Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Stormy Gathering for Tim and a Shiny New Stadium

The oldest in our family, my brother Bryan, flew into town a week ago to attend a Celebration of Life gathering we had for Tim last Saturday. We're always happy to have Bryan stay with us although all we had to offer him (during one of the hottest weeks of the summer with a temp at one point in triple digits) was an overly warm upstairs bedroom. We reached 100º f (38º c) on Friday.

The get-together to honor Tim was somewhat of a washout. The heaviest rains of the year descended on the cities just as we were set to begin. Most of the family made it but only a few of his friends did. It was understandable considering the weather. Still, it was nice to be with family and reconnect.

One of Tim's friends from his AA group made it out and he told us how Tim was instrumental in helping him see how his actions were negatively affecting those around him. He stressed how Tim had helped him and others see their lives from a different perspective. We all listened intently as he spoke. John's presence and his words were the essences of why we had gathered. Video at the end of this post.

Bryan, Tammy and I drove up to Foci later in the afternoon on Saturday to watch a demonstration being put on by Ross Richmond, a glass artist from Seattle, Washington. It was nice to be back at Foci as it had been more than 15 months since we were last there. I'm very much looking forward to working in the studio again and getting up to speed as is Tammy. I think we need some new tumblers for our cupboards so maybe I'll begin with that. Tammy is running low on her supply of bud vases because she keeps giving them away so I know where her focus will be. Come to think of it, I'm running a little low on the candle holders I was enjoying making. We definitely need to schedule some bench time!

Keith and Tracee picked up Bryan and me on Sunday morning. We drove into Minneapolis to meet up with Stephanie and Ryan for brunch and then tour the new US Bank Stadium which just opened its doors for the public to check out.

I'm not at all a football fan but I'm quite sure I would enjoy watching a game in this shiny new stadium. I have to believe it's the premier venue in the country now with all of its state-of-the-art trimmings. We were all impressed but still, it comes down to lots of concrete and plastic seats with cup holders. The most impressive part of the stadium for me was the glass that covers 60% of the roof. It has a texture on its outside layer that works to diffuse the light coming in so it's not so bright. It felt like I was in an outdoor stadium but without all the brightness. The large video screens were quite cool as well.

Bryan made plans to drive up and see our sister Claudia about 30 minutes to the north in St Louis Park. I don't see Claudia very often and wanting to make the most of his time with us, I decided to tag along as did Tammy. She took us to Wok in the Park where none of us could finish what was put before us. Over dinner, we made plans to take in Dublin, Claudia's little pup, while she's away on vacation in a few months. I'm not sure what Toby, Allie, and Charlie will think of these plans but we'll know soon enough.

Claudia has a nice condominium just off the Greenway. I had biked past her place several times last winter not knowing she lived there.

I had my fastest ever loop out to the trails at Murphy yesterday morning finishing in 1:37:10 and beating my previous best by over 2 minutes. I'm not sure where that effort came from because humidity typically slows me down and it was humid. I scored a bunch of PRs along the way and had a blast!

There were several air traffic controller retirements this past month: Brian Almleaf, Kurt Schultz and Eric Sjoquist to name a few. There were others but their names escape me now.

I have to take a pass on men's league tonight so Tammy and I can spend the afternoon and evening with Rachel grooving to the sights, sounds, and tastes of Thursdays on First in the city of Rochester. It's a yearly thing we like to do but I've got a lawn that needs mowing before we leave so I'd better scoot!

Here's a collection of photos from the week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An Unexpected Surprise, Steeped in Fear and a New Church Home

I received a package in the mail last week from Lifetime Fitness and more specifically, the folks that head up the Lutsen 99er/69er mountain bike race that I competed in a few weeks ago. Inside the package was a trophy for my 3rd place overall finish in the fat-bike division. What a nice surprise! I can't recall ever receiving a trophy before and neither was that a thing on my bucket list but I'll take it!

So, the Republican National Convention is in full swing in Cleveland, Ohio and I gotta say, I've never seen a group of people more steeped in fear and lacking in any sort of uplifting vision whatsoever. It's disturbing to watch. If I take to heart what I'm hearing, I should think twice about ever venturing away from home again out of concern for never returning because a jihadist or an illegal immigrant will end my life. I thought we're the "home of the brave"? What happened to that?

What has me most bewildered is the seemingly misplaced, over-the-top disdain and outrage conservatives have for President Obama and all that's been accomplished under his administration. Why the hatred for this man? Disagree with me but if you're honest with yourself, you have to admit that no president (at least in my lifetime) has ever been sworn into office under more difficult circumstances. Contrast Obama's presidency with that of his predecessor and by any measure, he's been markedly more successful in spite of the continued obstruction he's had to face from republicans along the way. What am I missing here? What is it I'm supposed to hate about this man that I'm not seeing? He's to blame for the trillions of dollars we've amassed in debt since he took office you say? No, actually, that number would be all it is and even more had either McCain or Romney been given the nod. The drivers of our debt were already set in place before he took over and I'd wager that our debt (nearing $20 T) is less than it would be had we had a republican warmongering president in office. Don't kid yourself. Look up the difference between discretionary spending and non-discretionary spending.

