Writing Class Assignment

Alison’s apartment was stunning. A vision. On the 23rd floor of her building overlooking the Manhattan Skyline, and a park below. It had a modern décor, all black leather and stainless steel; right angles. Swanky. I loved it from the first second she welcomed me in, and every time after that. Tonight’s festivities were a party, more or less to celebrate my latest novel. Well, honestly, more to give everyone a reason to dress up and be beautiful. Less about my book.

Alison was my publisher, and my champion. I was introduced to her 11 years ago by a mutual friend. I liked her immediately. I discovered she was an author, and since I was on the verge of my writing career, had a million questions for her. I probably only asked 265,000 of them. I was showing restraint. She also had a career as an editor. She edited some of the early versions of my first novel, before her publishing career took off.

Alison believed in my writing even before I did. I knew that I enjoyed writing and had some amount of talent. She encouraged me and guided me as I developed. Her editing skills were put to the test in those early years.

It was my first invitation to one of Alison’s parties while I happened to be in New York trying to make my writing career happen. It was shortly after my first, largely ignored book was published. I was stashed away in the corner of her apartment. She had a telescope near the balcony door, and I was drawn to it the first time I was there. It was a kind of security blanket for me. It was a conversation starter when people circulated past me.

I was in the midst of a conversation with two people I knew from Alison’s firm when she walked in.

Rachel Pratt was the latest “It Girl”. Swimsuit model. Victoria’s Secret Angel. Her face and figure were being used to sell everything from hamburgers to sports cars and everything in between. There was quite the commotion as she entered. She was the center of a whirling dervish of publicists, assistants and camera folks who were filming a reality TV show about her. All eyes immediately were drawn to her. Some camera phones came out to capture the moment. Eventually the commotion settled down, and the party returned to its normal pace.

There was a lull in my conversation too when suddenly a voice from behind me said “I really enjoyed your book.” It was Rachel. First, I couldn’t believe she was actually speaking to me. Second, I didn’t know that anyone I hadn’t personally handed the book to had read it. Sales were that slow.

“Thank you” I managed to reply, after catching my breath. “I didn’t know anyone had read it.”

“It was quite good. Alison gave me a copy when we had lunch last month.”

“I need to thank her for that” I replied.

“Your jacket photo doesn’t do you justice” she said with a little smile. I’m certain I blushed at that point.

Even though her face and body were the thing of teenage dreams, for me, it was her eyes. Crystal blue, sparkling. To say I was smitten would have been a gross understatement.

July 7, 2018

So, I’ve not posted for a while…I know you’re surprised by that. This time, I have a really valid reason. I promise!! I just finished a writing workshop. So, I’ve been working on my writing while not actually writing here.

Some backstory.

I had been looking for a writing class off and on for quite a while. I kept looking at the local community college, thinking that was the most likely place to find this. I was unsuccessful. They seemed to want me to enroll. I didn’t want to be a “student”. I have a Bachelor’s degree, I don’t believe an AA is going to do anything for me at this point. I was looking for a personal enrichment course. I just couldn’t seem to find it. I looked at the community college in the next county; a friend of mine works there. I assumed that this wasn’t that strange of a request. It appears that it was. Fast forward to about two months ago. I was sitting in the cigar shop with one of the guys that works here part time, who’s main job is on staff at the local University. He was discussing his job with one of the customers and mentioned that his group was in charge of continuing education. There was a figurative and literal (or so it seemed) light bulb above my head. While he was in conversation, I was on their web site on my phone, and had found the class I ended up taking.

I hemmed and hawed for a while. I didn’t want to commit. It was odd. I was looking for an out. For no particular reason other than self-doubt. I got over that in a couple of hours though, and enrolled. The conversation happened on a Sunday, and the class started on a Wednesday. It was a perfect timing, I was in it before I really had a chance to talk myself out of it.

The class was phenomenal. I learned almost immediately that the self-doubt is a common trait among writers, not just beginning writers. The class gave us exercises to overcome the doubt, and exercises to improve the writing.

Our main assignment for the class was to write a 500-word story. We could either write a short story or provide the first 500 words of a longer piece. I chose the latter. I had a scene idea in my head for months prior to ever finding the class. I just didn’t know what to do with it. I was fighting my initial thoughts of what it was going to be or should be. I didn’t really believe, before the class, that it was valid, or worthy, or something. One of the main take-aways for me from the class is that the only way to fail at writing, is not to write, or to stop writing. I’ve learned, or am trying to learn and apply, is that my ideas are as valid, and as “good” as anyone else’s, My writing has to satisfy me, and be valid and credible to me before it can be valid or credible to anyone else first. I need to let the stories be what they are going to be.

Another big take-away is that I can share my writing with others. Since the class started, I’ve been very open about the fact that I am writing and have even shared it with several people both in the writing class and others that I have known for years. All of the feedback has been positive. I am gaining a lot of confidence as a writer, and as a person.

I’ll post the writing assignment as the next post in the blog, below.

One other point about the class, is that I really enjoyed being back in class. The school, and it’s online partner that offered the course also have a couple of courses on WordPress, the software I use on this site, and I’m going to enroll in those courses next. They start in two weeks’ time, so the site updates I promised a few posts ago are forthcoming. I’m probably going to use my own site as the test bed for the course, so it may actually get worse before it gets better. 🙂

Update and Explanation

Originally written February 3, 2018, with updates to current time, 3/24/18

I’ve been away for a while, and I apologize, although I’m sure you are used to it by now; my protracted absences from the blog.  Allow me to explain this one, as at least I have an excuse this time.

