Thursday, February 27, 2003

Tomorrow, I promise, I’m getting up for the morning aerobics workout after missing the last three sessions. Sure, there will be much inquiry about our absence, and I could think of something glib for an excuse, but why should I answer to them? I miss working out, even after just a week off. My back is sore and there is a restless feeling in my soul, like I want to run, lungs screaming, until I collapse in a twitching heap. Smoke and drink quells that bug, but exercise is healthy.

Even though I haven’t been to the YMCA in over a week, I have gotten exercise. Last Thursday and Friday (Feb. 20-21) I went on long bike rides in nice weather. And on Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 22-23) Esther and I went on long hikes on the Ice Age Trail. But since then I’ve done jack squat except help the kids bowl. And I think that’s why my back is sore. Lots of bending over, helping kids get the right form and arm swing so they can roll strikes. I really love this bowling unit because the kids love it (most of them) and their enthusiasm is infectious. We transform the gym into an alley with gray and black carpets that have foul lines, locator dots, target arrows, and large circles to mark where the pins, which are plastic, some weighed with sand, are supposed to go. This is the second week of the unit and the children are more familiar with taking turns and setting up the pins. Their skills have also greatly improved.

I’ve created another 12-bar blues riff centered almost exclusively around sliding grace notes and seventh chords. Nothing earth-changing here. My evolution as a songwriter should come from proper roots. Start simple and work up. It is kind of like my evolution as a rock music fan. I started out with Elvis, the Beach Boys, Fats Domino and Chubby Checker, listening to 45s on various theme record players with Kenny Bolton, a mildly-retarded kid who was the closest neighbor my age.

Kenny wore out turntables and records. He showed a single-minded devotion to his records and collection of balls. Kenny had more balls than any child I’ve ever seen. And I got to see the collection’s growth, from a mesh wire cage to filling a whole room. Funny thing is Kenny was always interested in other kids’ balls. Here he’s got the widest array of bouncy balls, basketballs (Kenny’s father was a basketball star at Harlem High School and graduated with my mother), footballs, soccer balls, and those cheesy, colored inflatable balls that always were unbalanced and could never be kicked very far. But if you threatened to go away and take your ball with you, Kenny would beg you to stay and throw a fit to wake up the neighborhood if you didn’t.

I last saw Kenny in 1994, the year Esther and I married. I was living at my parent’s over the summer working at Warner Lambert when he stopped by unannounced, out of the blue, just like he used to do 15 years earlier. He still collects 45s, but takes better care of them. We went to Toad Hall where he tracked down an obscure song about truck driving from an equally obscure artist whose name I’ve forgotten. He lives in South Carolina and is capable enough to drive, have a girlfriend, and hold a job. But his single-minded devotion to balls and 45s, and those temper tantrums, are what I will always remember about him.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Yesterday was crisp and bright until mid-afternoon, when it became overcast, windy and cold. Esther and I left Luke and Letha’s place about 11 a.m. and minutes later were on the Ice Age Trail northwest of Lodi. This trail is a 1.3 mile segment up a steep hill, with field openings that give panoramic views of the Baraboo Hills to the north. It ends at a gravel road after crossing a shallow stream. Rock hard snow pack and ice made treacherous footing.

We took country roads about 20 miles south to Indian Lake County Park to another segment of the Ice Age Trail. More rolling glacial topography. I dropped off Esther at one end of the lake and the car at the other end. There are five cross country ski trails in the county park. I ended up getting turned around in a circle and came back to the car instead of the other side of the lake. A surprised Esther caught me reading 20 minutes later.

Our last trail was difficult to find. Just outside of Middleton is the Valley View segment of the Ice Age Trail. The trailhead is at the top of the hill, at the entrance to a subdivision of Prairie style homes. It threads downhill through a meadow bordering backyards. After going through a patch of woods, the trail emerges onto an open prairie looking into a valley dotted by forests and homes. At the top of a hill is an old oak tree. As we approached it we heard bird song. The chickadees, wrens, sparrows and nameless other small birds quieted as we came near but did not flee from their brush pile haven.

