Monday, July 21, 2014

Oreos for Breakfast.

Summer Vacation Blitz 2014 is in the books, and all that’s left are a bug-streaked windshield, one bottle of warm IPA and a lazy attitude.

After our four-day junket to San Diego, we joined seven other family members down in Manzanita Oregon. It’s about twenty minutes south of Cannon Beach, that legendary hamlet where a buck will still buy a scoop of ice cream, but if you want a dish or cone with it, you’ll need to toss in a five spot.

Just to give you an idea of the situation in our rental house, picture the setting of Dan in Real Life, where a large extended family gathers in a picturesque locale. That’s exactly how this was, except we didn’t have a talent show or morning aerobics and my brother didn’t punch me in the face this time.

But other than that it was crazily similar. 

Oh, yeah, and I’m not a widower and my teenage daughter didn’t accuse me of being a murderer of love, but everything else was exactly the same.

I don’t want to give you the verbal equivalent of your Aunt Melba’s Little Big Horn slide show, so I just thought I’d share a few of the lessons I’ve gleaned from shacking up with family for a whole calendar week. In the workplace these are known as “learnings, “takeaways” or “knowledge soak,” if you happen to work at Microsoft. Maybe you’ve gathered some of the same findings:

1) I eat too much. For God’s sake, when else but vacation do I slither out of bed and grab a couple of Oreos on the way to the cinnamon rolls? Throughout the week, I singlehandedly transformed a five-pound jar of Red Vines into a smudgy husk coated in Red Dust Number Forty.

2) I sleep a lot, but not well. You know how it is—the bed feels a little off and the covers have a slight skeeviness, like that coating your fingers accumulate while browsing through the jeans rack at Goodwill. The room was painted a shade of blue made famous by cadaver genitals, and smelled slightly of kelp and pork roast.

3) I drink too much. Beer-Thirty arrived early most days, and on others, even earlier. Consequently, please see Takeaway #2.

4) Hiking is fun—but I’m not good at it. A 1400-foot vertical climb means there’s a good chance I’ll be tripping over up to thirty exposed tree roots. Not to disappoint, on the way back down, I rolled my ankle and ate trail. I currently have a bruise on my outer butt that resembles a chubby Mother Mary with one eye.

5) Family vacations keep improving as the kids get older. Let’s face it—it kind of sucks to travel with little children, especially when your idea of a vacation doesn’t include getting up at 6:30 to play Candyland, a game you could despise just as much without the nice ocean view. Nowadays, those girls of mine sleep more than house cats on Ambien.

6) It’s great to hang out with my dad, brother, sister and all the in-laws I know my older brother was disappointed that I didn’t want to share a bunk bed like the old days, but the dude’s bladder isn’t exactly the elastic parcel of youth it once was. I told him I’d be willing to try if he’s willing to invite a thousand daily Kegels into his life.

7) Nothing beats laughing so much that your gut aches for seven straight days. There’s a washboard stomach somewhere under there from nonstop guffawing. 

Trust me, because after last week, I’m not lifting my shirt in public for a while.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

If You Go, Don't Forget Your Louis Valentins.

Family vacations can be a lot like watching a last-place baseball team: You come home sunburned and pissed off, wondering why you spent all that time and money on such selfish bastards.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

So simple. My wife, ever the brains of the organization, proposed letting our older daughter have the house to herself while her younger sister brought a friend with us down to San Diego over the July Fourth weekend.

It was the magic of addition by subtraction, like segregating an oxidizing agent from a reducing compound to stave off explosive polymerization.

Sorry, I just started watching Breaking Bad again. 

Sure, there were a few Griswoldian hitches in our get-along. My first couple of forays behind the wheel of our sporty Kia Soul proved a little dicey, but that’s what happens when a high performance motor car is piloted by a dude in flip flops who constantly has to pee a little. 

Did I drive over a few curbs? Sure. Did my ham-footed braking illicit a smattering of spirited “JC Tim!"s from my lovely bride after exerting forced flexion on her delicate neck tissue? Maybe.

But on the whole, this was our best trip in a long time. I won’t bore you with my watered down Rick Stevesishness, but I will say this: check out San Diego. It’s a beautiful, manageable place to spend a few days. And as if there aren’t a Brazilian other reasons to visit, everything takes about twenty minutes to reach. Whether it’s Pacific Beach, Mission Bay, Coronado or Balboa Park, your inner thighs will be chaffing from the salty beach air faster than you can say fish taco.