I had my left big toe amputated in early November.  I spent five days in the hospital and another three weeks in a rehab facility recuperating.  Rehab facility is the term that is used when you are really too young to be in a nursing home, but in all actuality it’s where you are.  Some back story is probably in order here.  I have Type II Diabetes, and as discussed here before, heart issues.  I’m basically high risk for everything under the sun.  In late September, I was taking my shoes and socks off one evening, and my sock got caught on a callous on my toe for the fourth or fifth day in a row.  Without thinking, I grabbed the end of the callous, and ripped it off.  Immediately, I knew I had made a mistake, but there was nothing I could do about it then.  Of course, it got infected, and I went to my primary care doctor, who sent me to my podiatrist.  We were keeping an eye on things, and I thought that I had dodged a bullet.  I was supposed to be staying off my feet as much as I could, but I was recalled to the LMNC headquarters for a few days of immersion thera…err, I mean training.  This meant I had to do a fair amount of walking that week; through a couple of airports, around the corporate campus, etc.  I developed an irritation along the side of my toe, which I thought (perhaps hoped) was caused by trying to not walk on my irritated toe.  Once I got home, I had a follow up with the podiatrist, and she put me back on antibiotics.  A couple of days after that, the irritation opened up and was an issue.  I headed to the emergency room, they admitted me, and then amputated the toe.

I didn’t have a lot of time to really think about the amputation, which was likely a good thing.  I didn’t really consider life after the amputation, I just assumed that it would be gone, and I would move on.  I was concerned more about the anesthesia than I was about anything else.  As it turned out, my concerns should have been about life after the amputation.  I was unable to at least not supposed to put any weight on my left foot while the surgical wound healed.  That created a situation for me.  I was basically bound to a wheel chair for a period of time, and that is what lead me to the rehab facility.

The facility I was discharged to was, well, in a word, adequate.  That’s about as generous as I can really be.  A friend of mine described it as ghetto.  I quickly learned that the level of attention paid to the patients was significantly less than when I was in the hospital.  I was discharged from the hospital and transported to the facility on a Saturday evening.  Pro Tip:  Don’t get moved on a Saturday night.  The “C” Level team is working at the rehab facility on Saturday night.  I was surprised that there was no one there to do an “Intake” process for me.  No one described anything about what was going on.  I rolled with it on Saturday.  Sunday, I assumed that the Intake would happen.  It didn’t.  Monday I was greeted by one of the Physical Therapists.  I went to the PT Gym, and then she realized I hadn’t signed a consent for treatment.  I advised her that no one had done any Intake; no one had even spoken to me.  I raised a little hell with the administration staff that was now there on a Monday morning. We had a form of Intake in a seating area outside. And we were off…

Institutional Life is a drag.  I had 2 good hours each day I was there; the hour I spent in Physical Therapy (PT) and the hour I spent in Occupational; Therapy (OT).  Other than those hours, there was really nothing to do…You spend a lot of time waiting.  At least I did.  The normal rhythm of therapy was that you got passed around amongst the therapy staff, likely seeing a different person each day.  After the second time of someone asking me what I did the day before, I requested to work with a single therapist for OT and for PT.

My goal while I was there was too get out.  That may seem like an obvious statement, but a number of the older folks that were there, and honestly some of the younger people too, seemed to be content to just be there.  No one seemed to want to work that hard in therapy.  I wanted more.  They planted a seed with me that I might be able to transition to crutches, which would give me some independence, and allow me to go home.  I thought this wouldn’t be a big deal.  Then, in PT, I learned just exactly how weak I was.  I spent the first 10 days just trying to get strong enough to attempt to get around using a walker as crutches.  They didn’t have crutches at the facility for me to use in therapy (See the “adequate statement above).  Once we did get me up on the walker, the greatest total body workout I’ve ever had was trying to make a lap around the room with the walker.  The sweat was just pouring off of me.  We were progressing down this path when I was finally given a walking boot by the podiatrist, and forced my discharge.  I was free!

A couple of other anecdotes from my time there.  I really didn’t have any issues with the staff there.  You hear horror stories about the level of care, and there were things that had I been in a different situation may have been bad.  I was motivated to get out, am fiercely independent, and relied on the staff for a bare minimum of things while there.  They brought meals, and meds, and that was about it.  I took care of myself, largely beyond that.  As such, they staff didn’t have to worry about me, and we got along.  The management of the place, well, that is a different story entirely. As I mentioned above, I didn’t get any communication from the management of the place until I forced it to happen Monday.  So I was already identified as a bit of a problem.  Near the end of my stay, I learned that they had not been giving me all of my medicines.  Rather than relive this episode in its entirety, the Nursing Director got in a shouting match with me.  It was an issue.  I didn’t really have any choice but to take it from her.  She was in the wrong.  I just wanted out.  It’s been a very long time since someone basically got in my face, and was shouting at me.  Had she been a man, and I not in a wheelchair, I probably would have punched her in the face.  If she had been a man, even if I was in the wheelchair, I probably would have punched her.  It was a mess.  I really needed to get out as fast as I could.  The podiatrist gave me the boot a couple days later, and I had another confrontation with them to get me out.  It was time for me to go.  In forcing the issue to not stay there an extra day, they didn’t write or schedule any referrals for me.  This ended up being in my favor.  I took a week off from PT and OT, Between the hospital and rehab, I spent 3.5 weeks in a facility.  I just wanted to feel human again.  Being home was great.  The next week, I started PT and an exercise program twice a week, and that continues now.  I’m doing pretty well, losing weight, and out of the walking boot, and back t more or less normal.