This trail segment ends at the gated entrance to some unseen mansion. Ten feet from the trailhead post is an intercom speaker and keypad. Esther and I turned around and took a red-blazed loop trail that goes through oak savannah, a honeysuckle-infested prairie, and up again, with another valley view Esther said she liked best because you couldn’t see any signs of civilization, i.e. houses. As we climbed a hill back our car I saw above the yellow winter grasses the most impressive deer rack I have ever seen in the wild. The deer turned his head and I saw a dash of white at the end of his chin, and then he disappeared. The sight of the deer filled me with this amazed sadness because all I saw when I stood where I sighted him were houses and fences.

Our Appalachian Trail slide show at the annual meeting of the Lodi Valley Ice Age Trail Chapter meeting went well, despite a late start and equipment problems. The Roxbury Tavern had a quaint, housy feel, with low ceilings, a half room divider kept half the audience in another room, but we were able to maneuver the screen for everybody to see. I think abbreviating the program made it stronger, but there are a few stories I left out that I’d like to tell. At least they didn’t seem bored, and we got a lot of compliments from an admittedly sympathetic crowd.

Luke and Letha let us stay at their place, a widow’s cottage next to a historic mansion. After the presentation we went back to their place for a party, and I played guitar with Tim Malzhan, a Mobile Skills Crew leader, who taught me a few knew techniques for my guitar. I also learned I can play a pretty fast bluegrass groove.

EXCERPTS FROM AN E-MAIL I SENT TO FAMILY


Luke is a member of the Mobile Skills Crew along with Esther and I, and is the Ice Age Trail chapter coordinator for the Lodi Valley Chapter. Speaking of mansions, Luke and Letha live in a widow's cottage next to an antebellum/Italianate one that was built in the 1870s or 80s as a stagecoach stop. The cottage and home are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The widow's cottage looks like a castle turrett, with raised stone abutments on the four corners of the square structure.

Letha is an artist and runs the only art gallery/studio in Lodi. She paints canvases and wood blocks in textured abstract images. Many of the shapes are made by glue, which gives greater dimension to the image and gloss to the color. I'm always skeptical of abstract art, and look for continuity and some kind of overall theme. Or at least some semblance of cleverness. Would I display this in my home? Letha's art pleased me because in it I saw nature's influence. One blocky structure has the dashy striations of birch bark. A pattern of blue circles surrounded by a halo of lighter shade reminded me of mildew.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

So the regular gym teacher makes some crack about how all blacks are on welfare. And I counter with the middle class black population overlooked by all the stereotypes. I see this black middle class through Esther’s co-workers, and in my bicycle rides around Rockford’s west side. Most blacks quietly pursue the American Dream and achieve it. Blacks represent disproportionate percentage of the population in the American prison system and the black illegitimacy rate hovers at 70 percent. Of course, the white middle class is overlooked too.

Mr. P showed his racist cards. He’s one of these guys living in a new Roscoe subdivision. To try and connect with the ethnic element of the school he says aight, instead of all right. Imagine this thick, lugubrious Italian voice going aight. So fake. So condescending. His statement of contempt. There was a young lady working as a teacher’s aid who sat in on the gym class and he invited her out for a drink. I am Italian. He’s the Italian stereotype.

Mr. P was absent today, so I ran the gym classes on my own. I was able to get them all bowling, except for the last two classes, a second grade class and a kindergarten class. The kindergartners, well, they’re too young, and the second grade class is one of my wildest. So I decided to wrap it up with a third grade bi-lingual class composed of mostly Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian refugees. I’m trying to teach them the push, step, swing, roll four step approach to bowling. It’s interesting to see how the children react. They don’t take well to it, and I have the challenge of coordinating them. But my gift as teacher is recognizing where they are deficient, and that comes from watching sports so many years and recognizing the difference between a good play and bad. The children universally have difficulties swinging the ball while they walk. I keyed in on that because multi-task coordination is difficult for anyone, much less children.