And speaking of Balboa Park, it’s ground zero for Dr. Suess enthusiasts. Theodore Geisel, having lived in La Jolla for nearly fifty years, surely drew inspiration for his illustrations strolling through and around this locale. Here's what I mean:

I couldn't believe it! I half expected the Lorax to peek his head around the trunk and scream at us for supporting Monsanto. Many of us will line up to see where Mozart was born or where Hemingway drank, but no waiting is necessary to catch the splendor of my personal Mecca, the Suessian forest at Balboa Park.

Of course, traveling and living in close quarters with a couple of fourteen-year-old girls poses its own challenges. They were often so occupied with posting photos of themselves in San Diego that they spent about forty percent of the time actually being in San Diego as the adults did. Oh well, at least they supplied a few verbal gems:

Teenaager: “Dad, these sunglasses were only $10. They’re Louis Valentin. I got a great deal.”

Me: “Are you thinking of Louis Vuitton?"

Teenager: “Whatever."

Teenager: “Dad, this place is too small. Can we just stay in a hotel?”

Me: “No.”

Teenager: “Whatever."

Teenager: “Dad, I want to go to college in San Diego.”

Me: “Okay. How will you pay for it?”

Teenager: “Dad, Stop it.”

I did.

We returned refreshed and, let’s just say, slightly secretly sandy. Our older daughter picked us up at the airport and returned us to a house that was nearly as cleanish as she’s ever cleaned it.

And next time we’re thinking about trying the whole San Diego thing with no kids. I'm confident our delicate family chemistry will survive intact.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Few Words About the Mispronunciationism Epidemic.

“Dad, you’re such a hypocrite.”

My younger daughter hurls that knuckleball at me quite a bit. Ever since she learned it back in sixth grade, it’s her go-to accusation. The other day she called me out again, this time for mispronouncing words.

“You’re always correcting people’s words, but you don’t say words right all the time.” 

Most mature parents, like my wife, would just let a provocative statement from their hormone-soaked adolescent vaporize harmlessly through an ozone crack. 

Not this petty simpleton. “I don’t say any words wrong,” I said. “Name one.” Bam, take that, teenager.

“You say ‘girl SCOUT' cookies. It’s supposed to be ‘GIRL scout' cookies.”

She had no idea how on top of my game I felt. “That’s not mispronunciation, that’s just putting the accent on a different word.” 

“Whatever. You’re still a hypocrite.”

Curses. I had nothing. My only recourse would have been to initiate the feared “am-not, are-too” exchange, and I probably would have if my bride weren’t within easy earshot.

Hypocrite or not, I’m not a fan of mispronunciation. I blame my mom. Whenever I’d butcher a word or not know its definition, she made me look it up in our twelve-pound dictionary sitting next to the phone.

Ever since then, my hackles have saluted at the sound of a misspoken word. The George W. Bush years proved to be the most prolific reign of lexiconic butchery since Archie Bunker told Edith that “you can’t squeeze blood out of a tulip.” 

Our Yale- and Harvard-educated Commander-in-Chief, the man who held the keys to America’s doomsday arsenal, couldn’t pronounce “nuclear.” During a 2004 presidential debate with John Kerry, Bush said, “I hear there’s rumors on the Internets that we’re going to have a draft.”

Even Cheney must have made disapproving buzzard noises when he heard that.

I won’t drone on about our ex-Prez who paints puppy pictures. It’s like calling your old girlfriend and asking for that VHS copy of “Purple Rain” that she never gave back. What’s the point?

But as long as we eat our sherbert acrossed from the libary after supposably prespiring about our prostrate, we must abide these wordroids. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Expecially—I have a good friend who’s mispronounced “especially” since I’ve known him, but what am I gonna do—stop him mid-sentence or wait for a more opportune moment to humiliate him? Nah. There’s already a glut of dickishness on our big blue marble.

Disorientated—Frequently spoken by those who actually are disorientated.

Irregardless—Actually, simply add two letters to the beginning, and “unirregardless” returns to meaning what it should.

Expresso—Yes, I’ve heard this from actual Seattle natives. This should be added to our citizenship test right after the dog CPR section.

Sometimes, however, it can get personal. A few years ago at a company meeting, my group was recognized for working on a successful campaign. The speaker read our names from a slide and I could tell she was a mispronouncer after messing up two of the first five names. 

I still felt safe. The worst I’ve ever been called is “Hayward,” even though my name is phonetically the easiest word to pronounce in the English language. Seriously, I’ve heard that “Haywood” was one of the first caveman last names, since it can be grunted.

