9.30.2015

I Won't Ever Again Wear Shoes With Laces

A couple weeks ago my awesome GF Deborah got me a couple new pairs of shoes and I love them. They are amazingly comfy and best of all, they do not have annoying laces that you have to tie and which often break, requiring the purchase of new ones. I believe the shoe style is called a loafer.

I swore off laced shoes years ago and for most of my life as a field researcher in Corporate America, I have worn comfortable slippers, some of which resembled real shoes enough to escape all but the most astute of wandering managerial eyes. There was a certain podiatric freedom to wearing easy on/easy off slippers.

Now I have discovered loafers and they are my new favorite footwear, with all the ease and freedom and lacelessness of slippers, but also the arch support and comfort of a decent pair of shoes.

Annoying Gym Girl #2 (Short Fiction)

Annoying Gym Girl (AGG) was already in the workout room in my building when I arrived for my 20 minutes of quasi-brisk walking on the treadmill and some mild weight lifting.

Clad in black Spandex shorts and a tank top sports bra, her blonde hair pulled back in a tight pony tail, she was jack hammering the poor pedals of the stepper machine and making tiny breathy grunting noises every two or three reps, punctuated here and there with longer utterances, as if her exertions were granting her epiphanies on the secrets of the universe.

Hut hmm hah. Ha hmm hnnt. Aaaaaaaaaah! Hmm hut hah.

I pressed the Quick Start button on the treadmill and the rubber track began to move beneath my feet. I adjusted the speed and inclination to a comfortably moderate level and tried to block out AGG’s gutteral noises by reading a book on my phone's Nook app.

AGG finished her stepper workout at the same time that my treadmill reached the end of its cool down cycle and slowed back to dormancy. I lingered on the still track of the treadmill reading my Nook book, waiting to see what AGG did next. I didn’t want to interfere with her clearly intense and regimented workout. She wandered over to the rubber mats and started doing crunches. Thank goodness, because I wanted to do bench presses on the Nautilus machine.

I started doing my reps, 10 each at ever decreasing loads of weights. I intended to do about 50 total presses and when I was about half done, AGG drifted into my peripheral vision. I glanced up at her. She had a white towel over her shoulder and smiled at me coldly as she lingered there, lightly bobbing from foot to foot like she had a nervous disorder or a full bladder. She didn’t move and I figured she was waiting for me to get off the machine so she could start grunting again.

I faced forward and finished out my reps. Then I sprung from the inclined seat of the machine and headed for the tub of sanitary wipes by the gym entrance that were used to clean the weights and equipment after use to prevent the spread of infection and cooties.

“Aren’t you going to clean that?” AGG’s voice rang out behind me. I turned and she pointed a finger at the weight machine with a small repetitive shake of her head. She was holding the towel in her hand now.

“I was just going to grab some wipes,” I replied.

“There are wipes right here,” she said snidely, pointing to another tub of wipes along the wall behind the machine. I had not seen them because they had been out of my line of sight.

“There are indeed,” I said. “But there are also some over here and those are the ones I am going to get.” I continued toward the tub by the door.

“Never mind. I’ll do it myself,” AGG said in an aggravated tone. She passive-aggressively stomped over to the other tub of wipes and yanked several out.

“OK,” I said and left.

I Wish

I wish music venues would stop charging $7 for a pint of beer in a plastic cup, especially when it is otherwise good beer.

I wish music venues would not think it is OK to charge $3 for a small plastic bottle of water and refuse to serve just plain good old fashioned tap water.

I wish music venues would not charge $20 to see a fairly unknown touring band from out of town on a Tuesday night, notwithstanding having a fairly well known good local band open the show (especially since said opener would never normally charge this much, even on a weekend).

And I wish more live music fans would come out and support local live music, especially on weeknights, but given the charlatanry described above, I cannot blame them for staying home or finding less expensive entertainment alternatives.

Other than the excessive cost, the SUNSPOT/ASH show at Majestic Theater last night was fun and moderately well attended. I saw some peeps I have not seen in a while and the bands were tight. I am a big fan of local band SUNSPOT and I could tell they put a lot of time and effort prepping for this prestigious show.

The Majestic is not a great music venue in my opinion, and not just because they fleece people on tickets and drinks. It's a renovated old movie theater and the acoustics are not easy on the ears, unless you are near the sound booth, where, presumably, the sound guy is hearing the best possible mix from his/her subjective vantage point. As the volume of the music increases, the sound quality exponentially plummets in the boomy room. SUNSPOT's volume during their opening set was moderate and they sounded pretty good. For whatever reason, the sound guy turned up the volume when the headlining band, ASH, played and their sound was muddled, the instruments basically drowning out the vocals to the point of them being unintelligible. Being a musician, I could tell through the cacophony that this was a talented band, but the venue's pro sound crew deprived most of the lay audience from appreciating this.

I might just be whining and certainly I could be wrong. This is my subjective review. As a performing musician myself, I probably hold music venues to a higher and different standard than most people. I'd rather play in a dirty dive bar that treats musicians and their fans as good people, not commodities, and as poor people at that, since most good people are poor. Cheap admission and drinks encourage attendance and I tend to go to places like this to hear live music. Only pure greed can justify a $7 beer in a 16 ounce plastic cup, since other music venues can and do charge less.

So it might just be me but I don't enjoy seeing shows at the Majestic and usually don't unless a really good band is playing, like SUNSPOT. I was there to support them and the out of town band on a school night, when it is not easy for smaller name bands to get people out to shows. My wallet hurts but it was for a good cause.

My unsolicited advice to Majestic is to charge less for tickets and drinks, especially on school nights, and keep the music volume at shows at a tolerable level that doesn't ruin the sound and deter attendance. These adaptations will encourage more patronage and net spending. I understand you are going for a classy image and oveecharging is part of this...but plastic cups? Really? That blows the classy image for me.

9.29.2015

Partitioning (Lifestyle 101)

Biff arrived at the conference hall about 10 minute's before Chet's presentation, enough time to grab a cup of fairly good and strong complimentary coffee. He took a seat a few rows back from the front, along the center aisle. The room was about half full, maybe 60 or 70 people. Not bad, Biff thought. If I got 50 people out to one of my band's shows, I'd be super geeked.

The event organizer stepped up to the podium and gave a quick spiel: some announcements about upcoming events and a brief introduction and welcome for Chet.

Chet's topic was about partitioning and was titled "More is Less." He spent a couple of minutes explaining what he meant by the counter intuitive title.

"I used to think, and perhaps some of you think this way, that less is more. I wanted to kill several birds with one stone and try to get everything done at once, store all my papers in one big drawer in my filing cabinet, put all my money and credit cards in one big wallet, keep all my keys on a giant key chain...but what I found is that this didn't really simplify my life. When I needed to access an important document, it would take me an hour to sort through everything in the file cabinet. My keys were a jumbled mess and I would have to try three or four keys on the door before I got the right one to open it. My wallet was fat, but not with money...no, it was stuffed with all my credit cards and rewards cards and discount coupons and receipts for things I had bought. It was so big that if I kept it in my back pocket, I couldn't sit down without falling off the chair, I was so lopsided."

This got a few chuckles from the audience.

"One day I decided to partition my life and I have been doing so with great success ever since. What is partitioning? you might ask. I basically define it as simplifying by diversifying. Let me give you an example of what I mean."