Today was another beautiful blue sky sunny 40-degree-something day, and I was tempted to go out for a walk. Instead, I stopped at a French-Vietnamese restaurant on 7th Street called Nui Hee (sp?). Very upscale, linen napkins and cloth table cloths, considering the somewhat downscale surroundings, but with reasonable prices. I love 7th Street. It’s very old town Rockford. My bed comes from the Rockford Mattress Company, a local company on 7th street. I remember when I was in the Phantom Regiment Cadets and the start of parades would be on 7th Street. Lots of bums on 7th Street, a very colorful liquor store, where once a crackhead with rheumy soulful eyes hit me up for change. Above the aging downtown storefront businesses are burned out apartments. These second floor denizens hide their poverty, almost, but for the dilapidated state of their window blinds.

I’m drunk now, very drunk by my reckoning, seven beers in, spread out over 5 hours. Not bad, now that I document it such. Guess I can have one more. Guinness is the only beer that’s fun to watch. I don’t know what causes its downward cascading. And the way I just poured the head it looks like a bubbling pancake. Ahh, the processes of nature, carbonation and fermentation and bubbling yeasty flavorfulness. Yippee Kay Aye.





Tuesday, February 18, 2003

From Zigeunerleben (Gypsy Life) by Robert Schumann (1810-56), a choral piece.

“From deep in the forest, concealed by the trees, a stirring and rustling is borne on the breeze. A glimmer of torches, a flicker of light, as patches of color take shape in the night. The wandering gypsies, so wild, so free of care, with eyes flashing brightly, with dark flowing hair; Some nursed at the bank of the Nile’s sacred flow, some burnt by the fire of warm Spain’s southern glow. ‘Round campfires a blazing with branches all piled, the men making camp look untamed, brutal, wild. There crouch all the women preparing the meal and filling the goblets with wine as they kneel. Then songs and old legends they sing in the night, of gay Spanish gardens so blooming and bright, and magical ancestral legends are told, passed on to the young once again by the old.

“A raven-haired maiden begins now to dance, and bright as a torch, burns her passionate glance. A strumming guitar and the cymbals ring, as wilder and wilder they all dance and sing. To rest then, all weary from nocturnal play. To rest, deep in slumber, to dream as they may. Since they from their beautiful home lands are banned, it’s only in dreams they may visit their lands. But as in the east now the darkness takes flight, so vanish the gypsies, dark forms of the night. The shuffling of hooves at the breaking of dawn. They’ve vanished, they’ve vanished. Who knows where they’ve gone?"

Carissa, a friend of a friend from college daze and the roommate of a laid off fork lift driver, called and asks what name Warner Lambert is called by now. She said she looked up Adams in the phone book. I said try Pfizer. My connection to the place is deep. I worked in both the cafeteria and factory. Dad worked a few years as a security guard. Mom managed the cafeteria, off and on, for 37 years. Connections run deep. Spend any time in my hometown and you’ll catch a sweet scent on the breeze.

My best memory is making out with Esther in the Forest Hills Evangelical Free Church parking lot uphill from the plant. It was 1992, the first heady year of our partnership. I opened my eyes as I kissed her and saw a white hairnet-clad Warner Lambert employee. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be in the back seat of this van, with rock music playing softly in the background, making out with my woman instead of working. I thought of that night a couple years later, the summer of 1994, at work, white hairnet on, and about all the happier people making love and doing interesting things while I sat and watched bubble gum get wrapped.

Right now I’m listening to Echoes, and although I can’t name title and artist, many of the songs I’ve heard already. Guess there’s only so much ambient techno music out there. Only so many laid back computer keyboard aficionados out there jamming out for the obscure glory of being spotlighted on Public Radio International by none other than John Dilaberto. Time for beddy bye. Today nothing of great note. Teaching Kish kids to bowl. Enjoyed early afternoon sun and temps in the 40s. Back home read Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain,” rested, listened to refrigerator hum and water drip off the eaves spout. Later had Rock Valley College Community Choir practice. Back home more reading, chatterbox Carissa's call, and now.
gf

Thursday, February 13, 2003

I’m looking at all the cool packs out there on the market and think how old school Esther and I were with our external frame packs. They don’t even make the REI Wonderland Trekker, with detachable fanny pack and side compartment. They sucked, but they got us there.

