Monday, November 30, 2015

Day 30: On Writing

I love writing; writing's a bitch. The cliche about the terror/tyranny/loneliness of the blank page and all that. Thirty posts in thirty days is hard, but don't break out your tiny violins for me. I choose it. This year when deciding whether to do NaBloPoMo it all came down to this: Anything that puts me in the chair in front of the blank page is a good thing. 

My hope was to create a habit, and then in December sit down every day and write something. I've got unfinished short story manuscripts, and a book project that needs a solid reworking. And I have in the back of my head a novel brewing. But life things are still unsettled and instead of being a distraction from life, life is a distraction from writing.

Make no mistake, writing a blog is an exercise in egoism. Most of us know our readership is small. Ansel Adams used to say that he photographed to please himself and if other people liked it, that was a bonus. That's true about all of art, I suppose. All I know is if I go too long without writing something I get really antsy. I also know that when I get really involved in a project I obsess on it. 

I don't know if I'll do Blog-a-palooza next year. The first time I did NaBloPoMo was 2011 and I wrote 13 posts. I didn't try in 2012, but made 30 in 2013. Last year I didn't participate either. For some reason it felt like I did more than that but really, folks, it looks like I've only completed NaBloPoMo once before this year. 

What I don't like about it is that some days the posts are not up to my standards. Some days I just dash off something to make deadline. I don't like doing work I can't be proud of. Thank you for reading the good and the bad.

As a thank you, I leave you with the opening for my current short story. It doesn't have a title yet.

On his twenty-second birthday, Julius Worthington III boarded a bus bound for a small, northwest Pennsylvania town, where he hoped the locals had short memories for newspaper headlines. At the Erie county courthouse an indifferent judge did a double-take at the name, peered at him for a short minute, then whisked through the rest of the hearing, after which Julius returned to Philadelphia as Julius Applebite. He had already settled upon Gordon, his mother's maiden name, until he passed a series of Burma Shave signs on U.S 6 and thought Applebite just sounded better. He would tell people it was Dutch.

On the trip home, Julius studied the map of Philadelphia's outlying areas. He didn't know where he wanted to go, exactly, so he started by calculating bike-able distance. But then he figured everything was a bike-able distance if you got an early start. Lots of little nowhere towns in New Jersey, he thought. Tomorrow he would ride.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 29: Down to the Wire

It's 11:42 pm and I don't have a topic. I've actually written two posts that I decided not to put up for various reasons (they sucked and they sucked). So here's a list of  some of the songs I'd like to play with a band one day. It's a good thing there's only one day left.

Mack the Knife. Not particularly hard or fancy but I like the build of energy the way Bobby Darin did it. And I love a good groove.

L.A Woman. Similar thing. Irresistible, almost cathartic, groove that busts forward, and just when you think it can never be stopped it drops into half time and lets you add some tasty fills before kicking back into gear and driving to the end. Cops in cars, topless bars, I never saw a woman, so alone.

Hell is for Children. I would play the hell out of this song. Normally I'm understated, but in this song I'd go full Keith Moon on it and I wouldn't let it end until we'd turned it into a 12 minute rock blow out. Just because.

Sing Sing Sing. I want to replicate the 1938 Carnegie Hall performance. It's sublime. I've played Sing Sing Sing before in various band arrangements but I want to play it like Gene and Benny, just once. If you choose to listen to this, pay attention to the piano solo toward the end, right after Benny's solo. The pianist says he didn't know Benny was going to throw it to him, and if he'd known in advance he would have been afraid he'd screw it up. It's gorgeous.

Stairway to Heaven. Because it's Stairway to Heaven. (I've linked the Kennedy Center version by Heart, because I love watching Page and Plant get all misty eyed. Also, the top hats.)

Day 28: 1464 days and counting

The best part of this one was that we were not expected to win.

Stuff I found on the internet. 

  • Another excellent piece by Ramzy
  • Here's a fun fact. Only people born before The Game in 1909 can say that TTUN has a winning record against the Buckeyes in their lifetime.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Day 27: Where Gordy has a bad day

While Leo gets groomed every five or six weeks, Gordy hasn't been bathed in, like, two years. Long story*. Anyway, today was the day.

He didn't like it. 

