Month: May 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Reader’s Notebook, 5/31/17

A little behind, so better catch up as I hit the summer reading season.

No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach – Anthony Bourdain.
I’m working through a number of shows I have stockpiled on the DVR, watching the Royals most nights, and still trying to read. But I do attempt to squeeze in an Anthony Bourdain show on Netflix about once a week. I’m a big fan, and have been for years. I’ve come to appreciate his shows even more over the past two years as I’ve taken up photography. His shows, in their various forms, are all wonderfully shot. If the unthinkable happened and I was totally uninterested in either the place he was visiting or the production choices Bourdain and his team made, I would still watch just for the amazing visuals.

This is a collection of photos taken during the earliest years of his No Reservations show. They are complimented by brief essays that provide a behind-the-scenes view into how each episode was put together. A quick, enjoyable read,

LaRose – Louise Erdich.
I loved Erdich’s The Round House so was really excited to read her most recent novel, which collected a whole mess of awards and accolades last year.

As with Round House, this story takes place on and near an Indian reservation in the Dakotas. An accidental shooting results in an Indian family returning to “the old ways” and sending their youngest son, Larose, to live with their neighbors to take the place of his friend who died. That’s a pretty wild concept to build a book on.

As much as I wanted to, I just did not enjoy this book nearly as much as The Round House. And, honestly, I can’t figure out why. The core story is fantastic, and as with so many books about different cultures living near each other, much of it boils down to how we find our identity, how the mixture of cultures affects each one’s traditional ways, and what the differences between people mean over time. There are some mind-numbingly chilling sections, as the story veers right up against more bloodshed and death before pulling back. And Erdich’s style is kind of a classic, western style that is as spare as can be.

But, man, something just didn’t click for me here. Which is a disappointment since it obviously affected so many other readers much more deeply than it did me.

The Wrong Kind of Blood – Declan Hughes.
Back around St. Patrick’s Day I came across a list of some of the best, recent, Irish noir novels. I jotted a few down and this was my first effort.

Ed Loy is a private investigator in LA who returns to his native Dublin to bury his mother. After the funeral, he drinks late into the night with a woman he grew up with. Drinks become more, and soon he is hired to help locate her husband, a land developer who has disappeared. Loy gets sucked into a deep mystery that goes back to his father’s disappearance 30 years earlier and eventually unmasks a massive ring of corruption, murder, and disguised identities. It’s full of whiskey, double-crosses, murder, buried bodies, and generations of lies.

It was damn good.


Memorial Day weekend is in the books, the girls are out of school, and summer is officially here!

The school year wrapped up uneventfully. All three girls passed. Or at least we assume so; middle school grades are mailed so I supposed there’s still a tiny chance we’re going to have an uncomfortable talk with M about her academic plans for next year.

I kid! By our calculations she’s going to get her highest GPA of her career. Which is a good thing since she had her phone taken away for five weeks to being this quarter after she failed to take care of some academic business in the third quarter. Point proven, lesson learned.

If there’s one weekend when everyone in Indiana is watching the weather forecast, it’s Memorial Day weekend. “Think they’ll get the race in?” is the most popular conversation starting question around here. And this year it did not look good. At various points over the past week, it looked like the entire weekend would be a washout. Fortunately some of the storms went south, some went north, and the rains Sunday waited until both the race had ended and we were pretty much done in the water for the day.

It’s been a crazy wet 4–5 weeks around here, and because of that, the lake was not super warm. I dipped my toes in a few times and thought better of dipping more. So I contained my enjoyment of our new dock area to the decking. C and L did a few jumps off the elevated deck into the water. There were a few tubing and kneeboarding trips. And they kayaked and paddle-boarded a lot. But this wasn’t one of those spend three straight hours floating kind of lake weekends.

It was a family weekend, with most of the local family coming down for at least part of the weekend. A highlight of the gathering was the first birthday for one of the local nephews. We had the obligatory smash cake for him, which he enjoyed. Lots of other good food for the grownups.