Now we’re getting all nimble and ultra-light for the PCT. I took my first ultra-light excursion on the Superior Hiking Trail last fall and it took me awhile to get used to a new system. And next time I’ll wear running shoes, with just liner socks on. Esther checked out a book about the PCT from 1975, The Pacific Crest Trail, by Ann and Myron Sutton. It is the first of what I perceive to be a long list of PCT literature over the next year.

But I can’t think of the future. Must live in the now. Esther on the recliner-couch wrapped in a fleece blanket and reading Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea.”

Some cool hip hoppy sitar piece with bongo and accompanying sitar on the radio with John D. Laberto’s Echoes, which starts at 9 p.m. instead of 10 because WNIJ 89.5 changed their format and dropped an 11-year-long nightly LOCAL jazz program. Echoes is my mellow come to bed program, and to hear it shortly after 9 p.m. is disrupting my circadian rhythm.

I’m getting antsy to hike or do some kind of winter activity soon. I know I want to do a lot more canoeing and bike riding in 2003. Been debating about getting a roof rack for the car. Something I can put clever bumper stickers on, if there are any. I’ve never put a bumper sticker on a car. I’m just not a bumper sticker kind of guy. But I’d put bumper stickers on a roof rack. For some reason that’s fairer game to me.

Last night’s Wings was more tame. I had my requisite five, three good beers (two Hacker Pschorrs and a Guinness Extra Stout), the others Miller Lite. I’m starting to get burned out on beer. May explore white wines and champagnes for a while. We were home by 9:30 p.m. I got in a couple pool games. Made a couple good shots, am improving, but lost every time. There’s a good pool hall within walking distance of my apartment. I ought to go there of a Sunday afternoon and get a couple hours of practice in. Maybe check out a pool book from the library. Apply the usual research methods. Become a shark. They call me Knuckles.

There’s candles in the corner and an Ansel Adams calendar on the north wall. The west wall has a framed and numbered print of a lakeshore at the base of a towering abstract mountain range. The gray-ish blue monochrome sea/shore/mountainscape is spread across four equal size canvas strips, horizontal bars a foot high and two inches wide spaced a quarter inch apart. It’s 49/350 of “Silent Majesty” by Tuttle. I checked it out from the library and have to renew it by March 1.

The printer needs work. Clutter everywhere. Dust bunnies. Comic books and records on the floor, books and maps everywhere, guitar in the corner, candle on the coffee table, candles on the book shelf. Fluorescent light on in the kitchen. Windows have blinds, but no curtains. No house plants. No pets. A tape recorder on the floor just inside the landing records guitar musings. Choir music leans against cedar chest in manila folders. I owed a $2 fine when I went to the library. I didn’t check anything out, but read magazines until 15 minutes to closing time.

We had salmon for dinner. It’s the first time I ever cooked salmon. But it’s easy, tastes good and is good for you. Tonight I did it by making a pouch, put in some fresh chopped onion and green peppers, a little olive oil and some lemon juice. No salt, no pepper, no spices. I wanted to follow the less-is-more edict so favored by all good French cooking, or so Ken says. It turned out really good. And it was Aldis salmon. Kind of figured it’s hard to dork up frozen Salmon fillets. It’s funny how many new experiences you can have. A good cooking repertoire is good for the soul.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Another cool, sunny winter day. Frost on the northern window occludes my view of the livery bricks.

I got the day off work. Return tomorrow to share gym class with Mr. Pirrello? We’ll see. Future uncertain, tomorrow unseen. Spending today writing and editing. Still working on Hog Greer. The historian side of me wants to dig deeper. Like the village scene. I want to include authentic details from a village of that era. I don’t want to put Hog Greer on the backburner, but he does need work.

I’ve got 11 more counties to edit for the Ice Age Trail guidebook and plan to contribute an article as well. My personal deadline is March 1. I would also like two more short stories before then. I spend at least a half an hour a day writing straight fiction, but am hesitant and unsure of myself. My editor side is a bit stifling at times. Good creative writing flows, and for it to flow it has to be free. My best writing is often quickest. It is often adorned with misspellings and context errors, but it retains an energy. The editor side is slow and methodical, more interested in rules and continuity. I need to turn off that little voice that tells me “no.”