Josh was home and helped. We did it at a self serve dog wash in Twinsburg called Pet Valu. $10 and they supply the shampoo, towels, and blow drier. Everything but the brush, which they'll gladly sell you. The best part is they clean the mess. Wash and walk away. 

*Despite the fact this is the place for long stories, this one just isn't that interesting. Sorry. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Day 26: Happy Thanksgiving

 I hope you each enjoyed Thanksgiving in the way you love. We did.

A little feast for the three of us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Day 25: Random acts of thought

A potpourri of items.

  • On a freeway I drive a lot there's one of those electronic alert signs where they can tell you that traffic is slow or that conditions are icy. When there's nothing going on they have a message that keeps a running total of Ohio highway deaths. We're currently at 982, which is up 13% from last year. I have a feeling the holiday season will push that over 1,000 without any trouble. Let's all drive a little more carefully, please. I hate seeing that number change.
  • Apparently right now is the last time anyone alive on Earth today will experience CO2 levels of less that 400ppm. It seems we've crossed a threshold that we cannot reverse anytime soon. 
  • 25% of the northern white rhinos on Earth died this week. There were four and now there are three. Nola, aged 41, died at the San Diego zoo this week. There are three more but their odds are grim. They're trying to breed them but time is running out. We've already lost the black rhinos. 
  • Movies I can watch over and over. There are more but this is all I can think of. As soon as I hit SEND one will come to me. My wife gives me this little smile, that means 'You are such a dork," whenever she sees me watching a Bourne movie yet again. 

Shawshank Redemption
The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Green Mile
Princess Bride
Michael Clayton
Kill Bill 1&2
LOTR (all)
Harry Potter (all)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Day 24: Where I talk about an awful day in Buckeye football history

2006 was a magical year for Ohio State football. We were undefeated and number one in the country. Michigan was number two and The Game was an epic, super hyped, event. they called The Game of the Century. To be fair, the century was only 6 years old at the time so it didn't have a lot of competition.

We won and were headed to the BCS championship game to face Florida, who had been low ranked early in the season and snuck in at the last minute with a coach by the name of Urban Meyer. Does any of this ring a bell?

Florida was little regarded and Buckeye nation, and the rest of the regular nation, were as certain as certain could be of an Ohio State blowout. Troy Smith won the Heisman and that sealed it. We were the champions. All we had to do was show up. 

We received the opening kick and Teddy Ginn ran it back for a TD. I swear I said this aloud, "The rout is on."

We all know what happened next. 41-14 was the final score and it wasn't even that close. Urban could have put up 60. I had to leave the house at halftime and just try to start breathing again. I watched the second half in vain hopes of a miracle but none was coming. 

I was devastated, inconsolable. How? How? I spent the next two years searching for clues as to how that happened. I read everything I could read. I asked people. I listened. There were hints of locker room troubles but those went away. In the end there was only one answer. Ohio State came for a coronation; Florida came to play. 

But the longer term effect it had on me was that I no longer invest myself in the outcomes as I once did. There's football and there are things that are important. Which is why Saturday's loss to Michigan State didn't hurt that much. This was supposed to be another coronation season. After last year we were only supposed to be better. The dynasty is rolling. Right. I've been there before. 

There are times when I wish I'd gone to a college where the games are nice diversions on a Saturday afternoon, where losing isn't the end of the world, and where winning is sometimes a surprise. Where a few thousand people shuffle to the stadium on a crisp fall day, take in a sporting event, and then get on with the business of being college students.

But then I'd have probably have just wished I'd gone to Ohio State

Day 23: One of the things I am doing

One of the things I'm doing to earn a little cash is blogging for realtors. For a fee I build them a blog, then provide weekly content. I just started, at the request of an agent in my market center, and after working out the kinks am ready to start branching out.

Here is the blog of Michaleen  and Bob Paul

Did one for mysel too

If any realtors out there want a blog let me know.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Day 22: The Only Game That Matters

Here we are, fresh off a disappointing but well earned loss to the Spartans, and now we must marshal our team and fanbase to bring the energy we'll need to beat TTUN (That Team Up North). Before yesterday I had already said to my friends and family that the confluence of circumstances would make this game very losable. Here is my list: at Michigan, new coach, new coach is good, we've owned them for the past several years, Michigan is hungry like we were last year, we're not hungry like we were last year. So despite having superior talent and one of the best college football coaches of all time, I felt we had a good shot at losing.