She reached my name on the list—Sherry Jones, Mark Johnson, Tim Hayway…”

Hayway? What the hell? This woman was a freaking vice president and she couldn’t pronounce a word that even my cat accidentally says a couple of times a week?

Spontaneous barks of laughter erupted from random spots throughout the room. Everyone in my vicinity shoved me and choked back fits of laughter.

That was five years ago. Just take a guess at what I’m still called around the old water cooler.

Besides that.

Monday, June 23, 2014

She's back.

To honor the completion of her freshman year at Western Washington University, I've composed this tribute to my first-born and her joyous homecoming.

Sung to the tune of “Back in Black,” by AC/DC:

Zoe’s Back

Zoe’s back.
Her shit is stacked
In the hall and on the kitchen counter.

Yeah, she’s hangin’ loose.
Trying to choose:
Watch Grey’s or nap for half an hour?

She’s got a job.
I hope by God
She can stick it out for sixty days or so.

It’s for the Y.
Your little guy
Has a brain that’s just like Zo’s.

‘Cause she’s back.

Oh, my back.

Yeah, she’s back.

You know it, Jack.

Well, she’s baa haa haa haa haack.
Baa haa haa haa haack.
Zoe’s back.

Her crap is still unpacked.

Back to our shack
Comes the power pack.
Six meals a day, not including snacks.

Yeah she loves to hang
With her gang,
Instagramming selfies with the cat.

Well she watches sports
Always in her shorts,
Only gets up to pee and refill Goldfish.

This soon will end.
When we send
Our angel off to pull her weight.

‘Cause she’s back.

That’s a fact.

Yeah, she’s back.

Step on a crack.

Well, she’s baa haa haa haa haack.
Baa haa haa haa haack.
Zoe’s back.

From the land of Hacky Sack.

Please insert Angus Young solo in its entirety. 

‘Cause she’s back.

She gives us flack.

Yeah, she’s back.

She wants some slack.

Well, she’s baa haa haa haa haack.
Baa haa haa haa haack.
Zoe’s back.

Pour me a Coke and Jack.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's Yearbook Season.

Since it’s that time of year, let’s talk a little today about milestones.

Last night was my fourteen-year-old daughter’s eighth grade “promotion” ceremony. The word “graduation” seems to get tossed around so much these days. Between preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school, yesterday marked our ninth such ceremony. 

Holy sweet father of T-ball trophies, what's next? At this rate it won't be long before maternity wards start broadcasting “Pomp and Circumcise” through the corridors.

So yeah, the past couple of weeks have been heaped with one everyone-gets-a-badge-uation after another.

(At this point, please insert the inquisitive tones of “Dateline’s" Keith Morrison): But there’s another historic way station lurking in the milky dusk of a bygone decade

Twenty years ago this week, on June 17, 1994, O.J. Simpson performed his hour-long Ford Bronco infomercial. With his friend Al, a wad of cash and a gun to his head, Simpson took 95 million of us on a slow ride to the intersection of Holy Shit I Never Knew O.J. Was a Psycho Boulevard, and like, Sepulveda.

Along with most of the world, I initially believed the whole situation was a misunderstanding. How could this All-American football-star-turned-actor possess the capacity for such savagery? 

As a kid, I worshipped the guy like subsequent generations idolized Micheal Jordan and Tom Brady. I’m not proud of this now, but check it out—I even wore his shoes:

Originally intending to write exclusively on the Broncoversary and my childhood worship of O.J., once I pulled out that old yearbook, I was instantly distracted. To hell with O.J. Simpson, I thought, let’s talk about something more relevant. 

Think back to those warm, waning June days, when the work was done, and our sole responsibility was attaining as many heartfelt dedications as could be crammed into a 64-page hardbound time capsule.

Every adolescent message you are about to read was written by classmates now in their fifties. Since so much time has passed and most legal statutes of limitation have expired, I decided to include names. You may see something you wrote thirty-six years ago. Let’s just hope you were nice to me.

The following are excerpts from the pages of the 1977-78 Olympic Junior High annual.

I still haven't tried Caryn's recipe because the only place that sells giggles is Whole Foods, and they're organic and really expensive.

Happy yearbook season.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Life of Service? Roger That.

This is the fifth in my series of Rolling-Stone-reporter-wannabe interviews, entitled... I've always had a hard time with the let's just call it, "Friends with great stories."

For the past six months, my teenager has been hard at work on her life story, also known as her eighth grade portfolio. The girl's only fourteen but holy sweet mother of toner cartridges, this juggernaut has grown to the size of the Chicago phonebook! 