Tuesday’s choir practice went well. I still felt a little rusty, but got into it after the first 20 minutes. My voice needs better training to jump across the scale. I can’t jump from high to low to high with pitch perfect accuracy. But two or three times through a part and I’ve got it down. I’ve never had a difficult time learning voice parts. I love being bass two. The bronchial rattle of a low note. I could always learn to play bass in a band. But rhythm guitar appeals too. I’m not dexterous enough for lead.

Sun’s sinking. I need a walk.


Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Baby baby baby/when you comin' home (2x)

I been waitin' for you/ by the woodfire stove

When you comin' home

Darling, darling, darling/ take it easy on me (2X)

for I gave you my heart/ my eternal soul

When you comin' home

Sugar, sugar, sugar/ so pale and pure (2X)

I can hear your cry/ through the Nordic winds

When you comin' home


That's the third song I've written this winter, along with "Ephemera" and "So Damn Tired." This one's a simple 12-bar blues line with a solo and cool tag on the end. It's a pretty straighforward song, but with a surprise ending to the music. I finished the lyrics Sunday when Esther and I ate at the Stockholm Inn for breakfast. Swedish Pancakes with lingonberries, baby!

Mr. Pirrello, the regular gym teacher at Kishwaukee Elementary School, has returned. And so here I am in the school library. The good news is, for the time being, indefinitely, my services are still needed. Pirrello told me he slipped two discs in his back when he tripped over a kindergarten child. He's been off his feet all winter and is seeing another doctor tonight to determine if he needs surgery. His expertise will help me come up with new drills and exercises. The only downsides are the indefinite length of my tenure and the depressing realization, after seeing Mr. P in action, that I am no trained educator. Like one little girl put it so bluntly, "Mr. Pirrello's the real teacher and you're just a sub."

There are some really beautiful details in the library. I can tell it used to be the school's theatre, and on either side of the stage, crammed between a shelf and the ceiling are matching plaster sculptures of a barefoot dwarf, back and pointy stocking capped head pushed against the ceiling. His eyes look straight down and he has a big nose. The right hand holds a ruler, the left gestures, almost as if to point. A book fills the space between his raised left arm and hunched knee.

It is quiet in here. All I hear is air, the subtle clack movement of clock and computer whir. I want to come back to this school with a camera and tripod and take pictures of its interior and exterior. I love this old school. It gives me a positive vibe. Its quirky touches and ornate woodwork cannot be found in modern buildings.

The wind howls outside. Earlier today it snowed and I saw leaves and plastic debris gusted down the street. The movement of snow gives the best visual display of wind patterns, from the swirls made when it blows off a roof, to flakes' mid fall change of direction when winds shift. I heard Esther's cry through the Nordic wind tonight and picked her up from work. We spent five minutes figuring out how to best load her bike into the car. It had been months since I'd loaded a bike into the car. Choir practice went well. I feel my voice getting stronger as I re-learn the notes. Reading choir music's old hat. Even though its been years, the old knowledge comes back quick.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Following are bits of e-mails I've sent out over the past couple days.

Saturday we visited my friend Jim Nerstheimer in DeKalb. He is the organist at the Episcopal church and he took us to the sanctuary and showed us the church's pipe organ. The biggest pipe is 16 feet long. The sanctuary has a high ceiling, at least 35 feet, shaped like the inside of a big barn. The side walls are lined in sandstone bricks and lit from above. Cast shadows give the jutting stones more depth.

We even got to see the pipes up close when one of the low notes got stuck. We climbed a ladder to a plywood platform and through a cubbyhole to a small well-lit room full of wires and pipes. Jim described to us each row of pipes and what voices they made. A few of the pipes did not work properly. Jim said the mechanical complexity of the organ makes it a majestic instrument, but a hassle to keep in repair.

My, ahh, avocation, is going well. It doesn't appear the regular gym teacher is returning, so I may teach at the same school since October. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and, yes, a vacation from the stress and lousy schedule of daily newspaper reporting. Kishwaukee Elementary School was built in 1921, and the original lockers are still in use, On this gorgeous, south-facing first landing is a tryptich leaded glass window, and next to it a polished walnut storage locker. Above the desk in my office, bolted to the ceiling, is a coil water heater. On cold days its useless, warm days I roast. A complex latticework of pipes threads throughout the gym. On really cold days you can hear the constant steam and gurgle of water through the pipes.