"When I drive places, I only really need my car keys and my house key, if I am coming back home. Two keys. When I ride my bike places, I only need the key to the lock for my bike and maybe the padlock key for my locker at work, if I am biking to my job. I very seldom need both sets of keys, so I keep them on separate key rings and only grab the one I need for that day. It really lightens the load in my pocket and makes finding the right key quick and easy. On rare occasions, like if I am going to put my bike on my car and drive somewhere for a longer bike ride, I might need both sets of keys. Then I just connect the key rings for that day and when I get back from the trip, I separate them again."

"I also keep two wallets now. I have a small billfold that is strictly for my driver's license, credit and debit cards, and money. I have a separate billfold that is a different color and holds all the other things, like rewards cards and my fishing license and loose change. These are things I need a lot less often and I can usually leave this billfold at home. I can actually sit in a chair again, and it is quite liberating."

More audience chuckles.

Chet made a few more exemplary points from which Biff got the take home message to throw out all or most credit card and bank receipts.

"In this electronic, Internet day and age, you don't need paper receipts anymore," Chet said. "The paper trail is stored for you in the Cloud. Embrace the Cloud. It's your great big file cabinet in the sky. Thanks for your time today!"

The crowd applauded.

"Nice speech, brother," Biff said, after the handful of hangers on had dispersed.

"Glad you could make it, Brosef," Chet smiled. "Let's go grab some breakfast."

Seeing Eye Frog (Flash Fiction - 100 to 300 Words)

Rick had a seeing eye frog named Ribbit. Rick didn't have insurance to afford a seeing eye dog, but service frogs were cheap even though they were less common than service dogs and required more work to train.

Ribbit was fairly low maintenance. The frog ate meal worms, the staple food for service frogs (and indeed regular pet frogs as well). Meal worms were inexpensive and were available in bulk at any pet store, usually packaged in a styrofoam cup with some damp organic soil. Rick had tried crickets, but they were too noisy to be practical.

Rick sometimes had problems at airport security and at Customs when traveling internationally. Customs officials didn’t like live insects or Styrofoam cups full of soil or the amphibian. Security waylaid Rick often because of the full water jug Rick had to carry with him to periodically moisten Ribbit’s skin. On more than one occasion he had had to drink its contents. Usually when he showed officials his papers for Ribbit they didn't detain him long before he could continue to his gate, Ribbit hopping dutifully in front of him at the end of a thin leash. 

Ribbit was a leopard frog, capable of taking long leaps through the air and landing with targeted precision. When Rick needed to take an elevator, for example, Ribbit would spring upward and land with a moist slapping noise on the up or down button, per Rick’s command. 

Rick used the sound of Ribbit’s wet white belly hitting the ground after each hop to guide him in public. Ribbit always found the clearest path through a crowd of people, in no small measure because people tended to move away from the approach of a slimy amphibian guiding a blind man.

6 Word Novel

He was dying to use hyperbole.

Wizard

"What do you do?"


"Oh really? Is there any money in that?"

"No, not really. But the power is worth the low bucks."

"Power, eh? Like what?"

"Well, with writing, for example, I could turn you into a frog."

"Ribbit."

9.28.2015

Weekend Report for September 25-27, 2015

It was an interesting weekend. Deborah and I drove up to Egg Harbor WI in Door County on Friday night to spend the weekend camping and socializing with her son Devon and his girlfriend Gretchen. The Rustic Timbers campground was dog friendly and we stayed in a semi-permanent RV on one of the camp sites there. Since we couldn’t leave on Friday until I was done with work and thus got up there kind of late (four hour drive with stops), we just played cards and didn’t go anywhere Friday night. Saturday was action packed though. We went to a nice breakfast place in an unincorporated town called Fish Creek, north of Egg Harbor. Just down the street from this place was a bike shop where, after breakfast, Deborah rented a couple of bikes for Devon and Gretchen so we could all bike through Peninsula State Park north of Fish Creek (Deborah and I had brought our bikes). It was a great weather day and a fun and not too difficult bike ride. After we returned the bikes to the shop, we went to a wine and cheese tasting some place, followed by a visit to an artsy crafty orchard where Devon and Gretchen picked apples while Deborah and I looked around at the arts and crafts and then chilled on the back patio where a bluegrass band was playing (Deborah immensely dislikes country and bluegrass music, but this group was playing a Rolling Stones song when we arrived, so it was tolerable for her for a little while). We returned to the campsite in the early afternoon to let the dogs out and shower before heading out again to Egg Harbor proper (the camp site was a couple miles south of town). We sampled some craft beers from the Shipwrecked Brewery and bought some fancy flavored olive oil at a shop across the street from it. The plan was to go to a pizza joint for dinner called the Wild Tomato. The wait to get a table at this place is long on the weekends and they do not take reservations, but they instead take your cell phone number and then call you about 15 minutes before your table is ready. We chillaxed at a bar called the Juniper while we awaited the call. While there though, the campground manager texted us to say someone was complaining about our dogs barking. We called the campground office and they said someone in a neighboring campsite was bitching about our dogs barking inside the RV (adding that the complainant was, quote, “an asshole”). We decided to get takeaway from the Wild Tomato instead of eating there so we could get back and tend to our dogs. When we got back, the guy camping at the site next to ours came over and he was indeed an asshole. We tried to be nice and explained that our dogs were crated and that it was a dog friendly campground, so it is to be expected that dogs will bark at times. But the guy was just a drama king and wanted to bitch about something and we were his targets. I think he was drunk too. So there was no reckoning with him (we were never entirely sure what he wanted from us, since we had come back as soon as we could after receiving the notification from campground staff) and we basically just said we had talked to the office and they had told us there was nothing wrong with our dogs barking as long as they were contained and it was before 10 PM (they had texted us about 7:30 PM and we got back about 9 after picking up our pizza). The guy ranted and raved but we had done everything we could as far as remedying the situation, so we just asked him to leave and take it up with the campground staff. He told us he would never camp there again and that he wasn’t the only one who was pissed off at us, but as far as we could tell he was the only one near us in the campground that would have been able to hear our dogs. Lots of other people were at other campsites farther away and they had dogs that barked too, so he was not making sense. But we agreed with him that he probably should not camp there ever again, so there was some common ground and the campground owners would probably not miss him either. So that was the big drama on Saturday night. I disenfranchise drama from my life, so after we sent the guy packing we lit a fire in the campsite fire pit, enjoyed our pizza, and played some cards in the RV camper until we got sleepy. On Sunday morning, we got up fairly early and I whipped up some breakfast (turkey bacon and steak cooked in the herbal olive oil we had purchased in Egg Harbor the night before, plus some fruit). We cleaned up the RV and loaded our stuff in the cars, and after we checked out at the campground office, we went to a mini golf place that also had go carts for a couple hours of fun before Deborah and I had to head back to Madison. We raced go carts, shot paintball guns at targets, and played 18 holes of mini golf, rounding it out with some ice cream at the concessions stand (me, not Deborah). Deborah and I got back to Madison about 4:30 PM and unloaded the car. I then reloaded the car with her soon to be ex Yamaha drum kit and we drove it across town to deliver it to some friends who had bought it. When we got back from that errand, I spent a little while practicing bass guitar in anticipation of Sunday night’s open jam at Funk’s Pub. There was a super moon lunar eclipse Sunday night and as we drove to Funk’s in Fitchburg, we saw the shadow of the earth starting to chip into the edge of the moon. The jammers at Funk’s had agreed earlier in the week to learn and perform Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album in its entirety in honor of the eclipse, which was perfectly timed for the 8 - 11 PM jam at Funks. The performance went well, considering we had not had a rehearsal prior to the jam. Everyone had learned the songs on their own fairly well. Periodically during the jam, we would step out onto the patio at Funk’s and observe the eclipse as it progressed. Fun weekend, notwithstanding the Negative Nellie neighbor at the campground.