I had an issue last week while exercising…I was experiencing some sharp pain in my shoulder blade.  It felt like chest pains…I went to the emergency room.  I had another “experience” at the hospital this time.  I went to the ER, I didn’t really think anything acute was wrong, but didn’t really know what else to do.  They ran some tests, and everything looked OK.  They wanted to keep me for observation though, given I am high risk.  They wanted to do an echo cardiogram too.  They told me this at about 2:00 pm.  I was in the hallway at the hospital…all of the ER beds in rooms were full.  At approximately 4:30 the accounting people for the ER came and extracted some payment from me.  I realized then that there was nothing else that they were going to do for me in the ER.  I was just waiting.  Around 6:00 pm they lead nurse for my ER section told me there were just waiting for a room to be cleaned.  At 7:00, when I was still there, she finally got on the phone and tried to make something happen.  At 8:30, I was finally taken for my echo, then I finally made it to my observation room around 9:30 pm.  The next morning, I had a blood test in the morning, and the PA from the cardiologist came by, explained that everything looked normal, and they were likely sending me home, but the cardiologist had to come by and see me.  By 4:00 pm, I was getting frustrated, and explained that to my nurse.  At 5:00, she asked if she wanted me to page the doctor.  I said yes.  At 6:00, with still nothing happening, I started raising hell again.  I went to the nurse supervisor, and got her engaged, paged the cardiologist, then talked t the nursing manager on duty.  It was time to test me, treat me or discharge me.  I was finally discharged that evening, with a mostly clean bill of health.  Trust me, this is the abridged version of events.  I held my patience as long as I could.  It did get the better of me, the waiting, and fighting the bureaucracy.

Fast forward to last week, I got re-associated with the cardiologist I had originally, had a stress test, and I have a follow up appointment next week.  More to come on this front, obviously.

Focus, update and Changes

Bloggers Note:  The post below was originally written back in October of last year.  As I will explain in my next post, my absence from the blog, though not infrequent, at least this time has an explanation attached.

How do you honor the death of an idol?

I received some particularly sad news this week, Gord Downie, passed away Tuesday.  For those of you who are regular readers of my words, you will recall that I penned two entries on the band The Tragically Hip a few posts ago.  I don’t want to make this another love letter to the band; you can go back and re-read those posts, if you like.  I’d like to write about (talk about) how I’d like to live my life going forward, inspired by Gord Downie.

I was traveling for work last week so I was in Texas when I learned the news.  I had a rather busy week, and really didn’t have a chance to feel much of anything about Gord’s passing, or the band.  As luck would have it, a couple of my teammates live in Canada.  Neither of them are fans of the band, or of Gord.  I chatted about the band with one of them for a moment, but again, all he could tell me is how he wasn’t a fan.  We had to get back to the training we were there for, and I had to put this aside.

I finally had a chance in the early evening to listen to some of their songs.  I was steeling myself for the emotions I thought I would feel.  Oddly, to me, I didn’t.  It was comforting to hear the music.  No great outpouring of anything.  I flew home on Thursday, and got re-acquainted with my routine.  Friday afternoon, I was browsing twitter, and came across a posting from a hockey broadcaster I am familiar with.  You can read it here:  http://www.tsn.ca/gord-s-gift-1.889234

The anecdote he related about Gord’s reply to his email really got to me.  It more or less opened the floodgates.  Later last night with some friends we listened to the last Hip record Man Machine Poem.  I lost it.  I broke down, more or less.

Gord Downie spent the last years of his life advocating for things that he believed in, and trying to make his country a better place.  I’m not going to bore you with all of the stories; you can search out Gord online and see for yourself.  What it did do is force me to take a very serious look at my life.  What the hell, exactly, am I doing?

I would love to be able to write something that impacts someone as much as Gord and the rest of the band’s songs have affected me.  I would like to do something Grand as well.  Grand does not necessarily mean great.  Grand;  Important; Impactful.  A legacy of some form perhaps.  Leaving the world a better place than when I came into it.  Those are all amorphous goals or ideals certainly.  But they are setting me on a path.  My chosen means of doing those things at the moment is with my words, my voice,  This blog and the other writing that I am doing, which I guess I should explain here.  I am covering the local minor league hockey team, the Orlando Solar Bears for a SBN Media blog about the Toronto Maple Leafs, our parent NHL team.  I took that on to have a regular writing gig.  It’s been fun so far.  My thought at the time I took this on is to treat this as a season long internship, and to try to write as much as I can.

Another result from the soul searching I did was that I really can’t hide this blog any longer.  I need to own that this is my blog, my words, and try to make something of it.  As of today, I am letting the world know this is here, I am Paul, and these are my words.  I still hold to how I started this that this isn’t going to be just the story of Paul. But what is important to me.  As I search for the answer to my lofty aspirations above, you should expect to see me write about these things that are important, and about how I am trying to have an impact in these areas.  Topics to expect to see me expound on are Global Climate Change, and more specifically a cause that is dear to me, Polar Bears International.  I have been supporting them for a couple of years, and it’s about time I put some action where I have been sending checks.  Social inequality and Social Justice are also things that I have worked on in the past.  I may go there.  Hockey, of course, see above. Me, of course, as I try to make sense of me, and the path I am now taking.  Music should also be there too as it has been, and continues to be of particular importance to me.  I’ll be making some changes to this site, making it easier to reach me, should you care to do so.

August 13, 2017 and August 26, 2017

So we are a little more than a week removed from the Vegas adventure.  I am finally recovering.  Let me expound on that a bit.  I always have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms for the first couple of nights on a trip.  It’s a strange bed, strange room kind of thing.  Factor in the time change going out west, and the natural circadian rhythms get out of sync.  Add in Vegas, the land of over stimulation, and it is a recipe for lack of sleep for me.  I learned a few years ago when I started playing long (some would say marathon) session of poker that gambling is indeed a stimulant.  I would come home from the card room just beat, and go to bed, and could not for the life of me fall asleep.  After a couple of night of that, and the only thing different from my “normal” day being poker, I put it together.  It was the poker that was causing the insomnia.  In Vegas there is the gambling, of course, but also the fact that the entire city is designed to keep you stimulated; visually, aurally, emotionally; sexually in some environments.  So even though I was really tired, I didn’t sleep well until Thursday night, and I was leaving Friday morning.