Last week the daily newspaper and all three local news stations were in my gym to cover a Vietnamese New Years celebration, or Tet Nguyen Dan. The students did an excellent job. More than half my students are children of Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian refugees. Kishwaukee is classified a bi-lingual magnet school................................

I find peace and comfort in music because it is a discipline that forces your mind to think rationally and logically, yet at the same time is liberating and free. I am somewhat a bull of a man, very Smith-like, large featured, and a hard-driving Nebraska bluntness is a core essence of my character. Music, especially guitar, forces me to be gentle and flowing, a contrast with my nature, but also brings out my gentle side. Of course, one can display force and energy, but it is cacophonous unless expressed with precision and touch. Music craves order and in turn gives order to my life...............................

I have no problem with religion. People need a channel, or ceremony, to get them in tune with the God frequency. Problem with religion is that power is taken away from God and placed in the vehicle/church/doctrine/ceremony. It's like praising the car that got you to the trailhead instead of the awesome mountain there before you.







Friday, February 07, 2003

I left my debit card in the ATM Wednesday night (no, I was sober) and didn’t figure out until today that it was missing. For sure I thought the next person to use the ATM would snatch my card and use it to go on a spending spree. Only a pin number and signature keep others from my accounts. And you know how many people check the signature. First thing I did was call my bank’s 800-number auto teller to find out about unknown purchases with my card. Next, I called the bank where I used the ATM, a First Federal, same as my bank, and they said they’d call back. They did, and had my card. Yippee! Thanks to the anonymous and honest soul who turned in my card. And shame on me for freaking out and assuming the worst. After all, it’s just money.

Well, I didn’t FREAK OUT. No hair pulling or pounding walls. But a deep breath sense of relief when I tracked it down. I would have had to go through a bunch of baloney to cancel the card and get new ones, and no matter what it would have cost me. And I still don’t know if I’d have to pay if someone made unauthorized purchases with the card. Probably. You get no security with TOTALLY FREE CHECKING.

Wednesday night I had a breakthrough on the RIPT saga. When I go to my parent’s house I usually take a left turn off Forest Hills Road onto this ramp that goes to Alpine Road. Right at the base of the ramp is a street light, and on its post is a bumper sticker in This is Spinal Tap script that says Ript. There is another Ript sticker on a traffic signal post on the northeast corner of Alpine and Windsor Roads. Whenever I take a left turn onto the ramp I always mutter “ript.” I’ve been in the middle of heated discussions and managed to edge in the “ript,” often without the person I’m talking to noticing. With Esther and I, it has become a competition to see who will say “ript” first. I modified the rules so you actually have to be able to read the word to say it.

Well, Wednesday night at LT’s, I not only got a little inside scoop on Ript, but actually heard them for the first time, a cover of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.” Randy Wescott, one of the Wednesday wings regulars with the Molly and Mike Gang, mentioned Ript when we were talking about the Rockford Armory. The city is thinking about tearing down the Armory to build an arts campus (one of many grandiose schemes floating around to improve downtown Rockford), but we didn’t bring that up. Randy was saying how much of a Kiss fan he is and that he has a poster from 1975 when Kiss played at the Armory with opening band Rush. It’s one of the all-time classic rock and roll shows ever ‘round these parts. Randy said the last show he ever saw at the armory was Kansas, in 1994, and that Ript opened up for them.

My eyes lit up. “You’ve seen Ript?”

“Hell yeah,” Randy said. “I used to love Ript. I even attended their CD release party. I must have seen those guys about 30 times.”

He told me the names of the band members (I forget. I was on beer #5 at about this point) and about Vern, this 58-year-old crazy burned out SSI guy who has seen every Ript show. And then Randy went to the bar and had them play Ript’s cover of the Elvis tune. They sound just like the bumper sticker. Balls to the wall hard driving Rockford rock and roll with screeching guitar and gravelly vocals.

A few years ago I had an idea about writing a story about Ript, a kind of where are they now tied in with the bumper stickers and a narrative biography about the band. Now I’ve not only got Randy’s recollections, I’ve got a connection to crazy Vern and, possibly, members of the band. The case is cracked.