9.27.2015

Super Moon Lunar Eclipse

I am at the Funk's Pub weekly Sunday night jam, as I often am. Outside, up in the sky, way up high, the moon is pretty much fully eclipsed by the earth. I am going to go look at it in a minute.

In honor of the lunar eclipse, which also happens to be a super moon, the jammers at Funk's are gonna try to pull off Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." That happens soon. But not before I look at the moon.

Rhymes intended.

9.25.2015

Egg Harbor Door County

I am in a car heading for Door County in northeast Wisconsin. Specifically, Deborah and I are going to Egg Harbor for a weekend of quasi-camping with her son and his girlfriend. We are staying in some kind of cabin or quasi-stationary deluxe RV. I am not entirely clear on the lodging situation.

Our dogs Foster and Maddie, a Boston terrier and Dachshund, respectively, are reposed in the back seat, sprawled on doggie beds that wreak faintly of canine urine. The trunk is filled with human bedding, some sheets and a comforter that smell faintly of spring rain, the scent of the laundry detergent used to clean them. We are also not fully clear on the linen situation at this cabin or RV or mobile home or whatever the heck it is. Beneath the linens are some victuals, both canine and human (albeit partitioned by species). The lodging appears to be equipped with a kitchenette from what we could gleam online. There is an acoustic guitar back there as well, though I am skeptical there will be an opportunity to play it. We are only going to be in Egg Harbor for about 40 hours in total, about 16 of which will be usurped by sleep.

We are exiting now so I can take over driving.

Free Day

Yesterday I gave myself a personal day off from my day job to work on my art and it was excellent. I got up about 8 AM and had a nice breakfast and coffee, fed and medicated the dogs, and did a little banking and checkbook balancing on my computer (it was pay day!).

Then from about 10 AM to 6 PM solid, I pretty much exclusively worked on music, learning Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album in it’s entirety on bass, as well as The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” and David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.”

You may have noticed a theme there. All of this music is related to the moon in some way. That’s because this Sunday is a super moon lunar eclipse, an event that only happens once every 5 million years (actually, that’s not true…I think the next one is in 38 years or something…). A super moon is when the moon is at its closest distance to Earth and when a lunar eclipse happens then, it is the most eclipsed the moon can ever be. So I had the crazy idea that this Sunday’s open jam stage at Funks Pub in Fitchburg could be moon/eclipse themed and this idea was received well by the weekly Funks jam organizers, who fully endorsed learning “Dark Side,” as it’s called in the vernacular. I wasn't able to convince them to add the Police and Bowie songs, but I just wanted to learn them for my own ongoing musical repertoire. I am driven that way.



About 2 PM, I did take a break to go cash a check at the bank (I sold Deborah’s Yamaha drum kit to some music peeps I know), buy some canned dog food for Foster (post dental fiasco), and pick up my CSA box with vegetables and free range eggs, which I get every Thursday afternoon. That took about an hour in all, so I was back to rocking by 3 PM and got a nice seven hours of focused music time. I should keep track of how much time I spend on music, so if I ever make any money at it, I can calculate my average wage. As a free agent in the universe, my time is usually billed at between $20/hr and $30/hr depending on what I am doing. That’s what my time is worth to me. My ex-veterinarian apparently bills at $300/hr for some tasks, like surgery. I don’t feel bad about asking a 10th of that for when I am doing music or writing for others.

About 7 PM, Deborah and I drove to Sun Prairie to see M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, The Visit, with my friend Sherry and her boyfriend. It was actually very good, I thought. The plot made sense and was internally consistent, the acting was great, and it had a good mix of funny and scary. After the movie, we went to the Nitty Gritty in Sun Prairie for drinks, and Deborah and I had a late dinner.

All told it was a pretty great free day.

9.23.2015

A Day Off the Social Media Grid

This morning I received an email from Derek Sivers alerting me to a new blog post of his, as I sometimes do, since I am a subscriber to his blog. The topic of his post was “Saying no to everything else.” You should go read it here for a little background on what I am about to describe below. It’s a sort of sequel or corollary to a prior post of his entitled “No more yes. It's either HELL YEAH! or no” (quick recap…only say HELL YEAH to things you feel really good about; decline everything else, even/especially mediocre stuff…something I wish my rock-n-roll bands would adhere to when booking gigs).

Basically, the thesis of today’s post is that if you want to get something done, eliminate everything else that does not contribute to getting it done. It’s fairly common sense advice. The brain has a finite bandwidth and there is really no such thing as multitasking, only serial monotasking, which is highly inefficient for reasons beyond the scope of this post. In Derek’s piece, he refers to a person who wanted to write a book and be an author, but never quite got around to it for a long time because of something called THE RESISTANCE (essentially fear-based procrastination). The person finally eliminated all other distractions and wrote the gosh darn book. Now the person is a fairly well respected author (I read his book The War ofArt, about RESISTANCE). Taken to its logical conclusion, one should theoretically quit their job, unless their job is leading them to goal fulfillment (and making money to pay bills is certainly a worthy goal, I suppose). But that’s also a topic beyond the scope of this post.

I have been frustrated lately because I have no been achieving all of my music practice and performance goals. Other things get in the way quite a bit more often than I like. The longer my musical TO DO list gets, the more anxiety I feel. Now some of the distractions are totally in my control, like surfing social media and the Internet or watching TV. Others are only partially in my control. I have to go to work in order to get paid, for example. But my job is not in any way related to my artistic music goals, other than underwriting them financially, and that’s a conundrum.


Long story short, tomorrow I am taking a personal day off from work and I will be sequestering myself in my music room, with the Internet turned OFF, to focus exclusively on my musical TO DO list. The only limitation on achieving this goal will be my old, sh!tty Mac laptop computer, which is super slow whenever I need it to be fast (it is reasonably speedy under normal circumstances, but seems to know when circumstances are more critical and thwarts me then). Well, there is one other slight caveat. A lot of the music I need to learn has been cataloged by my musical colleagues on the accursed FACEBOOK. So initially, I will need to enter the perilous labyrinth that is social media to secure the needed information, without succumbing to the siren song of extraneous Facebook memes. I am pretty sure I can do it. Wish me luck.

The Personal Day

Joe’s TO DO list was approaching critical capacity. Most of the entries were songs he had to learn on bass guitar in anticipation of the live open jam at Funks Pub on Sunday. Though it was only Wednesday, a trip to Door County with his GF Deborah would preclude any rehearsing on the weekend, and there was a dearth of available time windows before that.

When he got to work, he emailed his boss: Is it OK if I take an unpaid personal day tomorrow?

