Monday, May 27, 2013

Beneath the Gentle Grass

Greetings All:

Today is Memorial Day.  I have written a poem I would like to share with all of you.  I appreciate you reading it and if you think it is worth sharing, please feel free to do so.  As I am at best, a bar stool poet, I ask your pardon for any glaring literary and (almost certainly) grammatical errors.  Two quick things:

1.  The photo above is public domain and if not, I respectfully claim fair use and give thanks to the owner; and
2.  Today is, in my opinion, not to be one spent sitting in some endless day of perpetual mourning.  By all means, fire up the grill, have the beverage of your choice, play with the kids.  To me, that is the personification of freedom and liberty.  Just please, in your way, take a moment to remember those who died.  If you have a flag, today is a good day to display it.  At 12:01 p.m. EDST there is a moment of silence.  There may be an event in your hometown you want to attend.  However you recall today, that is your choice.  The poem that follows is mine.  Thanks for reading.

Beneath the Gentle Grass by Jeno Berta

In quiet places they are found;
They do not stir, utter a sound;
Here is their final home;
Adored with only a simple stone.

On this day, we give pause;
To those who gave their lives to the cause;
They fought for country and for kin;
Some only once, some again and again.

When peril called on sea or land;
Without delay they raised their hand;
Charge the enemy, into the breach;
For their protection, they did not beseech.

Some died in battle or a hospital bed;
Others from the demons raging inside their head;
Some in a prisoner camp;
Or a few feet from a landing craft ramp.

Near some lie those who did not fight;
Yet kept the home fires burning bright;
Of their fallen love they did not brag;
Just accepting with grace a folded flag.

If you go to this place, and I hope you will;
Remember those who lie there still;
Know they are at peace last;
Far from the carnage of cannon blast;
Far from death, far from pain;
From all suffering they can abstain.

Let us honor, let us grieve,
Those from whom we are cleaved;
Yet also we should recall with pride;
Of their courage displayed worldwide.
Of battles fought and wars won;
The finest of our daughters and sons.

So take a moment, if you will;
To ponder those who paid freedom’s bill;
In our national cemeteries, fallen heroes are in masse,
Their honored rest eternal, beneath the gentle grass.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Camaro

Greetings All:

It is Memorial Day weekend.  First and foremost, it is a time to honor those who have fallen in defense of our nation.  I will be publishing a poem I wrote and I hope you will appreciate reading it, as well as understand that I am, at best, a bar stool poet.

For tonight, I want to discuss something that has not been a part of my life for several years, my Camaro.  As it is Memorial Day weekend, it is also the unofficial start of summer.  Although we in Iowa have been under a deluge of rain (hard to believe we had a drought to deal with not too long ago), soon it will be warm.  A time to be outside and if you have a convertible, then by all means, drop that top.

I am fortunate enough to have such a car.  Back in "the day," it was something that I thoroughly  enjoyed driving.  However, time, kids, several moves and other aspects of "life" have a way of pushing it off the priority list.  Long story short, thanks to a good friend, I have been able to keep my car stored.  Truth be told, the thing is not even running.  As I type this it is at Gamber's service station, awaiting a review of just how bad the damage might be to it, how much it will cost to get it back on the road and so forth.

It is amusing, at least to me, to think that there was a time when I valued this car more than any other possession I had.  I kept it washed, parked in a safe place and it never saw snow.  Those days went away with the Clinton administration.  In fact, I am trying to find the boot for the convertible top and the faceplate for the stereo.  Again, these are casualties of several moves.  I am going to be an optimist that they will turn up and also that it will not break the bank to bring it back to life.  As I mentioned, it is at Gamber's Service Station, where mechanic and Camaro owner Gary Gamber will, I hope and trust, do his best to get it back on the road.  If not, then I will accept reality.  However, I do hope I can drive it again. 