We hung around through yesterday afternoon, which ended up being the best lake day of the weekend. The sun finally came, and stayed, out and it warmed up a little. A perfect day to spend mostly doing more work in preparation for the summer season. Yard work, power washing, adding some hardware to the new dock, and some other activities that had me over my FitBit steps goal before lunchtime.

And now summer break has begun. The girls aren’t doing swim team this year, so there’s no built-in activity each morning. There are some camps coming up. But for now we’re just going to wing it on our daily activities. Hopefully I can keep them from sitting in front of screens all day. And hopefully they, and I, all get along most of the time. We have a library trip scheduled for here in a bit. And our one trip of the summer – to Kansas City – is just three days away. Other than that, the next 10 weeks are wide open.

Friday Playlist

Special playlist for a special time of year.

“Friday I’m In Love” – The Cure. A highly significant song in my life. Although it was Pearl Jam and Nirvana that were most responsible for shifting my taste in music away from Top 40 pop and R&B back in 1992, this song had a huge impact as well. It was so bright and shiny, unlike the gloom that I generally associated with The Cure. PJ and Nirvana might have piqued my interest, but this song sucked me into the alt-rock universe.

“Jack & Diane” – John Mellencamp. If it’s Memorial Day weekend in Indiana, you better hear this song a few times after you have a good buzz going. 

“My Friend Dario” – Vitalic. Speaking of Memorial Day weekend in Indiana, hopefully they get the race in on Sunday. The forecast is not promising at all.

“Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Let the summertime begin!

“Same To You” – Lydia Loveless. My #11 song for last year finally has an official video. And it’s kind of creepy.

On Roger Moore

You probably heard that Roger Moore died yesterday. History has been very kind to Sir Moore. Once upon a time, his run as James Bond was laughed at and derided. Eventually, though, people figured out that his portrayal of Bond was perfect for its time, and making his Bond dramatically different than Sean Connery’s was necessary. Connery might have turned Bond into a sensation, but Moore turned Bond into a franchise that fills theaters to this day.

Everything I ever read about Moore made it apparent that he was a very gentle, kind, and gracious man. Lovely was the word often used to describe him. That makes me happy. I think the easiest thing to do when you gain fame and fortune is to become jaded, spoiled, grumpy, or outright hostile to others. I like that Moore didn’t view fame as a burden, but as a glorious blessing.

This story, which I’m betting many of you have already read, is just a perfect summation of who Roger Moore was. Since it was posted to Twitter, there’s no good way to share it other than linking to the original post. It’s worth the hassle required to read it.

A Chance Meeting

Wait ‘Till Next Year (Again)

For the third time in three seasons, M’s kickball team advanced to the City tournament. For the third time, they came up short.

A disastrous top of the 7th inning put them on the wrong end of a 19–8 score in yesterday’s championship game. It was their second-straight, second-place finish. Their run began with a semifinal loss in the fall of 2015.

While the result wasn’t as lopsided as their 26–1 loss last fall, this one was probably more crushing. As I had mentioned, we had heard the team they were playing, St. R, could kick the crap out of the ball but were not great fielders. That was not an entirely accurate scouting report. They were good kickers, if perhaps not as good as we had been led to believe. But they could really field. They probably weren’t as strong defensively as we are, but they were way better than we expected. With a few exceptions, we are a kick-and-run team. Put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense, then use our speed to take extra bases.[1] St. R got outs on plays that had produced runners and runs all year. And that, really, was the difference.

Rosters are usually bigger in spring kickball, which leads to a problem. If you have a huge lineup, and have a decent number of weak kickers, it becomes really hard to turn your lineup over and get back to your best kickers. Although just 10 girls play in the field, everyone kicks. We had 16 girls playing yesterday. Add in a slow start offensively, and it wasn’t until the bottom of the 5th when our best kickers were coming up for the second time.[2]

St. R scored three in the first, we answered with one. They added two more in the second and it remained 5–1 going into the bottom of the 5th. Our coach told the girls she needed five runs that inning, and that’s exactly what they gave her. Up 6–5. She should have asked for more!

But St. R answered right back, scoring three in the top of the 6th, two with two outs. We tacked on one in the bottom of the inning, and went to the final inning down 8–7.