I had an uneventful trip west, and got the first surprise of the trip at McCarran airport.  I had been researching taxi costs from the airport to the hotel, and there was a negligible increase in cost to take a town car to the hotel.  I decided to do that; I was on vacation after all.  It also meant I didn’t have to stand in the taxi line at the airport, and it would just get things off to a good start.  I met my driver on the way to baggage claim, and we headed outside.  There were two SUVs parked next to each other, and I knew one of those wasn’t for me based on the license plate on the front of it.  My driver turned around and said “you  got upgraded.”  I didn’t understand what he meant until he walked past the 2 vehicles right in front of us, and he turned to walk down to the next car there.  I was one of the super-stretch sedans.  It was made for bachelorette parties.  It would seat 8 dudes, and probably more young women, complete with sound system and light show.  It was funny.  I wanted a town car, just for the convenience.  I ended up in a clown car. It wasn’t bad, just funny.

I had tickets to see the late performance of The Beatles Love, a Cirque du Soleil show.  This was the co-highlight of the trip for me along with the Who concert the next night.  I splurged on tickets for Love, so I had really good seats, 5 rows from the stage, on an aisle.  The show was simply amazing.  I am going to do a terrible injustice to the show by attempting to describe it.  The songs are absolutely the stars of the show.  Each scene (song) is really a play into itself.  There isn’t an over-arching story line.  Again, I really lack the vocabulary to describe this well.  I was smiling and singing for the entirety of the show.  A couple of specific points I should mention though.  You hear often about immersive entertainment.  This is its very essence.  It was really challenging at times to know where to focus.  This could and did appear from everywhere.  With my seat location, I was adjacent to one of the runways where the artists would enter and exit the stage.  I kept watching folks as they came on and off the stage.  It was neat to be able to look at people, and I mean  make eye contact with them, because they were less than 5 feet away.  At one point one of the aerialists came flying past me, and I was able to feel the air whoosh past me, and I felt that before I saw her.  Again, I was close, and it was immersive.  You need to see this show.  It’s worth the price, and the cost of the trip to Vegas to go see it.  It is that good.

The next day was The Who concert.  I started the day playing poker at my hotel.  I then went over to Caesar’s in the late afternoon, and I played cards there, grabbed some food, and then went to the show.  I was sitting at the top at the first mezzanine.  I asked a number of folks about the first show of their run on Saturday.  Everyone said “…it’s a long show.”  After the 3rd person said that, I asked what a long show was.  The answer was nearly 2.5 hours.  It didn’t seem that long to me, it wasn’t a Springsteen show or anything.  Apparently 90 minutes is the norm for the Colosseum at Caesar’s.  The show was hit filled, as a matter of fact the only “rarity” that they performed was “Pictures of Lily” which Pete even commented after the song that it didn’t go over well in that audience.  The previous time I saw them perform, two years ago, they also did “Lily” it was better received in Tampa than in Vegas.

This was the first time I’ve seen the Who perform without Pino Palladino on bass since of course the unfortunate passing of John Entwhistle.  I don’t know if Pino had other commitments, or wasn’t interested in this short run of shows.  He was replaced by Fairbanks, Alaska native Jon Button.  Jon did a FANTASTIC job on bass.  I don’t know if they turned up the bass in the mix for this show, of if Jon is that prolific, but the bass lines were front and center for this show.  As a fan of John, this was pretty close to the real thing and a highlight of the show for me.

It was a disservice to the Who having seen Love the night before.  Love was such an immersive experience, and the concert was just that, the band was playing.  Understand, it was Who sing along for Paul all night long, it just would have been a better show for me had I net been to the other show the night previously.

Wednesday I was planning on renting a car going downtown and to visit the pinball hall of fame.  After one cab ride in Vegas, I decided I wanted no part of driving while there.  I ended up skipping the pinball hall of fame.  I did go downtown.  I wanted to see the D Las Vegas.  It used to be Fitzgerald’s casino, but was purchased by a former Detroiter.  I understood it to be decorated with some Michigan memorabilia.  Other than a giant slot machine that said Ann Arbor on one side, and East Lansing on the other, I didn’t see a lot of Michigan stuff.  They did have an American Coney Island there, so I had to have a Detroit style Coney dog.  They were good, not great.

The D was fun, certainly the most fun of the places I visited downtown.  It’s been 10 years since I was in Vegas, and I recall downtown being more fun than what it was.  Everything seemed particularly run-down this time.  Maybe I’m just older, and more particular (if that’s possible).  I was happy to get back to the Orleans (no palace itself, but much nicer than downtown).

I had my best meal of the trip that night at Alder & Birch at the Orleans.  It’s one of their high end restaurants.  I knew that it was time for some real food, and they really server a wonderful meal.  The service was fantastic, and the food was even better.  I had an appetizer of braised beef short ribs stuffed in baby Portobello mushrooms.  They were spectacular.  There was a short rib entrée that I was considering, but I’m glad I had the app, as it was quite rich.  I had a pork chop for an entrée, with roasted root vegetables as a side.  Again it was delicious and perfect.  I had Jameson Black for the first time for desert.  I really enjoyed that, and it was a great end to a great meal.

Thursday was planned originally to be a trip to the west rim of the grand canyon.  As I ditched the rental car idea, I just took it easy most of the day.  That night I went to see a show titled Zombie Burlesque in the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood.  It is exactly what you think it would be, more or less.  It’s a really campy burlesque show.  You can read all about it here (https://www.zombieburlesqueshow.com/).  It was fun, but to be honest, its’ not a show to go see alone.  Take a date, you’ll have a better time.