While he awaited the response, he got online and canceled his RSVP for Wednesday night’s writing group meeting. The topic was autobiographical writing and he hadn’t prepared a submission for critique. The time would be better spent tackling song learning. He was scheduled to meet a potential buyer for Deborah’s drum kit, housed in the Rock Cave of his hopefully soon to be sold house, on Wednesday night. The buyer had bailed a couple of times already and Joe suspected he might bail again, after which he would have to put the drum kit back on the market. He needed it to sell before his house did, as there wasn’t room for it at Deborah’s, what with all his other music gear.

His boss OK’d the time off. She usually did, because he was a contract hourly employee and any time he took off saved the company money. Ironically, his to do list at work was up to date, most tasks completed or punted into other peoples’ courts.

The personal day was a Thursday and the only thing he had to do on Thursday was pick up his Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box with its half share of vegetables and a dozen free range eggs. That would be a nice, needed break in a day otherwise filled with intense music practice. Once the song learning was complete, his TO DO list would be substantially reduced.

The night before, he hadn't practiced much because he had gone to see the film Black Mass with Deborah. It was an extremely dark and violent film, but historically accurate and well done.

9.22.2015

Another Day of Over Posting to Facebook

The news was too good. Scott Walker dropping out for a second time (college being his first), and Bernie Sanders (or his "people") putting out a paperback on the socialist progressive's agenda. I could not help but share on "the Face." But I probably should have helped but share. I am trying really hard to stay away from toxic, (anti)social media. In this case, I failed. No one cares about Bernie Sanders or the lazy-eyed douche weasel Walker. Or some do, but I am largely preaching to the choir there, since I have blocked most right wing imbeciles from my social media circles until they agree to take their meds again. I will try harder.

9.21.2015

Today Was Draining

Maybe it was the 20 mile bike ride yesterday, but I had a real hard time focusing and staying conscious at work today. I had to read through some polices and they were dull. The only excitement at work today was finding out that loser Scott Walker has accepted his failure in the Republican Presidential race and dropped out. Hurray!

The Party Party

We have defeated Scott Walker. I don’t know how, but he is dropping out of the Presidential race, and that’s a big win for everyone.


Loser.

Weekend Report

Friday after work, I sold the Day Glo orange Ludwig custom drum kit that I have had for a few years. I will miss it. On Saturday morning, I deposited the money from the sale in the bank and then Deborah and I went and bought a few things at CostCo. My parents arrived about 5 PM on Saturday and we went to Deborah’s folks’ house for a nice dinner of smoked turkey. My parents got an early night, due to their long drive back to Ohio starting on Sunday, whilst Deborah and I caught up on Netflix. On Sunday, we had a leisurely breakfast with my folks before they headed out. Deborah and I biked downtown on Sunday afternoon and had a drink at the Hop Cat Pub. The round trip was about 20 miles, and included a short walk at Picnic Point, near the west end of the UW Campus, on Lake Mendota.


I messed around on my new ukele all weekend, figuring out the chords for Green Day’s “Basket Case” and playing it a bunch of times. I did a little piano practice too.

Loafers for Loafing

I am the proud owner of two new pairs of awesome footwear, courtesy of my GF Deborah (I guess she technically “owns” them, since she bought them for me). They are loafers. Not quite a shoe and not quite a slipper, but sort of in between. They are easy on/easy off and very comfortable, like a slipper. But they are aesthetically much more like a shoe, thus totally functional for work attire. I got a brown pair and a black pair. The latter will be perfect for when I suit up for EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE shows, although that won’t be happening for a while, since our drummer Frank (aka Dano) is going to tour around Europe and America for six months, and we don’t yet have a sub drummer lined up.


I am puzzled as to why I have not embraced wearing loafers until now. I have always been a slipper guy, rarely wearing shoes except for special occasions like job interviews and the aforementioned suiting up for punk rock shows. Maybe you just reach a certain age where you start wearing loafers. But I should have started wearing them ages ago! I have never been one to adhere to social fashion norms, so I totally could have.

9.19.2015

Tree

My GF Deborah has two gigantic weeping willows in her backyard. Last night, a big branch of one of them fell down in the yard. We will have to call a tree guy to clear it up. Luckily, it did not hit the house, nor the fence around the yard. Miraculous. I think all the rain saturated the leaves and the weight was too much for the tree to bear.

9.18.2015

Selling My Ludwig Drum Kit

I have a pretty nice 5-piece Ludwig custom drum kit I got from a drummer buddy some years back. There were two motives for this. One was to get better at playing drums. I took a few lessons and accomplished this goal. The other was to have a functional drum kit in my band practice space (the Rock Cave) so that visiting drummers would be able to swoop in and rock, without having to lug all their gear and waste valuable jam time setting up their kits. This goal was mostly accomplished. Drummers are a finicky lot and they would often change out my snare drum and cymbals and kick pedal for their own, claiming there was a difference in sound between bashing on my fairly decent gear and their superior stuff. But at least they didn't have to set up and arrange everything, nor ding up the walls in my narrow stairwell with drum hardware.

This kit was never played live and most of my drummers, for all their other stereotypically cliche foibles, treated the kit kindly, tuning it up now and then, and replacing battered skins and heads whenever they "brought the thunder" a bit too heavy handedly at practice (Al!). So the kit has remained in mint condition and still plays beautifully. My Rock Cave is in my finished basement, a fairly spacious clean, dry place. I have used this kit on several song recordings (or more accurately, my guest drummers have), my favorite of which is Wendy Staats' (of SUNSPOT) kickass groove on my hit single "Porn Star Hot" (Madison Area Music Award winner of BEST HARD ROCK/PUNK SONG in 2010).

Well, the time has come to part ways with this gem. I am moving in with my GF, and though she has an awesome house, there isn't enough room for this kit with two people and two dogs. Thus, I am giving it up to a new loving home. An interested buyer is coming by tonight to check it out and hopefully take it to its new "forever" home. It will be a loyal and loving rocknroll beast.

Deborah's house doesn't have a Rock Cave, its only major flaw, though I do have a small music production workstation there (mostly computerized). In all honesty, I am not a drummer and don't really have plans to be. This kit was a luxury I can no longer afford. So I am selling it.

If I invest in drums in the future, they will likely be electronic drums. While not preferred by "real" drummers, they do an excellent job reproducing quality drum sounds. Not being a "real" drummer, that would be more than ample for my songwriting and recording needs...probably even superior to real drums, which require tuning and TLC and proper mic placement and good acoustics, all hassles for a "not real" drummer. In the meanwhile, I guess I will outsource drumming to meet any music production needs for the time being.

9.17.2015

Progress

Notwithstanding a recent veterinary bill of over $1000, life is good.

Last night about 9 PM, I went into the recording studio with Dano (drummer and recording engineer) of EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE and tracked rhythm guitar parts for about five punk rock songs that will be on the first EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE record ever, due in a few months. I rocked the parts and got most of them in only a couple of takes, so we were out of there by 11 PM.

My house is finally for sale and out on the open marketplace. The only thing left there is some music gear. One of the two drum kits there has been sold and the buyer is picking it up next Monday. I have offered my day-glo orange Ludwig custom kit up for sale as well. It's a bit nicer and thus more expensive, but if it does not sell I will probably just store it at my GF Deborah's house. I am moving in with her, if anyone wasn't in the know on that (things are going swimmingly between us).

I got paid today, which isn't an unusual thing for a Thursday, since that is my weekly pay day at work. But it relates back to the aforementioned vet bill.