St. R scored two while making two outs on the bases. 9–8, and we still had two more girls to get one out before their lineup turned over. That’s when our girls cracked a little. They dropped a ball, they threw to a wrong base once, they missed covering another base, we got a terrible bounce on a deflection. It was 11–7 and the top of the lineup was kicking. Eight runs later we finally, mercifully, got the third out. Making it worse was we had our bottom five coming up. We got two on, and one in, but our #16 kicker made the last out.

This game was way more frustrating than either of the other two City losses. Part of it was this felt like our girls’ year. It was spring, with the big rosters that are often filled with younger girls, and we had a team of all sixth graders. We added a really good athlete who hadn’t played before but had lots of potential. Most of our girls were in their 7th season and had always played on good teams, so they were battle tested. And unlike last fall, when that team was clearly better, St R felt like a team that we would split a 10-game series with. It was their day and not ours.

I don’t have access to old schedules and results, so it’s hard to know for sure how many games we’ve played each season. But based on a rough estimate, this class has gone 26–5 over the past four season. Three undefeated regular seasons with three losses in City. The other two losses came as fifth graders against a team of all sixth graders, by a total of five runs. They’ve had a great run. Losing at City sucks, but I’d rather be on a good team that lost at the end than on the teams that they blast every regular season and are lucky to win 1–2 games a year.

We’re not sure if this is it for this group. Most of our best players are juggling multiple sports during each season, and it gets harder and harder to keep kickball in the mix when it is softball, soccer, lacrosse, cross country, track, etc. that are club/travel and high school sports where kickball is “just for fun.” Our coaches are optimistic this group will stick together next fall, though. We get one of our top four players who didn’t play this spring back. So maybe one more shot to finally get over the hump and claim a City title. And if not then, maybe next spring. Or in the fall of their 8th grade year…

  1. I’d love to take some credit for this team being like the 2014–15 Kansas City Royals, but obviously I can’t. It’s all about the genes in this class.  ↩
  2. Worth noting St. R had 14 in their lineup. But they also had fewer weak kickers and were able to turn their lineup over quicker. Their best kickers kicked five times, where ours just kicked three times.  ↩

Finishing Off and Starting Up

Last weekend of spring, last week of school. Just four more mornings of an alarm at 6:35 and the normal grumpiness as the girls and I navigate the time between me waking them up and dropping them off at school each day.

We set the stage for the summer by putting the boat into the water on Saturday. We’ve usually done it a week or two earlier, but had a good excuse for waiting this year. Our big project for 2017 was to have a new boat shelter and deck built. The existing boat house was not sturdy enough to hold a boat lift safely, nor was it wide enough to install a drive-on style lift. Our lake is really clean – the conservancy always brags that it’s the second clearest in Indiana – but it would be better for the long-term health of our boat to get it up and out of the water when we’re not using it.

We met with contractors last October, went back-and-forth on the quote for awhile, and sent in the deposit just before Christmas. Then we sat and waited and hoped that the winter was mild enough for them to get started in time to finish before Memorial Day weekend. They kicked things off in early April and other than a few days lost to storms, have hammered it out. There are still a few details that need to be wrapped up, and hopefully those will all be done with week. But last week we got the ok to go ahead and put the boat on the lift. So we dodged some crazy, heavy rain and got the boat in, along with a lot of yard work, on Saturday. We had to come back that evening, so only got one quick lap around the lake in.

The girls did take advantage of the new deck area. We have both a large deck that extends from our shoreline, and a “party deck” above the boat lift. The water was fairly warm, so all three took their first leaps off the party deck ten feet down into the lake. I think that’s going to be very popular with the young people. We’re headed down this Saturday for the holiday weekend with family, including the first birthday for one of the new nephews.

L wrapped up her soccer season Sunday. We were really worried in warmups, because the other team both looked huge and had some kids that could kick the crap out of the ball. L’s team dominated possession early, but gave up a goal against the run of play and we wondered if that was the beginning of another thrashing. But our kids stayed cool, kept the ball in the offensive end of the field, and tied it right before halftime. They took the lead shortly after halftime when L hammered one home from about 15 feet out. Eventually they went up 4–1 before giving up one late goal and dodging a couple near-misses to hold on for a very satisfying win. It was the best they played as a team all year. They worked together, passed, charged down every loose ball, and didn’t make too many defensive lapses.

