Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Long Time No Blog

The old clock on the wall keeps ticking away. Actually, it's battery driven and it doesn't really tick. It hums a little until the batteries run down, then it twitches. I hate it when the second hand cannot make it uphill from the six toward the twelve. It looks so pathetic, like time itself is in its death throes. Which, come to think of it, is a fairly fascinating concept in itself. The death of time. Then what?

My point is that we are past the solstice and into summer proper now. Yes, I know; the days are getting shorter already. But I made the most of it yesterday, cleaning a small forest and wonderfully fertile soil out of the rain gutters on the east side of the house. Then I attacked some moss growing up on the roof. As I noted on Facebook (which has taken me, more than I would like, away from this beloved blog), I had looked at an interview with Elton John during lunch hour when I walked over to the library. Then there I was that evening, as I.. "sat on the roof, kicking off the moss." This, of course, started an uneasy chain of Elton John lyrics suitable to the occasion.

Anyhow, I hope you are enjoying the summer thus far. The weather here in northern Ohio has been gorgeous. and I a hoping it isn't going to be as hot as they say it might.

We are adjusting to the two dog lifestyle. Chloe has settled in and she and Ollie have learned to play together - hard and well. I am learning the techniques involved in walking two dogs while avoiding the braiding of the leashes. And we established a pen area back beyond the deck where they can run around a bit, untethered.

I should report there was a marvelous memorial service for Tom, my friend, guitarist in our band at church, and all-around great guy, this past Sunday. I do not exaggerate when I estimate that 400 or 500 people attended the service. Our band played everyone out to pay respects to the family, and we went a good ninety minutes before the place was reasonably cleared out. I guess that is a pretty good measure of the mark that Tom left.

Let me see if I can round up any pictures that represent life over tha past two weeks.
Here is the new order around the house. Left to right: Chloe, Ollie. Both dogs came with their names. I get a bit tongue tied calling them both.
The pictue may not do it total justice, but this is a meal the kids prepared for me/us the week before Father's Day. They couldn't be around for that day, but they more than made up for it with this meal - William's special spicy meat loaf, and Emily's potato au gratin dish. A great meal.
there was a period of a couple days where we were boarding five dogs, including (of course) our own two. It was nuts.
This is just a troll's view of a bridge in Toledo, bridging the mighty Maumee River.
Another view of the bridge - is it the Brent Spence bridge? Something like that? Anyhow, we were on our way to a do at the Hungarian Club in Toledo, celebrating a friend's birthday and her one-year mark since a breast cancer diagnosis. Always ready to help someone celebrate bein' a survivor!

So that's about all there is to bring us up to date. Perhaps there will be some fireworks or quaint small town parade pictures in the next week or so, eh?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Along with many, many others, I lost a friend Monday after an especially challenging fight with cancer. As I understand it, over two years ago, he went to the doctors to get over a persistent cough and was given a diagnosis of stage four lung cancer. So certainly, the deck was stacked pretty hard against him right out of the gate.

You would never know it with Tom. During the intermittent two years, any time I was talking to him, he really was not talking about his challenges unless someone asked him about it. He was pretty much interested in living his life, learning and experiencing new things, and doing what he could to get over his hurdles. And "doing what he could" for a while involved flying to Boston for a twice-weekly experimental protocol, staying there for three or four days as necessary, and flying home. And while there - he explored Boston, checked out a music store, took in a game at Fenway. Life went on.

My most notable shared experience with Tom over the past two or three years has been our participation in a band at church. Tom played guitar very well, and could be seen offering suggestions for fingering to others in the band from time to time, always learning how to make a good sounding song better.

Lately, he had taken to charging into a twelve-bar blues improv during that period of the service when the pastor has everyone getting up to say hi to those in the neighboring pews. He'd start it out, look over at the rest of us, and smile as I picked up the thread on keys, while the bass and drums fell in. It was golden.

Tom's faith in God was unshakable, as far as I could tell. The way he handled his last couple of years, with their ups and downs, CAT scans and chemo regimens, was exemplary; an amazing witness. He seemed to face each new twist and turn as just another experience along the journey. In two-plus years, I never heard Tom complain or assume the "why me?" posture - even though I, along with what I suspect were many others, were doubtless pondering "Why Tom?"

Tom seemed, to me, to have a signature introduction: "Good to see you." That sounds like a standard salutation that anyone may slip in, almost mechanically, without really meaning much except to say "hello". But Tom backed it up with solid eye contact and a ready smile; he meant it. And in return, it was always good to see Tom. There was a period where we three older guys in the band, Tom, Dale, and myself, would sit around after a Thursday night practice and chew the fat, talk about music, whatever was going on in our lives, or what our far-flung kids were up to, and just enjoy the quiet conversation after ninety minutes of working on our "joyful noise". Those were special times for me.