True, there is something about the American muscle car.  Perhaps no other tangible thing defined the post-war, baby-boom era more clearly than cars.  And not just any cars, but those that rumbled when started and roared when moved.  I remember being in London in 1993 and my roommates and I heard the distinct sound of a 70s-era muscle car.  In a sea of affluence, of fast swimming Euro-flash cars, it was clear who was the shark.

Of course, one can argue that in a period of global warming, high gas costs and other concerns, a V-8 engine is a waste of resources.  That argument was likely raised during the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970s.  Fair enough.  Although I would respectfully submit that the genre of American sports/muscle cars is as much about culture as it is about horsepower.  It is a tribute to the ability of car makers to take a concept as vague as freedom and wrap it into something tangible that allows the practical exercise of the pursuit of happiness, if even for a brief trip to the ice cream parlor.  My days of driving fast are well over.  However, I do have to appreciate that when the pedal goes down, the needle on the speedometer goes up.  I also think speed and horsepower are examples of something bigger as alluded to above- the spirit of America.  In that light, I believe Caroll Shelby, the legendary car maker and crown prince of American muscle cars might have said it best:  " If a little is good, more is better, too much is just enough."  

I will keep you posted on its progress.  In the meantime, here is a photo of the car.

I know, it needs a bath.  All in good time, let's get it running first.

Have a great rest of your holiday weekend.  I would ask that tomorrow, in your own way, please take a moment to remember those who fell for our nation, thanks.

Be well my friends,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Shopping Cart

Greetings All:

If you live in the suburbia, or quite frankly anyplace where civilization exists, you have been to a grocery store.  There are any number of chains from the high end to the budget kinds.  I suppose the Sam's Clubs and Costcos should be classified as grocery stores, yet for this post, I am focusing on the typical grocery store.  Hy-Vee is where I shop due to its location and selection of just about anything you could want,absent a strict adherence to certain dietary rules.  

A couple of weeks' back, I found myself there and I stared into the abyss.  Here is my tale.

I had been sent there on a fairly simple mission:  Get groceries.  Of course, this mission had some overtones of getting stuff I have never heard of and there was a bit of a time crunch.  My wife was helping host a Pampered Chef party and I volunteered to make the grocery run.  After all, how hard could it be?  I was about to find out.

Despite my association with an organization that values time management (right place/right time), when left to my own devices, I can get a bit off-track.  Again, I had that time crunch to worry about and grocery stores are full of distractions.  Not nearly as bad as sporting good stores, but still, distractions abound. 

Now I was not flying completely blind, as the photo above indicates, I had a list.  Normally, that would have been enough except I ended up getting trapped in the produce aisle and was looking for things I had no idea existed.  (To those of you who eat a plant-based diet, my apologies.)  Thanks to the gentlemen working the produce aisle, he got me squared away.  I had no idea there were that many versions of tomatoes, just sayin'...

I bit of an observation on modern shopping:  Just my opinion of course, but I do not think anyone under the age of 18 should ever be allowed to operate a smartphone in a supermarket.  More than once I almost took out a family of three boys who were engrossed in their device and failed to realize my cart almost took clipped them right above the elbow.  Mom, bless her heart, was as persistent as ineffective in her admonitions.  Let's move on.

Then there are the aisles.  There really are no rules of the road on weekends at supermarkets and approaching corners rivals driving in downtown Cairo, except of course, Cairo is safer.  (Well, that may be a tinge of an exaggeration but you get my point and this is after all satire.)  I think this incredibly nice woman born circa the Hoover administration had a GPS lock on me to be turning at me every time I crossed the aisle.  I lost her in the beer and wine section.

I am looking at my watch, crossing things off my list when I see this request:  Plum Jelly.  What?!?  I never heard of such a thing and if it’s good, I’ll take your word for it.  Oh, and of course it is not in the jelly aisle.  Every other kind is there, but no plum.  Just as I was about to throw in the towel, I try the health food aisle. 


I am on a roll.  The rest of the list starts to get pared down, I've lost my elderly lady friend and the three kids are gone so I think I am in the clear.  Of course, time is not on my side and like a quarterback down two scores, I have to move up the field, er store, quick.  I think I am done then I see this item- black olives.