I believe L ended the season with 10 goals, which I’m about 90% sure was highest on the team. Having a five-goal game will pad your stats a little bit. She had a lot of fun again. Last night S and I had the first discussion about moving her to a more competitive league next year. We’re anti-travel sports at this age,[1] but several of the travel programs around us have rec leagues that could be a step up for her. When she’s 11–12, if it looks like she’s good enough for travel soccer, we’ll put more thought into it. For now we’re good with one game per week at the same location each week.

Tuesday is the last spring sports day of the year for us. M’s team finally plays for the city kickball championship. There was a rain postponement in the other division that extended their season until last week. Then we had to dodge the city track meet and a parish festival, thus the game being pushed to this week. The team we expected to win the opposite division did. So they’ll face a team that can really kick but may not be as strong in the field as our girls are. I’m already getting nervous.

  1. I want to emphasize travel sports don’t work for our family at this age. We’re not saying they’re bad for other families, or judging families that are all-in early. We’ve just always said we will balance the three girls’ interests, and putting an 8-year-old in a travel league gets in the way of that philosophy.  ↩

Thursday Playlist

At first it didn’t hit me why Chris Cornell’s name was one of the headlines in this morning’s New York Times Morning Briefing email. “Why is he listed, did he say something about Trump?” was my first thought. I just did not expect his name to be listed because the news was just breaking that he died overnight.

You can break down the 1990s Seattle bands a lot of ways. Nirvana had the biggest cultural impact, and Kurt Kobain’s suicide was a massive moment in our generation’s coming of age. Pearl Jam was the biggest, and always my favorite. Alice In Chains had the one big album, but never matched the other two bands’ success. And then Soundgarden was always kind of on their own. They were around, and known, long before the 1991 grunge explosion. Sure, they were from Seattle, but they had their own sound more rooted in heavy, dark metal than in either traditional alternative or classic rock.

No matter which band you liked the best, I don’t think there was ever any denying the Chris Cornell was the most rock ’n roll of all the lead singers of that era. He was striking in every way. His hair was somehow both metal and so pretty many women would have killed to have it. His voice was like no other, both in how he could hit those high, screaming notes and in its normal register. He could sing every kind of rock song you threw at him.

He also seemed the coolest of all the Seattle rockers. Kurt was only cool if you, too, were an outcast who enjoyed sarcastically cutting others down. Eddie Vedder was pretty damn cool, but it was understandable that some people grew weary of his anti-rock star persona. Lane Staley was cool if you were really into heroin, but otherwise scary to us mainstream kids.

Chris, though, just seemed loaded with rock star charisma and carried himself, publicly at least, in a manner that suggested he was totally comfortable with who he was and how his life turned out. There was no bigger cheerleader for the Seattle scene than him. I found it kind of amazing that he constantly helped and promoted Pearl Jam, and as that band moved into its third decade, no one spoke better of them than Cornell. He could have easily been jealous of their success, or undercut the band. Instead he seemed to take as much, if not more, pride in their success as Eddie and the rest of the band did. I always thought that showed great maturity and self confidence.

I’ve shared my “famous” Soundgarden story before, but here it is again: in the fall of 1989, my freshman year of college, I went to Streetside records in Lawrence, KS with a couple friends to go buy some music. Given the year, I was likely buying some poppy garbage I would be embarrassed to listen to today. When we walked in, there was a table set up and four long-haired dudes sitting there. They greeted us as friendly and warmly as you could possible greet some dumbass kids you’ve never met before. We totally blew them off. But the name of the band, which was taped to their table, stuck with me. And a couple years later, when Badmotorfinger started gaining traction on radio and MTV, I realized it was Soundgarden who I had breezed by and dismissed as heavy metal losers. It wasn’t too much later when I bought the first Pearl Jam album, I was soon listening to nothing but alt rock, and in the summer of 1994, like just about everyone else, I was blasting Superunkown.

Early indications are that Cornell’s death may have been suicide. His death is awful regardless of cause, but that makes it even worse for those around him who loved him.