I bought an electric ukele. It was the Musician's Friend Stupid Deal of the Day a couple days ago. I haven't received it yet, but I hope it is a good instrument. I always wanted a ukele to play for some solo acoustic stuff. But seriously, this has to be my last instrument purchase, at least until I sell some older stuff.

My folks are passing through town this weekend and will be staying with Deborah and I on Saturday night. There is talk of heading over to Deborah's parents' house for dinner that night, if my folks are not too tired out from driving.

I biked to work today, and it was good.

Beer is Good...

...but beer stock is even better.

I bought Sam Adams Beer stock in 2011, when the share price was at a five year low. My logic was that beer stocks would do well in good times (celebrate) or bad (drown sorrows).

This has proven true. The Boston Beer Company, which makes Sam Adams beer, has been going gangbusters. It's the best stock in my portfolio. So, thanks beer drinkers! Keep up the good work.

I Have Some Bands

Hi friends. I decided it might be time to tell you something.

I play in a few good bands around Madison WI. Maybe you knew this.

EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE is my favorite one to play in, notwithstanding that I do not play my primary instrument (bass), but rather my secondary one (rhythm guitar), in this fun, high energy punk rock band. There are a lot of reasons for this. The songwriting of band leader Tim B (aka Eddie) is phenomenal, as good or better than any punk rock I have heard on alternative broadcasting outlets. The musicianship of the 4-piece band is top notch and everyone is driven and motivated, even the drummer...hahaha. Actually, ESPECIALLY the drummer. The songs have great two- or three-part vocal harmonies, so I am becoming a better singer as well as a better guitar player. On the down side, the drummer is touring Europe for six months, starting in a couple of weeks, so the band will be on a partial hiatus from gigs until February. But that said, we will be spending the next two weeks furiously finalizing tracks for a full length album for intended release after drummer Dano is back. We will likely release some songs from the record singly each month until February so fans will get a teaser sampling of what's in store.

GUPPY EFFECT is my original rock-n-roll band, a power trio that mostly plays the songs I write. I play bass and sing lead mostly. I enjoy playing in this band...when we play. But the other guys in this band have a lot of other stuff going on and so we don't gig as often as I'd like. But when we do, it is worth checking out. We evolved from a majority cover band model to an all original model over the past year or so. We were not getting a lot of interest from venues in having us play covers and when we did, they wanted us to play all night, four hour shows for less pay than a Chinese sweat shop worker. On top of that, the audiences seemed apathetic and disinterested in our performances. We decided to disenfranchise such venues and switch to the original band model, playing more select and desirable venues (we still get shitty pay, but shorter gigs of under an hour and MUCH better reception from audiences). For example, we played two venues for MAKE MUSIC MADISON last June, a city wide event celebrating local music. We rocked a 45 minute set outside the Cosmic Delights head shop on Atwood Ave and another one at the Guitar Center stage, not too far from my house, off Whitney Way. The reception was phenomenal. The crowds were small but they really enjoyed us.

HIATVS is my fun rock cover band, fronted by me and one Brian Morse (aka AquaMunkee), and backed up by whatever drummer we can...drum up? Drummers seem to be a weak link in this band, very hard to find a talented and reliable one (it is one or the other). But we have a roster of them now to draw from. This band is a theatrical power trio whose preferred venues are house parties and special events. We probably only play three or four times a year, but it is always a great show, largely due to the intimate nature of the house party setting. We do a lot of stage antics and wear some costumery and head gear to entertain audiences (and distract from our biffs, due to lack of practice, being on hiatus so much and all). If you are having a house party (or a grand opening of something) and want great live cover music, consider HIATVS. We don't require a fee to play. Instead, we usually run a crowd sourcing campaign in conjunction with the party host to raise funds for food and drink and gas money.

Those are my three main bands. I dabble around with the chick-fronted RITA WITTER BAND and the shredder guitarist in that band, Derek, and I are trying to form a super band to play some money making shows, but we haven't landed a drummer yet (trend?). I formed an impromptu band with a couple of guys at the Funks Pub open jam on Sundays, called MG's HENCHMEN, but to date that band only ever plays at the jam. On the upside, we get to play a short set almost every Sunday, which is nothing to scoff at. I wish GUPPY EFFECT would play the Funks Jam more often, but Sunday nights are anathema to the other guys in that band, for some reason.

The Funks Jam on Sundays is a fun little gathering. It is usually a bit loud and poorly attended. But it is open to any musician or band who wants to perform. I get to rock there at least weekly, regardless of what my other bands are up to, which keeps me sane and happy. I think some bands think the jam is "beneath" them, and maybe it is. But for some amateur bands looking to play live and get some exposure, it is perfect. All the sound and lights and backline are provided by the venue and the house band runs it, so it is really convenient and easy to perform there. I run an online live stream of the jam most Sundays.

So that's about it as far as my current musical pursuits. I throw up a live video of myself performing solo acoustic every once in a while too.

Throw Space Dog (Foster) a Bone!

It was supposed to be a simple teeth cleaning and nail trim under anesthesia for everyone's favorite space dog, Foster.

Until the vet decided to spend two hours pulling a bunch of his teeth at the charlatanic rate of $300/hour.

What???

Yikes!

Now Space Dog is broke and can't afford simple things like treats and tennis balls and the soft canned dog food he has to eat for two weeks because of the stitches and way fewer teeth!

Can you throw Space Dog a bone or two to help pay for the oral surgery and subsequent recovery?

Then I can keep throwing the tennis ball for him for years to come.

You know he will love you long time for it.

CLICK HERE to view the contribution page.

(Note: Yes, I am changing veterinarians ASAP!)

9.16.2015

GOP Debate

I have no interest in tonight’s GOP debate. This is why I am quite glad to have GUPPY EFFECT band practice followed by EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE studio recording filling up all my time tonight, which means very little chance of having my eardrum canals raped by GOP candidates espousing their religious extremism and fear/hate mongering messages. Long live rock-n-roll and hail Satan!

6 Word Novel

The ne'er-do-well ne'er could spell well.

6 Word Novel

Interesting vowel choice, calling them "twits."

6 Word Novel

She lept to safety. He didn't.

Madison Turner's Overdrive

I am at Madison Turners and I am not sure why. Or how.

It is putatively to attend the Madison Social Media Breakfast. I signed up for it online a few weeks ago and I got up at the unusually early hour of 6:30 AM to drive across town in time for the 7:30 start time. I was still late, arriving at 7:40 AM thanks to the foibles of GPS technology.

I cannot truthfully say I was not tempted a couple times to bail on the thing. I had a royally stressful day yesterday, handing over more than a thousand of my hard earned dollars to my veterinarian for the seemingly simple procedure of cleaning my dog's teeth (they decided to extract a few of his teeth for two hours at the charlatanic rate of $300/hr) and then being tasked with giving him horse pills for the next two weeks to prevent pain and infection, a formidible task with my finicky Boston terrier, Foster, who doesn't fall for the old peanut butter cloaked medicine ploy.

But I like to see things through and I saw this thing through.

The speaker was Spencer Smith and his presentation was titled "How to Establish Yourself as an Expert (Without Calling Yourself One)."

It was a good presentation. Spencer was charismatic and stayed consistent to his own thesis, conveying expertise during his entertaining speech. Furthermore, he used as an example his own band's rise to power (defined as getting lots of gig opportunities) by establishing "expertise" by way of performing on the largest stage of the world's largest music festival, Summerfest. One of my bands played Summerfest a few years ago, but via a different avenue ("we knew a guy..."), and said band never leveraged the prestige of that clutch cargo gig to play other shows.