The olives, no, No NO!! not fair.

There are simply too many choices.  In the back of my head, I hear Devo's "Freedom From Choice" blaring.  I have one chance to pull this off. I use my last lifelife and call my wife hoping that through a combination of affection and pity she would answer. 

She did.

Now, candor demands I acknowledge that this was not the first inquiry to her during this trip.  I take solace in the fact that I was far from the only person with a Y chromosome who was calling for "advice and counsel" on a variety of purchases.  In any event, I received this reply- "The can ones are fine."

Pushing the cart full of stuff I head towards the checkout...

And thus ends the tale.  I got all this stuff back to the house in time for the event and, I might add, for me to conduct a tactical retreat from the AO.  Not that the Pampered Chef party wasn't a good time, I have no doubt it was, I just was not there to witness it. 

As I mentioned above, this post has more than a bit of satire and more than a scoop of sarcasm.  Although I was less than amused to have dealt with this task, it really was no big deal.  I suspect that if you are reading this (and thank you if you are) you will see this is, with a nod to Jerry Stenfeld, a post about nothing.  I was a lot more motivated to write about this when this all happened a couple weeks ago but thought it was worth passing along as I want to balance out this blog between more serious stuff and...well my personal tale of angst.  If this is as bad as it gets for me, then I am truly a lucky guy.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Caine's Arcade

Greetings All:

I hope this all finds you well.  I am putting out a purposefully shorter blog post tonight as I want to get this out before Friday night dissolves into Saturday (and that is by no means a bad thing) because I think this is worth a look.  Here is why:

Today, I had the good fortune to attend the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast.  It was a great event.  Even though the speakers were not live, it was time well-spent.  From John Maxwell to David Allen to Coach K and a bunch of other fantastic speakers, it was well worth the admission price.  I hope to write more about this event but for now, I want to put out the story of Caine. 

If you've been following my blog, two quick things:

1.  Thanks; and

2. Please check out the web links below.  It is a terrific story.  Go ahead, I'll wait: 

So you saw the video (now, you did see the video, right?) Seriously, please check out the video  on the Imagination Foundation and Caine's story, it is simply terrific.  It is terrific because it transcends a "feel good " story.  It is terrific because it shows how average people can rally in a short period of time to renew a boy's hope.  These people validated a young man who chose to believe in his dream and rejected the naysayers.  It is a fitting and wonderful tribute to the film producer who on a lark played in Caine's arcade.  In short, dare I say it- it is a tale of faith.  

Be well my friends,

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sending the Old Man Home

Greetings All:

As I have mentioned before, I am a Jimmy Buffett fan.  Not as much as I was say two kids ago, but still dig his music.  I like pretty much everything he has put out and my favorite album (OK, fine, CD, at least I did not say download) is Hot Water.  I have a number of favorite songs and one of them is Sending the Old Man Home.  I first heard the song in law school when the Buffett Beaches, Boats, Bars and Ballads CD box set was released.  I thought it was a clever tone and rhymed particularly well.  It also was a tale that kept my attention for a bit.  For those of you who are not familiar with it, here are the lyrics:

Sending the Old Man Home by Jimmy Buffett, 1979

They're sending the old man home
Back where the buffalo roam
Out in Pacific they say he was the best
Now he's in his "civies" headin' home like all the rest

He'll never forget Rosa Lee
Or sleepless nights he fought upon the sea
He'll only have the memories
Or great books by James Jones
`Cause they're sending the old man home

Far away
Far away
Another life so very far away

They'll tear down the officers clubs
And write off the overdue subs
So let's drink to their memories
Our heros and our pals
To those crazy navy flyers
To those swell Hawaiian gals

The sailors will dance in the street
Then they'll mothball the whole damn fleet
We'll only have the picture books
Of land and sea and foam

`Cause they're sending the old man home

He'll only have his memories
Or great books by James Jones
`Cause they're sending the old man home.