Friday was travel day, and the start of what would turn into the great adventure of 2017.  I was on board a plane for a flight to Denver, to connect to a flight back to Orlando.  I had 55 minutes to connect in Denver, and that is plenty of time.  I’ve flown through Denver twice a year for the past three (3) years, so I was really comfortable with the plan.  We seemed to sit at the gate forever, and then we started taxiing for what seemed like 30 minutes.  It was probably 5, but, I have no patience generally, and even less when flying.  I should state flying doesn’t bother me.  The charade that we all participate in at the airport, and the interminable queueing at the airport drives me bonkers.  We were stopped on the airfield, away from the gate, and the pilot announced that we were fourth to take off.  After a few minutes, he announced there was a ground stop at the airport due to the rain.  At that point someone from the back of the plane ran to the front screaming “I have to get off!  I have to get off!”  The flight attendants stopped her, and said there was no where to go, we were away from the gate.  She then claimed a heart attack and we headed back to the gate.  There was no hope of making a connection at that point.

I grabbed my phone and called United, trying to find some options.  The pilot announced that we had to refuel, further delaying us.  No one on the ground, or on the phone was terribly helpful.  Finally the phone agent advised she had me on another trip, and I was going to get home that night.  So I got off the plane.  After disembarking, I asked whether she had me in first class.  She did not.  Damn, I couldn’t get back on the plane now, so I had to work with them to find a different solution.  They ended up routing me through San Francisco the next morning.  I got a room for the night, and headed back to the Orleans.

I had a 3:00 am wakeup call to get to the airport for my 6:00 am flight to San Francisco.  I arrived in San Francisco without issue and had an hour before my flight home left.  I grabbed some breakfast and parked myself at the gate.  For reasons I don’t understand, but I’m glad I did, I realized I did not have my keys;  to anything, car, house, mailbox.  I called the Las Vegas airport, and was told that their lost and found was closed on Saturday.  I assume that I left them at security at the Vegas airport.  I went into panic mode.  I called my complex, and they agreed to unlock my front door at the end of their day, so I could at least get in.  I’d have to take a cab home, grab keys, and go back to the airport to get my car.  OK, not ideal, but not the worst scenario either.

We were approaching Orlando, and I could see my place from the air.  We should be on the ground in a few minutes, and I could put an end to this adventure.  But No!  We made a couple of turns, which told me we were circling the airport.  The pilot announced that there was weather at the airport, and we couldn’t land.  We circled for 30 minutes, and then we made our approach.  We landed and then we stopped on the airstrip.  The pilot announced that there was a ground stop, due to lightning.  So we sat.  After the 5th time that the pilot said we would be going to the gate in 5 – 10 minutes, I had had enough.  I started tweeting to the airport.  That didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere.  I then called the airport, and got through to their customer service line.  I explained where I was, and that I was looking for answers.  I flustered that guy, so he transferred me to the 911 operations center.  After going through my spiel they transferred me to airfield operations.  They informed me again of the ground stop.   I informed them that I could see planes landing, taking off, and people moving about the airfield.  They then stated it was a United issue, not theirs.  I was in the process of getting a real customer service number from the flight attendants, when lo and behold, we started moving, and went straight to the gate.

I grabbed my suitcase form United, I never should have got off the flight to Denver, and headed for the taxi line, and headed home.  I explained my situation to the driver en route, and he was going to wait for me to grab my spare keys, and then take me back to my car.  I tore through the front door, and grabbed my spare house keys, but my spare car keys weren’t there.  I looked in the 2nd place they were supposed to be and they weren’t there.  I panicked again.  I let that driver go, I didn’t want him to think I was tying to stiff him, went inside and tried to calm myself.  After 5 minutes, I found the key, right where I thought they were.  Panic is not a good thing.  I called another cab, back to the airport, and got in my car.

Adventure over.

July 29, 2017 – Quick Update


So the Vegas adventure is a couple of days away.  I’m getting excited, a marked change from the last post, I know.  I’ve always been excited to see the shows I have tickets for.  I’m looking at adding another show for either Wednesday or Thursday.  Thursday is the only “open” day.  The plan at the outset was to go and see the West Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I’m not sure I’m going to make the drive.  It kind of depends on how the rest of the week goes I guess.  I’m flying home Friday afternoon, so Friday is nearly spent, returning the rental car, etc.  So, I’m in.  Let’s make it happen.  I saw a tweet from The Who this morning for their first run of the residency tonight, and that got me excited.  Frankly a week away from the LMNC grind is a big plus too.  🙂

July 16 – 23, 2017

So let’s talk about humans…I’ve been disappointed by them lately, in two specific instances.  One has ties tangentially with my entry two posts back, I’ll write about that one in more detail later.  The 2nd one, more recent by about 16 hours I’ll tackle first.

I wrote previously about this summer’s travel extravaganza to Las Vegas for Classic Rock weekend.  When I bought the concert tickets to see the Who, I bought two tickets, assuming that I could convince someone to accompany me.  I thought that I had a buddy lined up to go with me.   He was offering to handle the accommodations of the trip for us.  He lives in Michigan, and I only get to see him once a year or so.  It was going to be fun.  After our initial conversations, I checked in with him two months or so ago, and he told me that he had some logistics problems with the trip.  I offered him the out, to pass on the trip then, and he didn’t take it.  He was excited to get together.  He did let slip that he wasn’t a planner (like me) and was more of a spontaneous traveler.  The warning bells were going off for me, and I made some alternate hotel reservations for myself, just in case.  We spoke this morning, caught up; we hadn’t spoken for a couple of months.  He told me of his plan to go to Hawaii later in the year.  Finally, I just had to ask point blank, if he was going to join me in Vegas.  He is not.

So, now I’m two weeks away from the trip, I have an extra ticket to a concert and really don’t have time to find someone to join me.  It’s not that that is really bothering me, I originally planned this as a solo trip, and as someone who lives alone; the solo trip is actually simpler for me.  What is upsetting is the fact that people seem to continue to break commitments with me (another story coming, this isn’t a one off).   I’m even more disappointed in myself that I’m disappointed.  I knew this was coming, yet I felt let down when I got the news.  Maybe it’s normal, I really don’t know.