Now I feel differently. Now I feel like losing is almost a certainty. Everything MSU did against us defensively, Michigan will do better. And they will run. And their passing is better.

I'm a little bit happy that Ezekial Elliot called out the coaching and the offense. Normally I think they need to keep that stuff in the locker room but maybe this will be the catalyst they need to get their shit together. Maybe if they put together all of the things they should have been doing all season into one glorious game they will win. I don't even care today about the bowl game. Only one thing matters.

And it matters a lot.

Day 21: The day the bubble burst

It was only a matter of time. The Buckeyes have been winning ugly for a while now and it caught up to them. I don't know what's going on in Columbus, but something doesn't feel right and it hasn't all season. It was masked by the winning, and forgiven in the afterglow of the national championship. And it was downplayed because we believed it would all come together, despite no evidence that it could.

In 1998 we had the number one team in the country and Michigan State came in for a 3:30 game that ended in the dark, and they upset us. It cost us a national championship that year and the loss was devastating and is still among the worst losses in program history. Today didn't feel like that, even though it should have. It felt like we finally got our due, like we finally had to give our pound of flesh for all the success.

And now we keep our eyes and ears open for the snippets of quotes and the rogue tweets and the insider whispers for clues to how this could have happened. And we may never truly know. All that's left is to beat Michigan. I hope they get their shit together and do just that, or it will be a long, long off season.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Day 20: Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon.

I just started using an app called Grammarly, which monitors everything I type in this blog, on Facebook, in emails, and on message boards, and tells me what I'm doing wrong. I'm a terrible typist so it is forever flagging misspelled words, which are only misspelled because I've mistyped them, not because I'm a bad speller. My browser does have spellcheck for that so it's not, in and of itself, any more useful than spellcheck. But it also catches grammatical errors such as missing commas.

I'm a comma user. I've been accused of over-using them, and I have learned when I edit to cull them ruthlessly. Also, I like the Oxford comma and intend to use it as I see fit until I die because I'm a stickler for being correctly understood in written communications.

But Grammarly has been nagging me about OMITTING commas. Really? I under-use commas? Since when? Thing is, I don't always think Grammarly is correct. I wish I'd saved an example; so far it has not suggested a comma in this piece. (Please note the use of the semi-colon in the previous sentence, which many people feel is never necessary. I still love the semi-colon.)

So now I'm wondering who developed Grammarly's algorithm? Was it designed to give the most foolproof clarity in writing, or was it designed to work like a good human editor would work?

Either way, one thing is clear: I get sloppy in my online writing. Many of the suggestions are correct. I do sometimes omit commas. I've fallen victim to the deterioration of grammar skills we often blame on technology. I tell myself that if I was writing 'for real,' like a story or technical paper, I'd do better. But I want to write well everywhere. It's one of the things I like about myself.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day 19: Digging in the archives--a story

Most of my published work is in online journals. Some of those journals have gone under, and some just stopped archiving past a certain date. So I've chosen to post them on my web site, acknowledging their original publisher.

This piece appeared in 'Third Wednesday,' which is still in existence but which is no longer archiving the story. It's called 'Subway Ride,' but it's original name was 'The Feral Nature of a Subway Ride.' They were insistent that I change it and I really wanted the pub credit so I changed it, despite the fact that the journal was based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I don't trust anything anyone from Ann Arbor ever says to an Ohioan. But the other editing changes they wanted were spot on, so there is a teensy little part of Ann Arbor that's ok in my book. 

I included the original artwork. Enjoy!