How's that for an old man joke? I've been practicing.

My point is that, regardless of how long we've been alive, everyone's got a story to tell. And heavens to mergatroid, a few of us have carved out lives with such colorful chapters, I feel obligated to share them.  And if I had to find a common denominator, I'd say my friends who've sacrificed the most, those who've lived lives of compassion, have had the most amazing journeys. 

Yada yada, Yoda. Post that beautiful meme to Facebook and move along.

I met Rog (pronounced Råhjhhj) in a high school weight lifting group. We were on the football team, and the coach had made it unofficially mandatory to take his P.E. class. Rog and I ended up working out together (I use the term "working" more loosely than a Limbaugh jowl) and spent fifty minutes every day making fun of the coach and pulling up our tube socks. 

We cracked wise as our chubby leader spat coachisms out his frothy mouth cracks, his polyester shorts buzzing like a little table saw where his thighs ground together. He clapped his meaty hands and snorted out football clichés: "Get strong, Trojans! Hum babe! I see a band of  warriors in this room who are gonna pin their ears back and lay some wood to Kennedy High School on September 9!" 
Lay some wood? Yeah, when September 9 finally rolled around, think balsa wood. 

"Owoooohhh! Let's get it on!" That was the dude we called Mole Man, our own version of Rudy, yelling from over by the squat rack. He was about five feet four and you could set your watch by his robust testosterone geysers. "Let's go, men! Hurts so good!"

During our two years together playing for mighty Troy, the team compiled a 2-16 record, amounting to a winning percentage of just over eleven. Didn't hurt very good to get beaten 54-6 by Evergreen, but a few hushed sideline jokes among the less serious salved the emotional contusions of being physically dominated on a weekly basis.

From an early age, Rog was drawn to stringed instruments. I used to love this picture until I found out it was taken at senior prom. At least he took some heat off the guys who brought farm animals.
After graduating in 1982, Rog opted to postpone college to address some lingering rock 'n' roll issues, playing bass for a year-and-a-half in '80s cover bands like this one called Splash:

Compelling concept for a band, no? That's him on the far left. Did Rog get a tad distracted playing"Mr. Roboto" while his low slung bass rhythmically assaulted his Speedo-covered loins? Perhaps, but it never…showed?

I know, too far again. But now for the good part, where our guest is allowed to talk. 

Rog, after eighteen months purging your rock demons and singing high harmony on "Hungry Like the Wolf," you experienced, shall we say, a total eclipse of the heart, and decided to go to college. When the money ran out, you applied for an Army ROTC scholarship, altering the course of your life significantly.

Definitely. The two-year academic scholarship bought me an obligation for four years active duty. My original plan was be a tank driver (I LOVED those things), but the Army had other ideas.

Since I didn’t want to go into the finance branch of the Army or to the Air Defense Artillery, my military science professor said my options were limited to two: medical school or law school. That summer I took the LSAT (the morning after seeing KISS and WASP in concert) and did well enough to get admitted to Gonzaga. 

Wow, I'm sure you weren't the first scholar propelled by KISS toward academic excellence. Actually, you probably were. Anyway, after meeting your awesome and beautiful wife Marci during college and marrying her while in law school, you graduated in 1990 and passed the Washington State Bar Exam, thereby beginning your military obligation.

After attending JAG School in Charlottesville, Virginia (Judge Advocate Generals are lawyers trained in military law), Marci and I were given three locations to choose from: Fort Polk, Louisiana, Fort Drum, New York or Panama. 

We both immediately vetoed Fort Polk, also known as swamp city. I liked the idea of Panama, but Marci—always the mature person in the relationship—mentioned that the United States had just invaded Panama the previous year, and she wasn’t too keen on living there for three years.  

Sounds reasonable. So it was Fort Drum by default, then.

Yeah. It was the home of the 10th Mountain Division, and had I done a little more research, I would have known that the chances would be very good that I would be going to some of the world’s favorite hot spots of that time.  

Like Somalia?

Like Somalia. We knew it was possible, since I was an Army lawyer. We go where the soldiers go.

And that's exactly where you were sent for six months in 1993.

I was there between April and September. To give you a feel for the situation, the Black Hawk Down sequence of events occurred three weeks after I left. 

We were the “QRF” or Quick Reaction Force, meaning our troops would get deployed to any trouble spots in Somalia that a general deemed worthy of messing with. My job was to handle everything legal. Early on, that meant writing wills and powers of attorney for soldiers. 