So I guess I have to tell the other story.  If you recall a couple of posts back, I told the story of meeting a woman one night while watching a hockey game.  Well, as I mentioned, that really didn’t go anywhere.  What did happen is that the walls I had built to try and protect myself from the loneliness I was feeling all just fell apart.  I ended up in a tailspin.  (My tendency in writing this is to use a ton of qualifiers, to try and ease the blow to myself here.  I’m going to try and relate this as honestly as I can).  It’s been a very long time since I had had any attention from a woman.  That night with Christie just reminded me, and my protective walls were gone.  I really longed for some attention; any kind of attention from a woman.  I went to great expense to find it in places where you don’t find it.  I got the bright idea to go to a strip club in Tampa one evening.  It was just to see, feel, a woman.  Any woman.  Like I said, I was really a mess.

I met a woman named Jennifer at the strip club.  She was charming (not always the case) and easy to talk with.  We chatted for quite a while.  We did what one does at a strip club. But then we did things most don’t do.  We talked philosophy, some politics.  We spent a lot of time talking about art, and looking at art.  It was, truly, an atypical strip club experience.  We exchanged numbers (another atypical experience) and promised we would see each other soon.

She messaged me the next day,  another surprise, we exchanged a few other texts in the next couple of weeks.  I made a trip over to see her again.  It was more of the same, yes we were in a strip club, and yes there were non-strip club activities going on.  More discussions of life, and dreams, and art, etc.  I liked this woman.  Not like, Arrrgh… I want to have sex with her, but wow!  I like this girl.  She is interesting, In addition to dancing, she is a photographer.  She shared some of her work.  It is amazing.  I shared my blog,  I haven’t heard of she has read it or not.  I believe she hasn’t, but I honestly don’t know.

I was trying to determine if she was really interested in me, or if I was just another customer, or another revenue stream to be as crass as possible.  I sent her a text last week to see if she wanted to go out, somewhere other than the club she works at.  I was prepared for getting shut down, or being asked for money, either or.  It would have told me the same thing.  To my surprise, neither of those happened.  She asked me what I had in mind, and I asked her if she wanted to have dinner with me on Saturday night.  She agreed,  After a little back and forth, we picked a restaurant.  Now, I was still a bit leery, there were plenty of chances for this to go awry, but so far so good.

Saturday came and still no cancellations.  I was getting ready to head out; she lives 90 or so miles away.  I then got the text, and she stated she had to stay at work.  I didn’t know what that meant, and it was finally decided that we would have to reschedule.

So here we are again with the same or at least similar behavior, from two disparate people in my life.  An old friend who dropped out on me at nearly the last minute and a woman I just met, who had done a similar thing.  Look, in both cases, I knew what happened was going to happen.  Nothing of either of the situations was a surprise.  Yet, I was disappointed.  And I was disappointed in me for being disappointed.

Here’s the Tuesday epilogue to the story.  Jennifer sent me a text Tuesday, that she had been suspended from work for two weeks.  She did not specifically ask, but inferred that she would appreciate it I would step in and fill in her income while she was unable to work.  I tried to be supportive, to a point I guess, but I felt like I had been “strippered”,  I know that’s not really a word, or a phenomenon, but I believe it is a thing.  I (sadly) have had some experience with this previously.  I’ve been asked to do this previously by others.  I’ve passed every time, I don’t know maybe it makes me uncaring, but I really didn’t have a relationship with any of these women.  Jennifer is the first one I’ve really wanted to get to know.  I suspect that isn’t an option anymore, as I didn’t white knight in with a wad of cash.    I felt conflicted for a couple of days…I do like this woman, at least as far as I know her now.  But, I really don’t feel any responsibility.

I’m a mess right now…I’ve decided that this loneliness, while chronic, not necessarily acute, is in fact terminal.  It will be with me forever.  I’m trying not to fight it anymore.  Fighting it is how I end up in the position I was in with Jennifer…If I had just accepted the situation, not fought it, I frankly never would have encountered her in the first place.  The problem is that accepting the loneliness seems to close me off.  It’s taken me two weekends (when I seem to do most of my writing for this blog) which isn’t a rare occurrence, but I was pretty worked up when I started this last Saturday.  I’ve built up some scar tissue now.  I haven’t even felt like writing all week.  I should be writing something every day, or couple of days at least.  Hockey season can’t get here fast enough to help alleviate that.

I am also looking at the time in Vegas next week with a little disdain…I’m excited to see the Love show on Monday night, and to see The Who on Tuesday, but the balance of the week is going to be spent alone.  I’m afraid Vegas is going to be not any fun alone.    I am trying to make a lot of plans so I don’t feel the need to spend all that time in the casino.  I have a trip planned Wednesday to the Pinball Hall of Fame.  I also want to visit a casino downtown named “the D” it is a Detroit themed casino, and they have an All American Coney island there.  I’m hoping for a true Detroit Coney dog experience.  They claim they server Dearborn sausage hot dogs.  I was planning on going to the west rim of the Grand Canyon, but am reading online that the west rim is disappointing, and one should go to the South rim.  The West rime is approximately 75 minute drive from the strip.  The South rim is a 5 hour drive.  I don’t see myself making the 10 hour trip alone, even if I spent the night.  It’s just too much driving time.  I may go to the Hoover Dam; something to get me out of the city, I think.