Scan3 cropped
Subway Ride
It was only a scratch, a tiny line on my cheek, a mere tracing of a fingernail whose polished edge held a single flaw – an insignificant burr – which found a weakness in the layer-dermal, nicking a capillary and leaving the slimmest, most trifling river of blood ever drawn.
When she had boarded my car, heads turned, eyes pointed, women and men alike. She stopped only to survey the field. I sat alone. She stalked the space, her eyes hungry, her breathing shallow and quick.
Me: Stillness. A rabbit in the tall grass,
She sat, gracefully swinging her hips around and down. Next to me. Our clothing touched but it may as well have been flesh.
I dared not look, tried instead to remember her from five seconds ago. Black leather waist jacket, tailored to fit. Black jeans, bought to shrink. Delicate porcelain skin covering sharp cheekbones, thin red lips, short black hair, not kempt, not messy. An aura, god, an aura. From the loins of Artemis and Eros.
My heart accelerated to the speed of a thoroughbred on the homestretch. She glanced at my hand, a gold stop sign encircling a wedding finger. The way she swayed her head and shoulders to music only she could hear told me such things didn't matter. My eyes darted with uncertainty or embarrassment or expected failure and she laughed.
Do I make you nervous?
Maybe a little.
Then a kiss. All this occurred, except the kiss, I swear, silently, telepathically, while she stared sidelong at me. With her little finger she snatched a trickle of sweat from my cheek, and cut me.  She daubed at my face until molecules of red smeared her fingertip. She held it up to me; I tasted. She tasted. Finger lingering inside lips, mouth. Gentle vacuum, pulling, raising clouds of ache that swirled and danced with the vapors of pheromones and perfume. My nostrils flared for more. I inhaled all she could give, sorting through the odors of commuters and students and vagrants and old men rotting from the inside and diapers in need of changing and the ozone made by the sparks of the electric motors that propelled us.
We rounded a bend and she leaned into me with a pressure that was more than mass times velocity times centrifugal force times the gravitational pull of bodies. I leaned too, away; don't show the neck. I prayed for mercy.
The train straightened out and she took her time un-leaning. Finally upright, she looked at me again. I fidgeted, my eyes searching for a safe place to land. I could only look at her. We stared for minutes or miles, then the train slowed and stopped. She slid off the seat, still staring, and rose to leave. She kept me in her sights all the way to the exit.
The doors parted. She waited. The cut on my cheek burned and I didn't know if it would be extinguished by staying or going.
It's not my stop.
I know.
It could be, though.
I know that too.

Day 18: Midweek Music Break

Lunasa is my favorite Irish group and one of my all time favorite bands. I've seen them live twice, once at my favorite venue, Nighttown in Cleveland Heights, and once at P.J.McIntyres. They play mainly traditional Irish music with (mostly) traditional instrumentation, but with updated arrangements and exceptional artistry.

This is a tune set called The Dimmers. Irish tunes are traditionally played in sets of two or three. Often, jigs are played with jigs, and reels with reels, but there is no rule, and some of the best sets are mixtures. This particular set is made of two tunes, Jerry O'Sullivan's and The Dimmers.

I picked this because it's accessible to the non-fan. Jerry O'Sullivan's is a beautiful flute piece, while The Dimmers is led by fiddle and Uilleann pipes. The other members play rhythm guitar and stand-up bass.

Without further ado, I give you, Lunasa


Here's a second set called Morning Nightcap, which is one of their most popular sets. It also shows them live with a bootleg-quality recording. My favorite part is the whistle-featured middle tune, which is the title tune, Morning Nightcap. The first tune is MacLeod's farewell and the final tune is The Malbay Shuffle. They are all reels. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day 17: A terrific show you may not have been watching

A good psychologist friend of mine once introduced the term, 'anticipatory grief' to me. I forget the context at the time, but there are times I feel sad for what seems like no reason and I realize it's anticipatory grief, which is getting sad in advance for something that's going to happen someday. It's usually in conjunction with something important, but sometimes it's not. For example, my wife and I are experiencing anticipatory grief over the impending end of Downton Abbey. We mention that it will be starting soon, which means that it will be ending soon, and we look at each other with pouty faces and say 'awww.'

So we checked out the Masterpiece 'Indian Summers' in hopes of finding a replacement, but we just didn't take to it. We don't know why. Then we found Masterpiece 'Home Fires.'

What a terrific show! 

It's about a small town in Britain during the early part of WWII, but what makes it remarkable is that it focuses on the women back home. The central figures are involved with the Women's Institute in the imaginary town of Great Paxon, and they build a community bomb shelter, gain permission to use extra land to grow food, and raise money for ambulances. Of course there are the usual romances, and with the war, the occasional tragedy. And they try to cover the gamut of women, from self-reliant farm wife to hoity-toity town dame, to plucky WI presidency usurper, to distraught mother of a soldier, to abused housewife, to adulterers, to lesbians. Some of the time they edge into cliche, but mainly the women are well drawn and the writing is, as you would expect, well done. 