I also paid a lot of claims for damage that we (the Army) caused as a result of our own negligence. Let me explain the distinction: if combat action resulted in damage to property, we didn’t pay. But if our helicopters were training in an empty desert and one of the wire-guided missiles left the grid and hit a building, I'd be paying out a claim. 

Here's an example: At one of our road checkpoints, a young soldier accidentally discharged a round. The shot went through the windshield of a waiting car, killing a young Somali man.

I heard about it immediately and flew to the scene the following morning. Accompanying me in the helicopter were a paralegal, an interpreter and a security detail, plus a guy carrying ten thousand American dollars, which was the maximum I could pay on a claim.

We got to the village and I met the father of the deceased man. He was a a highly respected elder, looked about a thousand years old and arrived with his own entourage of five or six guys. 

Through the interpreter, I told him how sorry the United States was for his loss. I listened to him rant about what the Americans were doing there and why was his oldest son now dead? Not a lot of fun, but then I get to tell him the good news—I had a whopping $10,000 US for his trouble.  

He was insulted, which he should have been. I sure as hell would probably have swung away if the roles were reversed, and this was when I heard for the first time about “blood money.”  

This guy told me he didn't want our money. In the Somali culture, if an oldest son (and primary family breadwinner) is killed, custom demands that the responsible party provide one thousand camels as compensation.  

As this was being explained to me by the interpreter, I started thinking—I could save the government some money. The camels in Somalia looked awful; they couldn’t be that expensive. How hard could it be to round up a thousand and deliver them?  

I told the guy I'd look into it. We got into the helicopter and headed back to the base. When I got there, my boss told me I was out of my mind and that I would not be going out on the open market trying to buy camels (Precedent alone for this would have been disastrous.).

After a few days, I flew back to the village with the bad news. When the old man and his peeps showed up, the money was laid out on the table. I told him the US government is not in the business of camel herding, and that while I was deeply sorry for his loss, our laws and customs only allowed me to pay this amount.  

The old man got all pissed off and stormed out of the building. About an hour later, he came back alone, telling my interpreter he urgently needed to see me. I invited him in and he told me he would take the payment, but he couldn’t appear to be leaving with money at the risk of being robbed.  

He said in order for it to work, he needed yell and storm out again, just in case anyone was watching. The guy stuffed the cash into his underwear, signed a release and yelled for another five minutes. Then he walked out and down the dirt road that runs through town, never to be seen again.

Did you perform any other duties while in Somalia?

When I first got there and we weren’t being shot at or mortared, I would go out to the orphanages. We would bring soccer balls and supplies and spend time with the kids. I got close with one named Mohammed, and I still have his photo.  

He would visit me when I would sit in front of the embassy accepting claims.  I saw him every week for about two months—gave him candy, a Walkman, some cassettes—then he stopped coming. Soon after that we started taking rounds at the embassy, and I never saw him again. Chances are he ended up killed or working for Al Qaeda.

Over the ensuing twenty years, in both in active and reserve duty, you performed virtually every type of service for the Army—labor law, trial defense, even environmental law. Yet when you finally retired in 2009, you returned to another hot zone in a civilian role. Describe that.

I signed a contract with the State Department to perform “Rule of Law” work for a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan. We were basically sent to establish or re-ignite legal systems. The problem was, no lawyers or judges were around anymore; nearly all of them had left the country for places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. 

All that was left were old lawyers who could not afford to get out of the country. During my time there, I worked on getting lawyers trained (there was a law school nearby that taught Islamic Sharia law.). The program took four years to spit out lawyers. so there was no quick fix.  

What little was left of the court system there, like every other political or administrative system, was corrupt. Tons of dollars were thrown at the problem. Every politician starting at the top of the food chain had their fingers on the money, and took a piece of the pie as the funds worked their way down to the town or village that needed a new police station or courthouse. Often times the money wouldn’t make it at all. 

Then there was the question about which law to apply—traditional Anglo Common Law or Sharia. We also had to compete with the Taliban shadow government, who had their own, Sharia-based court system. 

All in all, my opinion of what we were doing there was not good. My little piece of the picture indicated that our efforts were simply prolonging the inevitable, since there would never be a traditional court system with prosecutors, juries, and defense attorneys. I was more than a little disenchanted with our role and how I was handled as a contract employee.

Interesting. Speaking of "shadow" court systems, let's talk about the shadow job you've been performing for the past fifteen years when you weren't deployed to war zones and counseling soldiers.