“Ript.”

May they never RIP.



Monday, February 03, 2003

Another gray, dreary, nasty early February day in the Stateline area. And it’s Monday on top of that. The kids were feeling kind of surly. Later, after 12:30 p.m., I had only half a gym to work with because the Vietnamese children are working on a Tet celebration for Wednesday, including a dance routine, drumming and a marching dragon. I enjoyed listening to the music through the divider wall. Hopefully, I’ll get to see it Wednesday.

Esther and I have an audition for the Rock Valley College Community choir at 6 p.m. We worked through a song, “The Lord Has a Will,” that showcases our range and ability to harmonize above and below each other. It is a song from our Antigo days, the last times we were involved with any groups musically. The college choir, along with my open stages, is an attempt to return to our love of music. Esther and I are both aberrations in that we are the only ones with any musical inclination on either side of our families. I just now came to that revelation. Oh, wait. Esther’s mother likes to sing. Nix that revelation.

I was just on a chat room at Woodie.com. I was led to this web site by the people we hang with at Wednesday Wings. We got into this clique through Mike and Molly Butz. Esther and I attended North Love Christian School with Mike back when we were 4 and 5. I also went to high school and college with Mike, but we were never close. Our lives were twined again when Mike dated Esther’s good friend, Traci Thomas, but they broke up. I didn’t see Mike again until my 10 year high school reunion. His wife, Molly, worked at the Beloit Daily News, and clued me into the reporter’s position open there. She invited us to Wednesday Wings at LT’s. The group they hang with at LT’s chats at Woodie.com. Enough background.

Everybody in the chat room got to talking about childhood, and growing up in Rockford and watching the Mr. Moustache Show. Wes, the guy who runs woodie.com, said he won the ping pong challenge, where you huff and puff against another competitor to blow a ping pong ball into a goal. He said he wore a Fonzie t-shirt and stuck his thumb up in the air after victory. Sweetpea/Amy said Mr. Moustache played in her dad’s softball league and she thought it sacrilegious to see him drinking a beer at the game. Classic.

We also talked about cool lunch boxes and how the thermos always leaked. And who could forget Captain Kangaroo and the Electric Company. All that reminiscing helped me forget the gray slushy yuck reality for a moment.

Well, I must be off to pick up Esther. Then it’s on to Rock Valley College, a flashback in itself, where I attended 10 years ago and fell in love with my wife. Must be the theme of my day. Antigo song, Rock Valley College, Mr. Moustache, Fonzie… Sweet reminiscence.


Sunday, February 02, 2003

Assissim burget vibuscum!! Shadrach meshach and abednego! Stoomish woomish foomish koom. BOOM!!!

I love word play, just messing with syntax. I’m tired, so will be brief. This weekend was all about visiting with trail friends and family. Saturday we hiked in Devils Lake State Park in Wisconsin with Mobile Skills Crew buddies from the Ice Age Trail. We hiked a section we’ve worked on, along with an escarpment trail overlooking the aforementioned Devil’s Lake. It was funny, we hiked next to cross country ski tracks, and saw the drama of a crash unfold on a downhill as the tread led directly to a tree. Pieces of bark were on the ground, along with the unfortunate skiers’ butt prints.

We visited with my brother Mike at my parent’s place until midnight. Today was gray jay dreary and warm. It’s supposed to get up in the 40s tomorrow and Tuesday before dipping into the teens for highs Wednesday. Today is Groundhog Day, or Candlemas day. We are officially halfway through winter. And it’s a slushy world out there. After a nice visit at the Larson’s this afternoon we came back to my parent’s place for dinner, and my brother Ken, who has lived almost exclusively in Europe for 14 years is back in the United States, ostensibly, to stay. He says he may fly back to London Wednesday to tie up some loose ends, including dental work and upgrades to the Paris apartment he’s renting out. He’s not sure if he’s going or not.

Tomorrow night I’ve got an audition for the Rock Valley Community Chorus. And I still got this nasty cold robbing all force from my voice. Esther and I just worked on a tune and we’re both froggy. Probably because by our bodies’ reckoning, it is late. Which reminds me…