June 24-25, 2017

So I’m back to a familiar refrain, but with a slightly different twist.  I find myself back looking for a new gig.  I’m not unemployed, but I am unfulfilled.  This is a constant topic here, I apologize, but it is my blog, so I get to work it out my way in my times…here’s the new wrinkle.  I can actually call myself a writer.  I am a contributor to a website and am writing about the local minor league hockey team.  I understand that I’m not going to change the world, or win any Pulitzer’s for this, but it is important to me.  Here’s the important part of this.  It is remarkably fulfilling, and enjoyable; entertaining even.  Simply put, it is everything that the corporate gig isn’t.  I can tell you the story of how this came to pass later,.  The hope was that having this to focus on would make the corporate gig more palatable.  Unfortunately, it has had the opposite effect.  The most apt description I can think of came to me yesterday morning.  In the job, there is never an endorphin rush, there’s never a dopamine high.  Nothing happens to get me excited about.  I have taken to ignoring projects for a period of time, just to cause someone to get excited about it, so they yell and scream a bit, in the hopes of lighting a fire under me.  Inducing endorphins I guess…It stopped working a long time ago, I do it out of habit now.

Let’s make a couple of statements here, for the record.  I have a sweet gig.  If 30 year old Paul knew that he would have this gig he would have been doing cartwheels.  I make a good living.  I don’t have anyone looming over me micromanaging my day or my time.  I work from wherever there is an internet connection, usually from home.  My line is I have a 12 foot commute.  It’s a sweet gig.  The logical and reasoned part of me states I should just ride this out.  A friend was hammering that point home to me a few days ago.  And I logically know it to be true.  Here’s the thing, and another admission.  I’ve started a journey as a writer, other than this blog.  I am covering the minor league hockey team for a blog focused on our NHL affiliate team.  I’m not being any more specific as I am attempting to maintain my veil of anonymity (however slight that veil may be).  Anyone reading this on any regular fashion already is aware of my other writing, but if you have happened here otherwise, I am going to attempt to keep my veil.  My response to the reasoned and logical argument is an emotional one.  Writing, telling stories is more fulfilling than anything I’ve ever done in the corporate world.  I don’t yet know if I am talented enough to be a writer professionally.  I am determined to find out.  I refuse to accept that I have to resign myself to a corporate career that is entirely unfulfilling.  I may have said this before, but I was hoping that the writing would make the corporate gig more acceptable.  It has not.  I spend most of my days trying to find things to write about, or thinking about ways to improve my writing.  To borrow a phrase from another friend, it may be what I am meant to do.

I also know that a different corporate gig isn’t the answer, although it may provide some temporary relief.  So, I’m stuck here, at least for another period of time.  I’m going to try and find a different corporate gig, I guess.  It’s going to need to be a GREAT fit, not a good fit. to make the move.  I want to spend the next hockey season telling stories, and proving to myself, and also hopefully others that I have something to offer the writing world.  This isn’t to say that I don’t want to continue this blog.  This has turned into the story of me, rather than the all-encompassing writing I had thought it would be.  Maybe this is still the answer.  I guess, if you’re out there, we’ll find this out together.

Story Time

“Pretty days like that make the rest of my life seem sadder” – from the song “Angelique is a free spirit”, by Moe Berg.


Story time…this happened a couple of weeks ago.  It was a Monday night, and I was getting cabin fever.  I work from an office in the spare bedroom of my home, and some days (most, if I’m being honest). I feel like I need to get out of the house by the end of the work day.  The walls really close in, and I just have to get out.  I’ve taken to driving around.  I have a couple of loops that I drive, just to get out and see some things.  Monday was one of those days.  As I was making my way home, I decided to drop in to a sports bar that I used to frequent weekly, but haven’t been to for quite some time.  My plan was to grab some take out and head home to watch the hockey playoffs.  As I pulled in to their parking lot, I decided to just hang out there for a while. I didn’t really want to go home.  I took up my position at one end of the bar…I always seem to end up within 1 or 2 seats of the same spot whenever I go there, I ordered some food, and asked for them to put the hockey game on.

A couple of minutes later a question is lobbed to me from the middle of the bar; “who are you cheering for?”  I replied with a lukewarm answer of the Washington Capitals.  She informed me that she had been a Penguins fan since middle school.  I returned to watching the game. A few minutes later another question was lobbed my way, something about the game, I lobbed my answer back.  After 15 or so minutes, another question came my way, along with my reply, then a third.

I guess I should explain this better.  I was at one end of the bar, she was sitting nearly exactly in the center of the bar, which seats 25 – 30 people, I’ve never counted.  There was no one sitting between us, and there was a couple to her left, other than that, the bar section was empty.  There were a few folks scattered through the rest of the place.  I should also say that after the 3rd question, I had the idea to move down and chat with this woman.  I didn’t.  It’s not typically my style, she was sitting alone, and I didn’t want to bother her.  I’m also terribly cognizant of how much grief (abuse) women take from men, and I don’t want to be one to contribute to that.  So I kept to myself.  We’ve reached the end of the 1st period of the game…

During the intermission, I was catching up on the days’ news on my phone.  I got another comment my way about her not being able to hear (game sound wasn’t on in the bar) and she couldn’t learn what was happening.  Seeing the face of Mike Milbury on the screen, I informed her she wasn’t missing anything.  That one probably should have been my clue to join her, again, I did not.  As the 2nd period started she asked me if I was paying close attention to the game, I wasn’t but told her I was, and she asked me to join her.  I did.  (See how I foreshadowed that earlier…writing )

We seemed to hit it off immediately.  She was full of questions; about hockey, the teams playing, me, life, we were off and running.  There were no awkward pauses.  It was a blast.

I don’t often find myself in a position where strangers reach out to me and invite me in to their world.  It was fantastic for me.  Just to have a connection with someone new was thrilling.  I guess I can write that same sentence three or four more times to fill out a paragraph.

During the game, we had made plans to watch Game 7 of the series 2 nights later.  I had a suspicion that once the beer goggles wore off, she wouldn’t want to hang out again.  That proved to be the case.  I tried to reach out again a week or so later, to see if there was anything there.  I was politely, but most definitely rejected.  It sucks.