I am glad I came to the thing. It's a good group of peeps.

6 Word Novel

He wrote the world's shortest song.

9.15.2015

New Coworker

The new coworker is a friendly sort of fellow. He played some Government Mule on his computer this afternoon, broadcasting it over the cube walls at a low volume for all in the vicinity to hear. No one has ever done that here before, probably for good reason. It was distracting. Eventually another coworker politely asked him to turn it off. He did.

9.14.2015

Cube Drone (69 Word Flash Fiction)


Author's note: This is a practice writing assignment for the Flash Fiction online class I just signed up for.
Working weekends is not redeemable for comp time, read the boss’s email.

“Why can’t that bastard get hit by a bus?” Bob whispered in his cramped cubicle, in the cavernous office building, in the sprawling industrial park.

He reached angrily into his desk drawer, smiling as he curled his fingers around the cold steel. He pulled out the flask and took a long pull of the comforting liquor inside.

6 Word Novel (Flash Fiction)

Fraternity party.
Strong drink.
Her fourth.

6 Word Novel (Flash Fiction)

"We always bicker."
"No we don't."

The Big Show (100 Word Flash Fiction)


How exciting. 40 Facebook RSVPs and counting for the show, plus a birthday and going away party at the venue on the same night. He envisioned a packed house.

He wasn’t worried when he arrived and found only two sound guys and the bartender in the suburban sports bar, since the show wasn’t for another hour yet. The band arrived. 

They waited until quarter past to start, to accommodate their fashionably late fans.

They opened with their best song and followed it with popular hits - their best performance yet. The audience cheered and danced all night. 

All six of them.

9.12.2015

The Day is Escaping Me

I had hoped to accomplish a lot more this morning than I did, as far as prepping my house for sale. The time got away from me. Paperwork and photos with the realtor took way longer than I expected. I had hoped to be done by noon with the powerwashing of the siding in front of the house but I probably won't even get to that until noon. So that will push back the music practice I planned to do before Stefan's bachelor party this evening. And I get very aggravated when music practice gets infringed upon.

Why Didn't I Grab the Light Bulbs

I decided to bike over to my house this morning to do chores prepping it for sale. One chore I had was to replace some light bulbs in the bathroom, and I dutifully placed said replacement bulbs in my car last night. So when I decided to bike here instead of drive, I totally forgot to retrieve them. It isn't a big deal, but my realtor wanted to get photos of all the rooms in the house today and with missing bulbs, the bathroom was not photo ready, so she will have to come back later for that.

9.11.2015

Weekender

A bunch of things are coming together this weekend. I think I am finally going to get my house on the market for sale. The carpet cleaners came today and I mowed the lawn. The handyman finished some minor fixes. Tomorrow, I will power wash the front siding and my realtor will take some pictures.

Tonight, I am taking my GF out for “date night.” We will probably go down to the Tuvalu CafĂ© in Verona where a friend is performing. Since they only have wraps and things there as food, we might eat dinner at home or go someplace else to eat before the show, which starts about 7:30, but goes until 9 or so.

Tomorrow morning, I will go and take care of the house stuff and meet my realtor there for the pictures. In the early afternoon on Saturday, it is kind of open ended what is happening. Deborah and I might connect with her brother and his wife who are in town, but this might be complicated by timing and distance. Long story, but I am down if it works out. If it doesn’t work out, I need to work on music stuff quite hard. EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE is playing a set at the Funks Open Jam on Sunday night, and although the band is rehearsing Sunday evening before the performance, I still need to hone a few things. I am a little rusty, since we have not practiced in ages.

Some people might think it is foolish of me to put so much effort into rehearsing for this show, given that the drummer is disappearing to travel the world for six months, starting in October. That probably means few gigs and even fewer rehearsals, since I am not sure the status of a sub drummer to fill in for him. But by the same token, if this is the last show for a while, I want it to be tight and good. A lot of people are putatively coming to this show, if RSVPs on the Facebook event are to be believed.

HIATVS is conversating about having a show this fall, and a number of new songs are in play for this, including "Synchronicity 2" by the Police. We are going to do some cover band emulations as mini-sets of five songs or so. We have discussed the Police, the Who, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. Classic rock emphasis, clearly. It needs to be determined who is singing these and if playing and singing at the same time is feasible for these songs.

Ciao.

House 2

Carpets got cleaned today at my house, another milestone in prepping it for sale. Gene the handyman (and Deborah's trainer) is here now as I type this, finishing up some painting and some installation of under-cabinet lighting to replace the faulty ones that the previous owner left me. Julie the realtor (and Deborah's sister) should get photos taken tomorrow and throw it up on the MLS by Monday.

Geeked.

The Curse of Facebook

I would quit Facebook entirely if I could.

The political ranting and ridiculous memes fill me with ire. Nothing is remotely amusing on Facebook anymore. It is all the usual suspects when it comes to cleverness. Predictable.

But I am compelled to stay on FB for two basic and important reasons.

1. My band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE does most of our communication via FB Messenger.

2. The FB Calendar is where I post performances of my bands and find out about other bands.

These FB functionalities are mission critical and thus the only things keeping me suckling at this particular social media teet.

I do my best to stay logged out of FB as much as I can until I have to post something or RSVP some local music events, especially performances of my friends' bands. Even so, it sometimes sucks me in like an Odysseyan Siren song.

Thankfully, FB Messenger on my smart phone is a separate app that doesn't require a full FB login, so communicating with my band mates is tolerable.

If there were a way to upload my blog posts to FB without having to login to it, that would be superb.

9.10.2015

Quality Not Quantity

I normally adhere to a QUALITY NOT QUANTITY philosophy. I'd rather have a few nice things than lots of crap. This goes for things I produce for others as well, such as writing and music. When I do February Album Writing Month (FAWM) in February (unsurprisingly), the goal is to crank out 14 songs in 28 days. However, I would rather crank out fewer songs if they are of higher quality (most are not, but some are). It is a better use of my time to focus on the promising numbers and let the mediocre ones slide. That all being said, I am breaking with convention and cranking out a lot of small blog posts today, not worrying about quality.

Quantity Not Quality

I wonder how many short blog posts I can write today. I guess we will find out shortly.

House

Getting my house ready to sell and things are going smoothly thus far. Knock on wood.

9.09.2015

Roadside Roadhouse

We got on County Highway B about a quarter mile from the cottage by the Red Barn Campground and rode our bikes east on it. There was a decent shoulder on the freshly paved road and not a lot of traffic. The SSW breeze coming off Shell Lake gave us a slight tail wind on the slow grade up to the intersection with Highway 253. Deborah had left the cottage a few minutes before Sherry and me to get a head start on us, since she knew we were stronger cyclists. We did not catch up to her until we were almost to 253. We crossed 253 and started down the steep downhill on B to its intersection with Highway 53, a very busy road, especially on a holiday weekend.