I was out golfing yesterday with a friend who's very conservative politically and an enthusiastic Trump supporter. He told me that the smartest thing Hillary Clinton could do would be to distance herself from Obama and his policies. "Really?" I said. "I think she should allow for as little daylight as possible between what he's done and what she intends to do" I continued. I told him that "It's only too bad he can't run for a 3rd term because he'd win in a landslide." He offered no reply.

Clinton's email controversy continues to hamper her efforts to gain the momentum she's needing thanks to republican efforts to do anything to deny her the office while they make no mention at all about specifics for how they plan to help the country—only slogans. I'm looking forward to the debates this fall and hoping they will show a contrast between the two primary choices we're being offered. My brother Bryan is all-in for 3rd party candidate Gary Johnson and while there's never been a better time for a 3rd party run at the presidency, he'd better catch fire soon because he's quickly running out of time.

Tammy and I have found a new church home: Family of Christ here in Lakeville and it's a breath of fresh air. I used to be a member there in the late '80s and early '90s but left when their pastor (at the time) was found to be acting less than pastoral. Tammy decided to give it a try a month ago and was excited for me to join her the next week. And so I did.

Family of Christ is a small church in comparison to Hosanna where'd I'd been attending until 4 years ago when I stopped. The first Sunday I was back, Pastor Brent was happily telling the congregation how they were able to cobble together $600 of the $900 they needed to get the air conditioning working after it had walked off the job. There's something about that which appealed to me. Unlike Hosanna, this isn't a church with money to burn and the ability to turn away those who don't measure up. That's a not so veiled reference to Hosanna's policy to not allow anyone of the homosexual or transgender persuasion to serve in whatever capacity they've been called to nor is Family of Christ a church where if they had a choir, you'd have to try out to see if you're good enough to sing for the Lord as Hosanna requires.

As I said: it's a breath of fresh air. I told Tammy as we were walking out to our car after that first Sunday a few weeks ago that it felt like I'd come home. I've thrown my name in the hat to help out with lawn mowing and landscaping duties. That's my calling for now.

And speaking of air conditioning—I'm so thankful for it. We're experiencing some very warm and humid weather here in Minnesota. I was out working in the yard this morning, soaked in sweat. I have men's golf league tomorrow afternoon when the temp is going to be in the mid 90ºs (mid-30ºs C) with very high humidity. I went out tonight and bought a white shirt designed to wick sweat away to help keep me as comfortable as possible. And you can bet I'll be using the umbrella in my cart to shield me from the sun.

Shawn and I were finally able to sync our schedules and ride the trails at Murphy Hanrehan on Tuesday morning although it required me setting my alarm for 5:45 to make it happen. I was glad to be able to show him what Murphy has to offer and I'm pretty sure he's gonna be a regular there.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I Can't Be Silent, Tammy's 40th HS Reunion and Garden Tour of 2016

There was a killing in St Paul last week of a black man, Philando Castile; he was in his mid-30s. His death came on the heels of the killing of another black man, Alton Sterling, also in his mid-30s in Baton Rouge. Both lives were taken as the result of shots fired by police. If you watched them, those are difficult videos to get through and not something I'd normally share here but as disturbing as they are to see, it's even more disturbing to realize that they happened at all. In the case of Alton Sterling—the body cameras worn by the police somehow fell off and couldn't record their actions. How convenient for them and really, what are the odds of that happening? Thankfully there was another video to help tell Alton's story.

I don't want to look back at my writings years from now and find that I was silent on this issue of excessive police force if that's in fact what the videos show.

Law enforcement officers have a difficult and dangerous job to do and they do it for not a lot of compensation. I couldn't be a cop. I have the utmost respect for those who don't shy away from putting their lives on the line each time they kiss their families goodbye and leave for work. But to those who abuse their authority and to those who would cover up or look the other way from the abuses, I offer nothing but my most heartfelt FUCK YOU!

Five Dallas, Texas police officers lost their lives to a (most likely) mentally ill man who felt so much rage after those two killings that he went out with assault rifle in hand in search of his prey. He injured several others in the melee that ensued before he was eventually cornered and killed with a bomb delivered by a robot.

It's been a difficult time for those of us in the United States as we try and understand how to make sense of this in our own way or how we come to terms with how friends interpret the events often in a way much different than our own.

We've been down this road before and just because nobody was found guilty in the deaths of Freddie Gray or Eric Garner (among so many others) doesn't mean there wasn't excessive force or police brutality or abuse of power or call it what you will at play. Freddie and Eric didn't survive to be able to take the stand and speak for themselves at the trials that followed their deaths and so we're left with the words of accused officers against the silence of dead men. We know how that turns out.