The Hip, Part II

I was born and raised on a farm approximately 45 miles southwest Detroit, Michigan.  I was weaned on Album Oriented Rock (AOR) Radio at the time, and that meant a steady diet of Foreigner, Foghat, the Rolling Stones, adopted Detroiters the J. Geils Band, and of course hometown hero Bob Seger.  As a teen in the early 1980’s, for me and many of my friends, cool was defined by WRIF radio, and afternoon DJ Arthur Penhallow, and the morning radio team of JJ and the Morning Crew.    A quick google search will lead you to the history of these and many other things Detroit based at that time.  In many ways, I’m still there; I’m still a fan of the music.  I semi-lovingly refer to it as 3 chord thud rock.  It’s the music of my youth, and is still resonates with me.  I was exposed to alternative rock though, because we spent a lot of times in bars and nightclubs at the time, and while many times they had live bands playing 3 chord thud rock, between sets, and after the live sets, they would have DJs spinning alternative music, which was the dance-able music then.

Fast forward to the late 1980s and early 1990s, basically the hair-metal era.  I wasn’t a fan of hair-metal, but I wasn’t not a fan either…It’s what was there, so I listened to it.  I started listening to 89X once in a while, then.  It was fun to hear nothing but new (to me) songs, but I still found myself going back to the AOR stations.  I distinctly remember the events that lead to my “conversion” if you will to Alternative Rock.  I had a run of insomnia for a few nights in a row, and I was listening to the radio to pass the time.  I found that I could predict the songs in order at a certain point.  The playlist was way too tight, way too predictable, and exactly predictable.  The 2nd night, when I was able to predict the songs, I thought it was a fluke.  The 3rd night, I was mad.  The 4th night I switched.  I was an “alternative rocker”.  Then Nirvana happened, and everyone was an alt-rocker.

I remember the first Hip song that found its way into my consciousness.  Little Bones.  You can watch the official video here:  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPJ2rcYQC88) There was a line, or a set of lines that show up in the song that really got my attention:

For a hi-ball and a buck and a half
For a beer, happy hour
Happy hour, happy hour is here

later in the song…

Two-fifty for a decade
And a buck and half for a year happy hour
Happy hour, happy hour is here

And then finally…

Two-fifty for an eyeball
And a buck and a half for an ear happy hour,
Happy hour happy hour is here

Full lyrics to the song are available here:  (https://www.google.com/#safe=off&q=little+bones+lyrics)

I was in, and little did I know “all-in” at that point.  I know I started paying attention to TTH songs from then on.  As I mentioned in the previous post, my first CD was Up To Here.  I’ve been with them since.

I’m doing a really poor job, in my estimation, of relating why I love this band so much.  Maybe it’s because their musical influences are very similar to mine.  Maybe it’s because we’re all nearly the same age.  Maybe they just effin’ rock.  I have to confess to not always loving each release right out of the gate.  I bought all of them as soon as they were released, and now, the entire catalog is still in regular rotation on my iPod.  Yes, I still have an iPod.  Some of the records took 2 or 3 listens for me to fall in love with them.  I always managed to give them that many listens…One of the interesting things, in my opinion anyway, is the way that many of the songs are presented live versus the studio versions.  Often times, the live versions are way more “rockin’”.  That appealed to me.  I recall an interview that lead guitarist Rob Baker gave for the release of the latest record, “Man Machine Poem” (not to be confused with the song Man Machine Poem from the previous release).  He described that many times, the songs really found their legs “live” and that when he goes back to the studio versions of some of the songs in the live set list, they sound almost “small”.  The band really crafted them over the years for the live show.

The music as I’ve mentioned a couple of times, is layered, and textured.  If you look at their recording carrer as a whole, you can see the band grow up and age, if you will, as the guys got older too.  In the mid-late 1980s they were a blues rock based bar band, not unlike myself.  As they grew up as men and musicians, and also achieved more success the songwriting got more intricate and the storytelling better.  It’s been a fun journey to be a part of.

I’ve been trying to think of what my favorite TTH album is.  It’s been difficult.  The cliché answer would be “the last one I’ve listened to.”  I’d like to think I could give a better accounting of things than that.  In many ways, my first TTH album is my favorite, Day for Night.  It was my first collection.  A strong case could be made for Fully Completely as well.  It could easily be argued that the band was at its creative peak during this period (through the Trouble at the Henhouse record).  In the run-up to the last concert of the last tour, there was a lot of discussion of this topic, and also of one’s favorite Hip album.  The Internet seemed to agree on the Road Apples record.  Of the 12 songs on that record, 7 of them have been a part of the Live Set for years.  It’s hard to argue against that as the best.  I listened to that record a couple of weeks ago, and just hit after hit, if you will (even though I feel that way about most of their recordsJ).

I was fortunate enough to be able to see them play live three times.  The first time, was in late 1996 or early 1997 at Cobo Arena in Detroit, MI.  This show was recorded, and released as “Live Between Us”.  I like to tell people that this is where I made my recording debut.  I was one of the 10,000 or so folks you can hear cheering between songs.  J  My 2nd Hip Show was at the House of Blues in Orlando in 1998 or 1999.  This is a much more intimate venue than the show in Detroit.  The Detroit show was a pretty standard arena rock show for that time period.  The House of Blues venues is a couple of thousand people maximum.  It was more like a club date.  It was particularly exciting for me to see them there very close.  The final show was in 2010 or so in Atlanta, Ga.  Again a smaller venue, but a great show.  The band really limited their US touring over the years, at least to places not near the Canadian border.  There are pockets of Hip fans in several places, but not enough to make touring profitable.  The band has released a full length concert DVD from a show in Toronto as part of a greatest hits package.  The last show from the last tour (see post above) is still available on YouTube, as are several other sets.