“Careful crossing here,” I called to everyone as we braked at the bottom of the hill approaching the stop signs that marked the busy road. There was a large median strip on 53, so we crossed the highway in two stages, first waiting for southbound, then northbound, traffic. It was slightly uphill again on the other side of 53, but only for a couple hundred feet. As we crested the small incline, we came upon a couple of dogs running free along the edge of the road – what looked like an Australian shepherd and a German Shepherd. Sherry had ridden ahead and so encountered them first. When I saw they didn’t pay much attention to her, I relaxed a little bit, knowing they weren’t aggressive. Deborah was a few feet behind me on her bike.

“I wonder whose dogs these are,” I called back to her over my shoulder.

“Don’t stop,” Deborah said.

“I am not gonna,” I replied. “But they are kind of a hazard running in the road like that. They might get hit by a car.”

Our first stop was Rummel’s. Someone, presumably Rummel, had converted half their house into a bar. It was a very rustic operation, but totally legit. We steered our bikes into the gravel parking lot and locked them to the “Leinenkugel’s” sign post, on which was nailed a simple placard that read “Rummel’s.” It was highly unlikely anyone would steal our bikes, but being city folk, it was kind of an instinctive behavior to lock them. The parking lot contained a few cars and ATVs. Rummel’s sits next to a popular ATV track. Several humming bird feeders dangled next the entrance to the bar.

As I pushed open the door and stepped inside, several faces turned to look at me with bland expressions of unrecognition. As I usually do in such cases, I nodded and raised a hand in greeting to them, as if they should be expecting me. The bartender, Russ, recognized Sherry and I from prior years’ bike rides, as it was a regular stop on our journey.

I approached the bar.

“Oh, they have a patio,” Deborah said. “Let’s sit outside.”

“OK. What do you want to drink?” I asked Deborah and Sherry.

“I’ll just have iced water,” Deborah replied.

Sherry thought a moment and then said, “Yeah, I’ll just have a water too.”

I turned to the bartender as the women head toward the door to the patio.

“Give me two iced waters and two PBRs,” I said to Russ. “But first, do you happen to have the county sheriff’s phone number handy? We saw a couple of dogs running free on the road down by 53 and I wanted to call them in. You don’t happen to know whose dogs they are do you?”

“What kind of dogs?” Russ asked. I told him. “No, I don’t think so.” He rummaged for a phone book behind the bar and when he found the right number he read it off to me as I dialed it into my smart phone. It was the Shell Lake sheriff’s dispatch. I told the woman on the phone about the dogs and they said they would send someone out to have a look.

I hung up. Russ served up the drinks. I paid and took the drinks out to the patio in two trips.

Pablo Escobar

I am watching a show on Netflix right now called “Narcos.” It is historical fiction based on the Drug War of the 80s, with emphasis on Colombia’s cocaine trafficking in the USA under Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Drug Cartel.

Escobar was by any definition a criminal, but he was an interesting character. When he made too much money to launder or buy things, he simply gave it to the poor. Cash. So he was very popular and well liked by the Colombian masses, who saw him as a sort of Robin Hood against the oppressive government that finally captured, imprisoned, and eventually killed Escobar in the early 90s.

I like “Narcos” because it teaches a bit of Latin American history via quasi-fictionalized action drama. I don’t like it because there is far too much overdubbed narration by the show’s DEA agent protagonist. But I like more about it than I don’t like, so I am compelled to watch more.

9.08.2015

My Summer Ends in Rocktober

Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer for a lot of people, particularly people in school. But not for me.

I refuse to accept summer's end until well after even the official seasonal transition to fall around September 21.

I usually accept the demise of warm weather and settle in for the long slow descent into holiday season hell around Halloween at the end of October.

I will often wear shorts up until then, even though I might bundle up my upper body with long sleeves and hoodies.

I do not like cold weather and try to delay its onset mentally as long as possible. That isn't to say I don't appreciate some aspects of fall, like the changing leaves and...well, that's about it.

I spend November and December acclimating myself to endure January and February, the bleakest part of winter in Wisconsin, usually. In January, I have my birthday to look forward to after the new year and February brings FEBRUARY ALBUM WRITING MONTH (FAWM), where I hunker down indoors and distract myself via songwriting, with hopes that March might bring some hints of pending spring.

This February, I am very lucky to have an option to relocate to more tropical climes to escape Wisconsin's frigidity. My GF Deborah is taking me on a cruise during the first week of February, followed by a week in Florida.

Delish.

9.07.2015

Irony Day

Are you at work today?

That would be ironic, and I would think a bit degrading to your self worth.

That said, I will be doing a nominal amount of voluntary labor today, with wages paid in a sense of altruistic superiority.

I have to pull the row boat up to higher ground and flip it upside down. Then with the assistance of my friend Sherry, I will carry the kayak to its winter storage place in the back shed, after first sweeping out said shed and arranging the bicycles within into some compact semblance of order.

There may be one or two other small chores to complete as well.

That will be followed by a bike ride around the lake to the coffee shoppe and cafe for a bite to eat. Or we might do that first, I am not sure.

But before any of this can transpire, I must "pump a Snicker."

9.06.2015

Biking

We almost didn't bike today due to weather and a minor family medical event that HIPAA rules prevent me from discussing publicly.

But, all the trades worked out and my annual Labor Day cycling event, now called BIKE WITH JOE in its 17th year, went more or less as planned today.

Up until yesterday, Weather Bug was calling for thunderstorms all day today, starting after midnight. Indeed, said storms did roll through during the night, though my sleep was largely unaffected by all but the loudest of thunderclaps because of my earplugs. The times I did wake up, it was mostly due to the musculoskeletal gymnastics of sleeping on a queen sized air mattress that very slowly lost pressure during the night, causing my torso slowly sink toward the floor.

The chance of non-biking didn't arrest my slumber much at all, though the thought of it was disappointing. In prior years, we usually tried to get on our bikes around 9 AM for the 22 mile or so one way trip to Stone Lake, our most common destination for the social ride (we have occasionally ended up in other places). I had my smart phone alarm set for 8 AM in hopes of a shift in the weather outlook.

"Could you turn that off?" I groggily asked Deborah, nudging her when my phone chimed in the morning on the window sill closer to her than to my aching frame.

Deborah rose from the air mattress and handily dismissed the alarm from my phone.

"Is it still raining?" I asked.

"Yep," replied Deborah. I rolled over and drifted back to sleep, resigned to the fact that biking seemed unlikely.

About 9, Deborah woke me up. She was fully dressed and made up.

"Are you all up and everything already?" I enquired. She had not gone back to sleep when my alarm had klaxoned, but had seized the albeit dreary day.

"Put your shorts on," Deborah commanded.

"Why?"

"Because people will be coming out here soon." The air mattress was positioned in the living room of my folks' rather small cabin, a communal area.

"Too late," I said, as my friend Sherry entered the living room, followed by Deborah's sister Julie.

"Oops," Sherry said. "Did we walk in on a private moment?"

"Absolutely not," I said, grabbing the prior day's shorts from the chair next to the air mattress and pulling them hastily on as I rose creakily from the air mattress.

I picked up my phone on the window sill and pulled up Weather Bug. The forecast had changed considerably. Instead of storms all day, Weather Bug was now calling for the night's rain to clear up by 10 AM, with zero percent chance of more precipitation until the evening.

"Good news," I informed the group. "Biking is on!" I conveyed the weather information and we started discussing ride logistics.