Season 1 (it's called series 1 in the U.K.) just ended and if you can find it on one of your favorite streaming services, check it out. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Day 16: An unexpectedly long lasting gift from my dad.

When I got my driver's license my dad had a set of car keys made for me, and at the same time picked up a little key chain to put them on.

As you can see, it's a nothing little key chain, completely utilitarian, with nary a decorative feature. But that sturdy little son of a gun just keeps doing its job. I would never have guessed in a million years when he gave it to me that I'd still have it 42 years later. 

I bet if he was here he'd have forgotten all about the keychain. To him it was just a practical thing. He had keys made and they needed a keychain. It had no significance beyond that. It probably didn't even cost a dollar.

He could have never guessed that all these years later, that keychain is just about my favorite thing he ever gave me. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 15: Violins of Hope

Free music is good. Good free music is better. Tonight we saw Di Tsvey, a musical duo of Steven Greenman on violin and Pete Rushefsky on tsimbl, playing klezmer music in conjunction with the Violins of Hope exhibit at the Maltz Museum of Jewish History in Beachwood. 

What is a tsimbl, you ask?  It's like a hammered dulcimer.
But it sounds more Eastern European-y. It's more suited to 'Lemisch Sher' than 'Oh, Suzanna.'

The Violins of Hope is an exhibit of violins that were played by Jews before or during the Holocaust and were all but lost. These instruments have been lovingly restored and "serve as testaments to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of music to lift hearts in even the most horrific of circumstances." They are on display at the Maltz Muesum until Jan 3. 

Here is a video of Steve and Pete (not from last night)

Day 14 : A Little Late

Random thoughts from Saturday:

I don't think the West has any idea how to deal with ISIS. I read a good article in the Atlantic in ISIS that makes me wonder if we can ever have peace. We won't as long as ISIS has anything to say about it or until the world looks like they want it to look. This is going to take a long time and a lot of work.

I love how the guns people think that if the good guys had guns it would solve terrorism. Yeah, I've seen guys who think they can shoot straight. I'd rather be shot by a bad guy than a good guy trying to shoot a bad guy. I mean, you know, if I have to be shot.

A couple of decks of cards, a Scrabble board, a Jenga, some wine, a crock pot full of weiners and Beam, and a tasty avacado dip all make for a fun evening.

The Buckeyes need to show up next Saturday. I'm hoping they've simply been sleepwalking up til now.

My favorite part of every Buckeye game:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Day 13: Holy shit!

Having just now learned of the attacks in Paris, I have nothing appropriate for a blog post at this time.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Day 12: Where I Link to an Old Post About Holiday Music

In Blogapalooza 2011 I talked about how people who play in bands and orchestras began rehearsing holiday music in October. I mention it today because, for one, I need a quick topic for today's post and two, I'm in two bands this year who are each rehearsing holiday music. And three of the pieces overlap each group.

In one group I'm the only drummer/percussionist. In the other, there are five of us. There are times in the first group where I have to play three things at once, and I feel like one of those one-man-band guys who has a washboard hooked to his drum, a car horn in his armpit, and a pair of cymbals between his knees,

In the second group I have to share, and there are times I'm thinking, "I could play that better," But that's not the point. The point is for everyone to participate. They show up, they donate their time and talents, they play. However it sounds is how it sounds. Because it's not about us, it's about who we play for. To the people who live in the retirement homes and nursing homes we play for, it could be the best thing that happened all week. And that's why we're there.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Day 11: What I Learned About the Shelf Life of a Hard Boiled Egg

Logic would dictate that if a raw egg can last in your refrigerator for a few weeks before turning bad, then a cooked egg should last at least as long, if not longer. But no.

The egg shell has a natural coating, sometimes called a cuticle or bloom, that protects it from spoilage. During the processing (washing) much of this is removed, but enough remains to let the egg stay fresh for a few weeks. Once you boil the egg the cuticle is destroyed and the shell is penetrable by bacteria. A hard boiled egg only lasts a week, providing you have kept it properly refrigerated and free of the introduction of bacteria.

I feel certain that somewhere in my yard is an unfound Easter egg from years ago. I now know it's not going to be edible.