thing, and I want in.

But as I posted previously, the mail order didn’t work out, and my money order arrived in the mail a few days ago. I took one last picture of my Grateful Beard, complete with a legitimate touch of gray in it, and shaved it off yesterday morning.

Now that the Beard is no more, I understand that it–like the Dead shows this summer–was a unique and singular experience. Never again will my whiskers depend on the content of my mailbox. So even though my efforts did not lead to the miracles I had been seeking, I still had some way of marking the time along the way. It’s a small thing, but I am memorializing it here, all the same.

Here’s hoping that the telephone and Internet sale this morning leads to greater success than the mail order did. What I can say confidently is that no Beard will be grown during this process.

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It was fun while it lasted

Over the past month, the mail’s arrival mattered to me. I sent a money order to the Grateful Dead’s ticketing service, hoping to score two pit tickets to their farewell (or fare-thee-well) concerts this summer.

The odds were against me from the start, but I felt as if I had to try. Each day the mail came, and each day my SASE wasn’t among the items in the mailbox. No news was good news, I reasoned.

But it all ended today. Oh well. On to The general public sale on Saturday, I suppose.

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Thoughts at a fire

Yesterday morning I wrote a post in this space bemoaning the lack of good news stories this year. I had a realization later in the evening, though, as I was watching the fire in my fireplace burn. And it’s worth sharing it here, before it crawls back into the recesses of my mind. This is why I started this blog, after all.

If I start a fire in my fireplace and it burns all night and it goes out, there’s nothing “newsworthy” in that. But if my house were to somehow catch fire, then not only would the fire trucks come, but the news vans, as well. And the bigger the fire, the bigger the story would be.

So I realized, as my fire burned without incident in my fireplace, that “the news” wasn’t good for a reason. As Don Hendley once sang, it’s interesting when people die. And apparently, that’s the only time.

So I’m not waiting for the news to be good anymore. There’s good things all around us every day, and there’s nobody looking to tell us what it is. That’s apparently our job to determine what it is.

And my fire went out, and it was a happy time, indeed. I’m glad that nobody else got to hear anything about it.

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Waiting for the sun in 2015

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The number one album in America for the week that I was born was the Doors’ Waiting for the Sun. I’ve loved the Doors since I was in grammar school, and I was pleased to learn they were on top when I entered the world. And the title of this, their third studio album, seems very fitting this year.

With the Charlie Hedbo shooting in Paris, the death of Stuart Scott, and the horrible story about young Phoebe Jonchuck, this new year hasn’t given anything in the way of good news yet. It’s coming, I hope, but so far the returns aren’t good. And winter is just setting in where I live, too. Some good news would really help at this time.

Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting…..

Walkin’ the tightrope

Cutting down a highway from two lanes to one is never a good idea, especially when that highway leads to an airport. Airports have scheduled departures, and those don’t change just because the traffic went goofy.

I learned this yesterday, as I was on highway 183 toward Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas. I had never been to Austin before, and was there for a day to work with some colleagues of mine. The company and the barbecue were top-notch, and the time flew by rather quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to hop in the rental car and head home.

But the traffic didn’t cooperate the way I wanted it to. For many minutes, the GPS on my phone indicated that I was around 20 minutes away, but the crawling rate of traffic suggested otherwise.

Fortunately, I had a contingency plan hidden away in my computer bag. The traffic was slow enough that I could search around for it, too. It came in the form of a Stevie Ray Vaughn CD which I had been carrying around for months, and possibly even years. I had happened upon it as I was emptying out my bag for the trip, and decided to hold onto it since Texas and SRV seemed inseparable in my mind.

When the first strains of Texas Flood came over the speakers, I knew things were going to be all right. The sounds of Vaughn’s guitar–along with his backing band–calmed me down and chilled me out. Whether it would have had the same effect on me anywhere else is something I couldn’t say for certain. But being stuck in traffic in Austin gave me a chance to appreciate his music in a way that I don’t think I had before, and may not be able to ever again.

I didn’t have a full appreciation of his music before he was killed in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin in 1990. In the years since, I’ve come to realize what an amazing guitarist he was, and how much we all lost when his life was cut short. I have no doubt that the music that he made in the studio paled in comparison to what he did onstage, and I would have loved the opportunity to watch him play live. But a foggy day and a helicopter ride took that all away. A traffic jam and a CD player in a rental car was the best I could hope for, and it was enough to get me through.

By the time I came to the root of the backup–a stalled school bus in the right hand lane–all but the final song on the CD had played themselves through. I stepped on the gas, determined to make up for the time that had been lost along the way. I made the flight on time, and was grateful that fate had given me an opportunity to dig out the CD and put it on first. And I was extra grateful for the musical legacy that Stevie Ray Vaughn left us. Here’s one more example before I go. Enjoy.

MCA got it right

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Today the term “MCA” came up in a work-related context, and it reminded me of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. I googled “MCA Beastie Boys” and came upon many interesting things, and two images in particular that I wanted to share.

The first was a shot of the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC (and Jam Master Jay) on the roof of a building, probably in New York, and probably somewhere around 1986 or thereabouts. There were six artists–two of them no longer with us–who made some of my favorite music, then and now. I appreciate their musical legacy, and the lesson that life is a fragile thing. Jam Master Jay was shot to death in 2002 at the age of 37, and MCA died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 47. But their music lives on.

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The second image is of a quote from Yauch/MCA. According to him, everything we do, and everything we say, is a chance to bring change to the world. We would all do well to remember this in our everyday lives. Thanks to him for putting this idea into words