I have nothing but good memories of Tom - and I respect and admire his wife and three sons who are all good friends of my son's (and of ours). A goodly portion of our town has been praying for Tom, and indeed that radiant prayer has been turned toward the family in their time of grief. And I am sure that Tom is doing fine now, reuniting with people he had lost and greeting them with a boisterous "Good to see you!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Five Dog Night

So, how's your quiet little Friday night going...?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Historic Town Becomes Prog Rock Hub

My decade-long tradition of heading to Bethlehem, PA for a thing called NEARFest ground to a halt when the fest was canceled this year. Sales were lagging; it is not all a cake walk on easy street, so to speak, when you are following a musical niche populated mainly by middle aged people (overwhelmingly guys) who were enamored of the odd metered and intricate music of the 1970s' Genesis (when Phil Collins was known almost entirely for his...drumming), Gentle Giant, ELP, Crimson..

Flash forward to the 21st century and those bands that filled large venues are pretty much over with, replaced by, among other things, these esoteric weekend festivals that bring 8 or 10 acts to a stage in front of 500 or so appreciative fans.

So with NEARfest canceled, I accompanied my childhood bud and fellow music nut Gerald to historic Gettysburg and the lovely, historic Majestic Theater right smack downtown in the center of gettysburg, to take in the wonder that was ROSfest. The ROS standing for "Rites of Spring". Whatever. It's about the music. ROSfest accomplished what I had hoped it would - I enjoyed a weekend transported into the netherworld of great music, known and unknown, simple and complex. Anyhow, here is a brief rundown of the eight acts we caught over a Saturday and Sunday. In between, we rushed out to the historic battlefield, which I have already summarized about two posts ago.
Half of Osada Vida, from Poland. Good, solid music that few over hear had ever heard before. (By the way, because of my seat's position and that of other items like most bands' keyboards, I seldom could see a drummer behind his kit, so neither will you).

Part of the band, Phideaux, named for its leader and songwriter, Phideaux Xavier (two X's in one name!) The guy with the guitar. Ironic that a band with an album named "Doomsday Afternoon" was playing on the afternoon of May 21, when indeed we were supposedly facing such an afternoon. Anyway, although Phideaux's music is loaded with songs about our self-imposed doom (or so I think), I love his stuff.

The guy at the keyboard is Erik Norlander. He plays this array of crazy old Moog and other analog synthesizers and he works at shaping the most awesome sounds out of those things. Note the guy in the back playing with the patch cords and knobs on the various oscillators and thingies associated with the Moog synth. That bunch of electronic boxes in the back is known as the "wall of doom".
More Moog mania. This is Claudio Simonetti, the man behind the Italian band Daemonia. He has scored a lot of scary movies in his time, fronted a band named Goblin, and I believe that is his niche. His band played a variety of keyboard-led music, both scary and quite pleasantly melodic. Started by playing the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Ah, Mars Hollow, a California band that just lays down well-constructed music, great songs that run the range from up to down. Well done, lads. Possibly best of show.

Also possibly best of show - District 97, from Chicago. These guys (and gal) look like kids but play like the prog rock monsters that they are. They just about brought the house down, and vocalist Leslie Hunt was fully capable of dancing around on stage to the beat, whether it was in 4/4, 7, 13, or some larger prime number.

After the manic, metallic, sometimes quirky music of District 97, the sounds of Britain's The Reasoning seemed to bring a little more conventionality to the stage. Good songs well sung, and vocalist Rachel Cohen is pursuing a PhD in something or other...

We ended as we began, with a Polish band - Quidam. Interesting, eclectic blend, covering a couple well-known songs, but mainly playing their own stuff. They had it all - good bluesy guitar player, excellent violinist and flautist, great guy on keys... A good finish to a very fun fest.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Down the Trail

The weather was unusually perfect tonight, as opposed to tornado-laden a week ago, so we took advantage of it and took a walk down the trail made possible by our local Rails-to-Trails group. This trail passes over a river valley, and the group recently completed a nifty little observation deck along the way, to view the river and look back at the old railroad bridge now supporting the trail.Here's a look back at the great old arched railroad bridge that now supports the trail...
Then there is the flora along the side of the trail
And a little bit of fauna...
And, coming out of the woods, here are some amber waves of grain,
or green waves of grass, whatever...