We ended up hitting the road a little before 11 AM, with a plan formulated for Deborah, Sherry, and I to ride bikes to the Roost, a greasy spoon diner about 8 miles down the road, where we would meet Julie and my mom (traveling by car) for breakfast about noon. Between the cabin and our breakfast destination lay the rolling hills of County Highway B and a rest stop called Rummel's Bar.

As soon as we crossed busy Highway 53, we came upon a couple of dogs on the loose milling about the side of the road.

"That could be dangerous," I thought.

Rummel's was just a bit farther along B on the left. When we arrived there, I had the bartender look up the county sheriff's number and called in the roaming dogs. The dispatcher said they would send an officer out to reign them in. I didn't want the dogs, which I think were a black and white Australian shepherd and a black German shepherd, to go to the pound. But that was better than them being hit by a car at highway speed. We had seen the black dog cross the road in front of a pickup truck, causing the driver to brake hard and lay on the horn.

We chilled on the outdoor back patio at Rummel's for a few minutes, petting the bar owner's two year old black lab, before riding on to the Roost. By now the clouds had given way to some sun. We beat my mom and Julie to the restaurant by a few minutes and got a table outside on their patio while we waited.

Deborah decided to bail on bike riding after breakfast. She loaded her bike on my car, which my mom had driven to meet us because of the bike rack on the back. Sherry and I wanted to push on to Stone Lake, another 16 miles down the road, and finish out the ride there, so a Phase 2 plan was formulated for us to all regroup in Stone Lake about 3:30.

While my mom, Deborah, and Julie went back to the cabin to drop off Deborah's bike and tend to the pack of small, wild dogs we had all brought with us to the cabin, Sherry and I pounded out four more miles (with a tail wind) to the Rockford House Tavern where we "carb loaded" for a spell. After the Rockford House, it was pretty much a solid 12 mile push to Stone Lake, the more "intermediate skill level" part of the ride relative to the "beginner level" of Phase 1, with its frequent rest stops. We had a tail wind most of the way, so we rolled into Stone Lake about 30 minutes ahead of schedule and had a victory beer at the Stone Lake Pub before crossing the street to Marie's Sports Bar, the aforementioned agreed upon meeting place.

When Deborah and my mom arrived (Julie had decided to repose at the cabin), we loaded the two remaining bikes on my car and drove back to the cabin to clean up and hang out. The skies had clouded over again during our ride from Rockford House to Stone Lake, and although it didn't rain on us, it was muggy and humid. So jumping in Shell Lake after we got back to the cabin was refreshing, and exhilirating...because the water temperature was brisk, to be sure.

"It was a lot warmer the last time we were here," Deborah commented as we all slowly and torturously immersed ourselves in the spring fed lake water with great protestation. Once submerged, it wasn't so bad. I got my dog Foster some exercise swimming out to fetch his tennis ball a few times. He is not a swimmer by nature, but his compulsion to retrieve a tennis ball at all costs trumped his mild aversion to water.

A nice spread of food after we emerged from the lake rounded out our successful day of biking.

9.02.2015

Politics

I am voting for Bernie Sanders for President in the 2016 primary and (if all goes well) general election. That’s a done deal unless someone more awesome than him enters the race, which seems unlikely, or Bernie Sanders does something really dumb, which seems even more unlikely. It’s nice to be decided on that. I don’t need to think about it that much, but just occasionally passively tune in to Bernie’s progress and gains on Hillary Clinton. Sure, a woman President would be cool. Just not her. I would vote for Elizabeth Warren in a pinch.

I have found I need to follow an “ignorance is bliss” philosophy when it comes to politics. Everyone has gone completely insane on all sides of the political spectrum and the few rational people just say things that make me mad, because I know 99% of people won’t respond to reason, but only to emotion (fear, hate, God, etc.). So I disenfranchise the whole gosh darn thing and I try to stay away from mass media coverage of politics. Everyone has totally lost their way, focusing on divisive non-issues that get ratings, while ignoring real issues. Investigative journalism is virtually non-existent nowadays. The media just regurgitates what their sources say and there is no news analysis (except via satire, like John Stewart and John Oliver).

So I am through with it. If America goes to hell in a handbasket, I will go to…oh, I don’t know…Australia, in a jet plane. How do you like them apples?

BIKE WITH JOE (Formerly BIKE WITH OR WITHOUT MELINDA) Weekend

This coming weekend is Labor Day weekend, and that means I am heading up to the folks’ cabin to host my social bike ride, as I have been doing since 1999. That makes this the 17th annual ride, I think. The first time I did the ride, my friend Melinda and some other pals did it with me and we called it BIKE WITH MELINDA, for some arbitrary reason. I think the actual reason was that Melinda had, the prior year, biked across the USA and we all thought that was kind of cool (it kind of still is…I would think I was cool if I ever did it!) and we gave her mild celebrity status. Melinda came to a couple more of these rides after that, but she hasn’t been to one in a long time. So we started calling it BIKE WITH (OR WITHOUT) MELINDA, and now, by popular demand, we will probably just call it BIKE WITH JOE, since most of the people who tend to attend the event over the past few years have never met Melinda and have no idea who she is or why we named the ride after her. I, Joe, am always the constant. Last year, for example, no one was able to come on the ride, except me. So I decided to run 10 miles around Shell Lake last year, instead of biking.

There is always the chance Melinda will decide to attend one of these in the future and we’ll have to revert to the original name for that special occasion. But this is a long shot.

This year, a couple of people are going with me - my good friend Sherry and my GF Deborah - and maybe one or two more friends, like Jerome.

We usually cruise up to Shell Lake with our bikes on our cars on Saturday, the day AAA says is the lightest traffic day of the Labor Day weekend. Deborah and I plan to leave about 8 AM and get up there around noon to have lunch with my parents. Sherry may caravan with us, but should arrive shortly thereafter regardless. We usually chillax and socialize by the lake on Saturday afternoon and evening, maybe grill out. Sometimes we engage in water sports like kayaking or wind surfing.

On Sunday, we get up at a decent hour and prep for biking. Usually we hit the road around 9 AM. About 8 miles into the ride is a greasy spoon diner called the Roost where we get breakfast, although there is a rest stop before that, called Rummel's, where we always have a liquid refreshment (carb loading). People have the option to eat breakfast at the cabin before we start biking too, if they are not into the protein and fat rich offerings of the Roost (or even if they are!). After the Roost, we sometimes stop at the Rockford House, about 12 miles in, if it is open. After the Rockford House, it is pretty much all riding until Stone Lake. Sometimes we stop to have a look at the creepy Paul Bunyan statue en route. There is also a road side general store on that stretch.We seldom stop there, but we could if someone needed a beverage or some food.

It's a pretty easy ride to Stone Lake. There are a few rolling hills, but nothing too challenging. Because my parents are usually available to drive a support car, people have the option to jump on or off the ride at the various rest stops, especially if they do not feel like riding the return trip from Stone Lake (it's about 23 miles one way).

In Stone Lake, we have lunch and socialize, before heading home by bike or car. There is more chillaxing at the cabin in the afternoon and evening. On Monday, everyone helps tidy up the cabin and leaves at their own pace. Monday is not a good traffic day, so an early start is often wise, and it is definitely recommended to take a detour around the Wisconsin Dells traffic atrocity (even though it is more miles, it is less time because of the traffic jams the FIBs cause on I-94).

That's about it. Fun stuff. If you are interested, drop me a line. Space is limited at the cabin, so we might not be able to accommodate everyone.