I learned on Sunday this was released on the Volcano album in 1979 (and yes, back then, there were only albums and 8-tracks and possibly cassettes.)  In any event, that is when it came out.  I suspect that although Buffett's Dad was not a sailor, he was inspired at least in part by his service in World War II.  Here is the link to Buffett's dad obituary:

So here we have a song that tells a pretty straight-forward tale:  World War II is over, we won.  While the world celebrates the victory, the "old man" is dealt a melancholy hand- no more fame, only a trip home.  Oh, we'll remember you and do so fondly.  Yet, don't expect much more, but...thanks.

Fast forward to April 14, 2013.  I am reading the paper and come across an obituary for a gentlemen who will remain anonymous.  I do this for his obituary stated he was a private man.  There was no visitation and there was a private graveside service.  That's it, that is how he wanted it.  As much as I want to put the link into this post, I will not.  I will, however, say that as I read of his life, I thought of this Buffett song.  He was a Navy veteran and did great and heroic things in the Navy.  Like our hero in the song,"...Out in Pacific they say he was the best." He was in command of 500 men and lost not a one. No small feat in a war where death came fast and hard under a merciless Japanese foe.  It would be understandable if he, or any veteran would live in the past, to recall the "...sleepless nights he fought upon the sea."  And yet in reading his obituary, I got the feeling he did not.  Oh sure, he had a room with his military awards (as well he should) but the write-up went back and again to his family, how that is what he truly celebrated.  He lived life and lived life in the moment.  He memorialized his service and then did not let it linger as the centerpiece in his life.  Unlike the song, our real-life hero had more, much more, than "...only have his memories, or great books by James Jones,..."  

We all have a tendency to take a stroll or two down memory lane.  A few weeks' back, I asked my wife if she wanted to go out with me while I hung out with a couple of my fraternity brothers and she politely declined.  Her comment was,  "No thanks, you guys tell a bunch of stories, the same ones I've heard before, and I am sure you'll tell them again."  She was right, we did.  And just for full disclosure, I still laugh as hard (if not harder).  It is good (not to mention fun) to laugh at the humorous memories and recall with pride the significant one.  I think the trick is to spend less time dusting the trophies in our memories and more time creating new ones.  After all, as Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations:

“The memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time.”

As I close out this post, I found on YouTube a version of this song with compliments and appreciation to Floyd K.  Enjoy.

Have a great rest of the week and thanks for reading.

Best rgs,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cool Hand Luke Inspired Confession

"I got my mind right, Boss, I got my mind right!"

Paul Newman as Cool Hand Luke

I was inspired by this movie to come clean with all of you. For those of you who are old enough to remember the movie, "Cool Hand Luke," you will recall that Luke, the lovable rouge petty criminal, kept escaping from prison, only to get caught and be subjected to the sadistic punishments by the Captain or "Boss." Luke finally breaks (well, sort of) and pledges that he's got "...his mind right."

Well my friends, I confess, I've not had my mind right as far as following some ruled go. As the photos show, I've racked up some...fines with my local library. And not just for one book. No sir, just like Luke, I'm a multiple offender- two books. Actually, there was a third but thanks to a technicality, justice was tempered with mercy, no fine.

I knew I had to face up to my ill deeds. So last night as my older daughter was working on her rock and roll at AM Guitar Works, went and paid the piper, er Librarian. So there it is, my debt paid.

I hope you realize I'm being fairly (mostly) sarcastic with this post making reference to my $.60 an overdue library fines. However, I really do appreciate my local library. It is a great place to check request that they located book for you. I was able to find have them find a copy of "The Centurions" a book pretty much out of print from a library in Mount Pleasant Iowa. Therefore, I try to take care to get my books back on time and and/or renew them. However in this case, I guess I just wasn't living right. But I'm better now and my conscious is clear.

Wishing everyone a great upcoming weekend. Be well my friends.

Best rgs,