Yeah, the “Big Job” working on the Seattle Mariner Grounds Crew.  On average I work around forty to fifty games of the 81 game home schedule. I started in September 1999. Head groundskeeper Bob Christofferson, a.k.a. the "Sod Father," started the next year. Since then, he, I and the rest of the crew have become like family. Most of us were around in 2001 for the All Star Game and the playoffs.

And if I'm not mistaken, 2001 was the last time the Mariners did make the playoffs, yes?

Yes, and there's a reason. The grounds crew started dancing in 2002. Coincidence? I think not. The baseball gods are NOT happy with us. Many of us on the crew want nothing to do with the dance, since we believe it has run its course.  

However, we are told there are many fans contacting the front office and marketing clamoring for the fat guys to get out there and shake it. We haven't danced all season, but it looks like we're finally going to succumb to the pressure.The choreographer was at the ballpark last night.

Anything else you'd like to mention before we sign off? 

One last thing. Marci has been incredible throughout the last 25 years. There was at least one time during my career that I could not tell her where I was going, and that had to be hard on her. I left her with our one-month-old son when I went to Somalia. I have been on numerous other deployments where she was left to be the sole parent to both of our sons for extended periods of time. She has never complained or asked me not to go.

Thanks, Roger. And thank you, Marci. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou: Someone Who Knew Why.

I like to see the children say, 'I never thought of that before.' And I think, ‘I've got them!'"

-Maya Angelou

Here are some of her occupations: San Francisco’s first woman streetcar driver (at 16!), 17-year-old teen mom high school graduate, opera singer who toured Europe in the ‘50s, film director, civil rights activist…

…there’s so much more she did, too, like speaking six languages and performing in Broadway plays, but let’s talk about her poetry.

While she’s best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her biographical tale of growing up in the Jim Crow South, throughout her life she jotted down poems to distract herself from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and racism. It was first published in 1983, but no one is really sure when Ms. Angelou first wrote “Caged Bird”:

…The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing…

If you get a chance, do a little research on this woman. Seriously, this is one of the most amazing people to ever breathe oxygen. When the hell did she sleep?

Maya Angelou’s death made me remember how powerful poetry can be, how it hits a sweet spot in us not reachable by music or traditional prose. As good as a song may be, I tend to focus on the melody and lose the lyrics. I can immerse myself in a good novel, yet it doesn’t strike with the emotional cadence of poetry.

My friend Jame Richards took things a step further. In Three Rivers Rising, she recounts the 1889 Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood. After a dam fails and unleashes twenty million gallons of water on working- class Johnstown, the story unfolds from the perspectives of a wealthy teenage girl staying at the resort on the hill above harm’s way, and her forbidden boyfriend whose family resides in the valley below.

The subject matter alone is intriguing, but here’s the cool part—it's written in verse:


…Father says he comes for the fishing,
but in truth he comes to keep an eye
on other businessmen.

I have never seen him hook
a worm or tie a fly.

I cannot imagine him gutting a fish
or scraping scales.

The only scales he knows
are for banking and shipping.

But his partners and rivals decided
it was time for fresh air,
peace and quiet,
away from the filth and crowds of the city.

So, even at this pastoral lakeside resort,
my father will not miss
the glimmer of a business deal
spoken over rifles or fishing reels…

It's a craft that can veer in limitless directions. Ever read a poem by Charles Bukowski? The guy was no Hallmark Card, but man, could he hit a nerve:

…there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled

a space

and even during the
best moments

we will know it…

That’s an excerpt from No Hope for That. 

Thanks for making every day seem like Monday, Chuck. Remind me to look for that refrigerator magnet at your website.

Let’s end on a high note. I would be committing felonious balonyous if I didn’t hoist Theodore Suess Geisel to the top of the turtle stack.

Horton. The Grinch. The Lorax. The main dude in Green Eggs and Ham who never states his name or species. Dr. Suess is nothing short of my idol, crafting his made-up words and simple rhymes into lessons on morality, loyalty and positivity:

Today you are you,
That is truer than true.
There is no one alive
Who is youer than you.

If you haven’t read Oh, the Places You’ll Go, give it a gaze. And hey, since it is the season, the hardback edition is a great gift for that special graduate.

Today we celebrate the life of an extraordinary human, one who wasn't afraid to take a few chances. How about if we honor Ms. Angelou’s memory by venturing into the scrawling out of a poem or two. 

No big whoop; anything you want, even if the first line contains “Nantucket.” Let’s see what you’ve got.

Rest in peace, Maya Angelou. Here’s to the poets.