In his memory, some Chris songs.

“Outshined” – You can argue a lot about the ultimate Soundgarden song. This is my nominee, so huge and undeniable that even folks who didn’t like their music dug this one.
“Superunknown” – This album was a clear move toward the middle. But the band did not leave their traditional heaviness behind. This song just beats up in the head for five delicious minutes.
“Seasons” – From the Singles soundtrack, I know most people had the same reaction when they first heard this: That’s the lead singer from Soundgarden?!?!?

“Hunger Strike” – Temple of the Dog. Written in tribute to Cornell’s former roommate, the late Andrew Wood, and recorded with two guys from Wood’s old band, Mother Love Bone. Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament brought along the guitar player from their new band, Mike McCready, and their brand-new lead singer, Eddie Vedder. It was recorded and released at the exact perfect moment. Now it is legendary.

C = 11

It’s a birthday day for us today.

C is now 11.

I don’t go back and re-read what I’ve written in previous years about each girl on their birthday, because I think they haven’t changed much. Or at least the two older ones have largely been the same kid for several years now. So I imagine this will be repetitive

C is still our most sensitive kid. She’s the most likely to get upset about something and stomp off in tears. But that is balanced by her empathy for others. She has a knack for discovering what girls in her school might not have the most friends and giving them attention. A few weeks back she asked if she could get a present for a girl in her class who is kind of an outcast. C said, “I don’t think she has many friends and won’t get presents from people.” We thought that was really sweet, kind, and mature act. Especially for a then 10-year-old.

She is our pack rat. Her room is always jam packed with crap: things she’s harvested from other parts of the house, items she’s snuck out of the recycling bin, art supplies that belong in the office, etc. all crammed into every surface and storage space in her bedroom. Along with these collections come the associated trash piles, as she has trimmed, pasted, and taped many of these raw materials into art projects of one kind or another. That’s the balance: she’s super artistic and her brain is calmest when she’s imaging new creation and working to make them come to life.

Also indicative of her artistic nature is her fashion sense. She is our most stylist kid, enjoying dressing up more than her sisters and always willing to tweak her look so she has a little, self-made flair that no one else has.

She gets frustrated easy. But that’s because she’s a dreamer, and thinks things through to their ideal possibility and gets disappointed when the perfect scenario doesn’t play out.

I’ve documented her athletic ability here plenty of times over the years. This year she’s taken a little more pride in her accomplishments in cross country and kickball, which is a confidence boost I think she needs.

C gets wound up – I mean WOUND UP – when she’s in the right situation and can relax a little. “C, settle down,” is probably the phrase I use with her most. She can be goofy as hell when she wants to be. She and L will get themselves laughing so hard at the dumbest things. But a lot of people think she is the quiet one in the family, as she is much more reserved when other people are around.

She’s really the classic middle child, with a twist. She endlessly looks up to and seeks M’s approval. But M constantly treats her like crap. I’ve told C just to ignore it, that one day M will be begging for her friendship. But that’s hard advice to take when you’re 11 and just want your big sister to accept you as someone worthy of her attention and friendship.

C and L get along great, but in an odd twist, C is very much in L’s shadow at school. C is quiet and reserved at school, where L is the kid everyone knows and who has already carved out a big reputation at school. And L’s personality is much bigger in public than C’s. She’s comfortable talking to grownups where C is shy. C doesn’t show any jealousy toward L, but I imagine she struggles a bit figuring out who she is when her little sister is so “out there.”

C is all about balance. She is maddening to us with her mood swings and her clutter and her destruction of the nice things we get her. But, then, she’s the one who shows the most genuine affection and who thinks of others first. I try to remind myself that the messes are her way of finding order, ironically, and give her direction and a source of pride when they turn into art pieces.

I hope she can hang on to the sweetness and not let the moody moments overwhelm her as she approaches the teenage years. It feels like weathering the storms of the next phase of her life will offer a big payoff at the end.

More Kid Sports and Weekend Notes

A pretty busy few days, anchored by kid sports. So we’ll start with those and add in the other fun things that were a part of our weekend.