That's all I've got.

On a brighter note—I had a good night at men's league last Thursday. I shot a 41 on the back 9 at Crystal Lake which could've easily been a 39. I had a lie in the bunker on the last hole that allowed me no chance to shoot at the pin but rather, 90º left of the hole. I walked away with a double-bogey but happy with the round overall and the progress I'm making.

Tammy and I went up north to her hometown of Babbitt over the weekend for her 40th high school reunion. I was in the beginning stages of a head-cold when we left and by the time Saturday rolled around it was full-on accompanied by a pounding headache. I missed out on most of the fun but managed to make an appearance later in the evening on Saturday and put on a smile for 90 minutes to mingle with her friends from decades ago. It was a very nice time. I only wish I could've been there for all of it earlier in the day.

We brought the pups with us and they cooled their heels at Cindy's home while we stayed at The Junction, a newer motel in town.

I usually do a walk-around of our yard each year to video our gardens so as to give me something to look back on and see how they change over the years. Here's this year's video...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tim on Bass, Tony's Graciousness, a Go for Golf and Even Some Fireworks Pics!

When my brother Tim was attending college at St Cloud State University in the mid-'80s he would occasionally fool around with some other guys playing covers of songs. Decades ago Tim gave me a tape he'd put together of some music he liked from around that time and one of the songs on the tape was a recording in which he played bass. I believe they only played for fun and never took it seriously enough to have a name for their band of buddies nor did they hire themselves out. I remember him telling me something about the lead singer being the son of Bobby Vee—an artist from North Dakota who had several hits in the '60s.

Years ago, I digitized the song Tim played bass on and uploaded it to a safe spot on my website where I'd always have it. It's a song called Homicide that was originally done by a group called 999. I think it's really well done and Tim rocks on the bass!

Homicide by Tim and his friends.

We have a Celebration of Life picnic planned for Tim on Saturday, July 23rd at Antler's Park in Lakeville. There will be no formal funeral service and although we never talked about it, I think Tim would've wanted it that way.

I have his ashes stored away on a shelf in a cabinet in my garage and they'll be taken to Michigan's Upper Peninsula and buried in a plot by our father and mother's graves. Keith and Tracee ordered headstones for both Mom and Tim. Mom's headstone will have an engraving of an angel and Tim's will have a guitar. That's so appropriate.

Jackie wrote the obituary to the left and I think captured nicely the essence of Tim.

I got a call from Tim's good friend Tony on Saturday morning. He had 4 tickets to the races that night at Elko Speedway for their yearly Eve of Destruction event that he wanted to give me. How nice! We rendezvoused at Fleet Farm by the silo near the entrance. We've been Facebook friends for a number of years but we'd never met until that morning.

Rachel got back into town from camping in the Boundary Waters, just in time to take a quick shower and join us for the race. We had such a nice time and Tony stopped up twice into his private suite to visit with us. Later, after the races were all finished, we walked down to pit-row where fans can mingle with the racers and see their cars up close. We were impressed with Tony and how he graciously took time with all of the little ones who wanted to have their photo taken with him or an autograph or both. He's a good guy!

There's a video at the end of this blog post of the finale of the night—the school bus race. Check it out.

We had our annual neighborhood 4th of July party at Bob and Karen's next door. We kept things pretty tame this year and closed it down early at around 10:30. They're the best hosts ever! Remind me to never do chest-bumps with Bob! He's got a hundred pounds on me and it's simply not a smart thing on my part. And yes, I had been drinking.

We walked to Lakeville North high school to see fireworks last night. I staged one of our cars there earlier in the evening with some fold-out seats so we could have a nice spot to the view the display from and then drive home. The city never fails to put on a nice show. A strong enough breeze kept the bugs away. Perfect!

I'm golfing again after having to sit out a 2nd 6 week period after re-injuring my intercostal muscles. I didn't really miss the game while I was away because there was so much else happening in my life and I was also trying to focus on my riding for last week's race. But I'm ready to hit the links again with the same zest I had for the game at the beginning of the season.

I've been working with a physical therapist who specializes in golf-related injuries. Lana is certified through the Titleist Performance Institute and has been having me do a series of strengthening and stretching exercises leading up to today when she analyzed my golf swing. She's happy with what she sees (and that made me happy) but she did make a couple of key changes that will hopefully get me into a more proper position to avoid future injuries. She saw that I was too upright to begin my swing and that I needed to have more flex in my knees and flatten my back. They're changes that have a very different feel at address and as I begin my backswing but they're changes I can adapt to. I'm excited to get working on them.

I'm enjoying going to the course and playing along with whomever I get paired up with. A few days ago it was Won and Tee; Sunday it was Freddy and Denis and today it was Andrew and Josh. New faces always seem to make for a more interesting round of golf.

Here's a collection of photos from this past week and a video of some Americana from the races. Enjoy!