First off, C’s kickball season came to an end Thursday night. You may recall her team was in a three-way tie for first place going into the final game of the season. All three teams were scheduled to play teams with worse records, so we were stressing about how the league would break the tie. Turns out that wasn’t an issue as two of the teams, including C’s, lost their last game. C’s team was terrible through the first three innings. They kept kicking the ball in the air, in the infield, and their opponents had two girls who could catch. So they were down something like 15–2. They made a furious run late, cut it to four runs, and had the bases loaded with two outs in the 6th. But the wrong part of the order was up and the season ended with the top of the lineup two spots away. C, who kicks second, kicked her team-high 7th home run of the season earlier in the game. Would have been really nice to get her up for one more kick…

Onto soccer. L’s team has been struggling this season. They’re a fairly small, young team and it seems like the bigger kids they played against last fall all hit growth spurts while her team all stayed the same size. They’ve been getting manhandled at times, and have a few really ugly results. But, when they play a team that is more their size, they do well.

L started the season slow, with only one goal through the first three games. But she was also figuring out how to adapt. She saw that against the bigger kids, she was struggling to get close enough to the goal to shoot. So she started taking the ball wide and then sending crosses through the box. Sadly often her teammates didn’t know to be there for the pass. Every now and then she’d pick the right moment and right teammate and would get an assist on those crosses.

They played a makeup game Thursday night and got trounced 10–1. L scored the only goal. Saturday they finally faced a team that appeared to be mostly second graders like them. L’s team was up 3–2 at halftime – she scored one of those goals and assisted on another – before things got nutty in the second half. L scored two goals in about 45 seconds, made a sweet assist on another about two minutes later, and knocked in two more before the game was over. They ended up winning 10–2 in what was “The funnest game I’ve ever played in!” according to L. She scored from right in front of the goal, twice from outside the penalty area, once on a follow of a miss, and a third time when she slalomed through the defense and poked it in as she was falling down.

Once she lost her shoe and was sitting on the ground trying to put it back on when the ball came to her. She hopped up, with her shoe in her hand, and began cutting through the defense. She held the ball for about 10 seconds, lost it, got it back, and controlled it for another 10 seconds. All while holding her shoe. It was very funny.

OK, onto the other weekend activities. Saturday night we went to an Indianapolis Indians game. It was a gorgeous night for baseball. The trip was made even better as we were sitting in S’s company’s suite. So free food and drinks, and great seats above home plate. The girls got to take a picture with the Indians’ mascot. M was all proud because she got his autograph earlier in the week when she went to a game for a school field trip. She’s, like, totally an expert on getting mascot autographs now. I got to meet the president of the team. He saw my Royals jersey and started telling me about his one year in the Royals organization back in the early 1970s. It’s a pretty solid way to watch a game.



And yesterday one of the girls’ new cousins got baptized. L had to wear a dress for the third time in a month, which is some kind of post pre-school record for her. There were four babies getting baptized and one of them was related to a family who used to live near us. They had a son in L’s preschool class and their daughter went to St. P’s for two years with M. They were pretty tight back then, but hadn’t seen or spoken to each other since they moved. Before the ceremony began I asked M if she noticed A standing over there. Her eyes got big and she said, “Is that really her? She’s so tall now!” And then she refused to go over and say hello to her. Kids are weird, man. I was going to drag her over after the ceremony but the families all split into different parts of the church to do photos and I lost track of them before I had a chance to force the issue.

Although there are two weeks left in the school year, this was kind of our last weekend of the spring. Next weekend we put the boat in the water and officially open up the lake house for the season. Time freaking flies.

Friday Photo

Circle Tower Fujifilm X-T2 55mm at f/5.6, 1/1500 sec, ISO 200

Last week I took a walk downtown. I got some pictures of the Indiana War Memorial, the setup for the Indianapolis 500 Fest, and tried to get some cool reflective shots in glass buildings that didn’t quite turn out. But this is my favorite. I was waiting at a busy intersection for a green light to cross, looked up, and saw the corner of this building above another, closer one. The light was just right for the tones in the building, and I applied Fuji’s Classic Chrome film simulation to complete the look.

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