Arlo, our pitbull-lab mix looks like a big doofus, but continues to surprise us with how smart he really is.

He is only two years old and has more energy than we do. We have several different routes to choose from for our walks, depending on our own energy level. Some of these allow us the opportunity to let him off leash for part of the walk, freeing him to run around and wear himself out.

The other day mom was walking Arlo in the wooded area behind the elementary school. She let him off leash and he took off running like a wild dog through the bushes chasing squirrels and random scents.

Most of the time he stays close to us and returns in short order. But as time went by, mom kept walking and the dog wasn’t coming back. She began calling him, and then calling more, and still no Arlo. By then, mom’s getting closer to the elementary school and starting to worry. Arlo is usually friendly with kids, but he’s a big dog with pitbull looks and the adults tend to freak.

Mom was pissed and yelling for the dog. She approached the school, where cars were lining up at the end of the day.

“You lookin’ for a big-ass dog?” one of the parents asked.

“Yeah…”

“He went that way,” they said, pointing around the building toward the school buses.

The buses were loading and swarming with kids. It would just like him to jump on a bus. Mom stumped her way in that direction, still yelling for Arlo.

“You lookin’ for a big-ass dog?” one of the bus drivers asked her.

“Yeah,” she groaned with a nod.

“He went that way,” he said pointing to the street.

Oh, no! He’s not running through traffic, is he?

“He is in SO much trouble!”

Mom was now fuming mad and still yelling for the d**med dog.

She walked the two blocks to the neighborhood church where there were a couple ladies outside.

“You lookin’ for a big-ass dog?”

“Yeah…” mom growled.

“He went that way and left around the corner.”

That was our street. They were pointing in the direction of home.

“No, he didn’t…” mom muttered.

She was steaming, now. And just a little impressed.

The little sh*t went home.

She continued to yell all the way down the street expecting him to come out and meet her. But as she approached the house and passed the last tree, she saw Arlo sitting calmly in the front yard waiting for her.

How could she be mad at him? He went home like a good boy.

The story I got from Arlo was that mom got lost.

It’s hard to argue with that.

The Nile is such an iconic river it would be difficult to live up to its vaunted reputation. For me, it has been the subject of decades of history lessons, bible lessons, favorite movies, and books. So, of course, it didn’t live up to its image.

The Nile is much narrower and calmer than I ever expected. It is a wonderful small river; clean enough for swimming and fishing. Unlike American and European rivers, the Nile is not very industrialized. In our four days on the river, I never saw a barge or a factory. There was a small amount of trash along the shore, but it was minimal compared to what I’m used to.

I expected it to be much wider. It’s narrow and clean.

I live in St Louis, Missouri, USA, right on the Mississippi, which is an industrialized and sick river. I would never swim or fish from it. Which, made the Nile such a surprise. There has been a civilization along the Nile for thousands of years and you would expect that to show in the river itself, but it doesn’t. It’s as if the river washed all those years away, leaving the land clean and natural again.

The land along the river is extensively farmed but by small family plots. We didn’t see any industrial farming as we see in the US. There was no large farm equipment at all; people still used donkey carts and manual labor to work their fields, just as their ancestors did.

The country is extremely poor and much of the population barely gets by. Many of the homes we could see along the shore were simple and crude. However, everyone smiled and waved. They genuinely wanted us there because tourism is really the only economy in Egypt.

When we scheduled our Nile cruise, we imagined a lone boat making its way along an isolated desert shore. But the ships work the same itinerary, so they cruise as a pack, parking side by side at the dock and allowing passengers to pass through to the shore. It was surprising, but I can see the logic.

The Nile is smooth and navigable, making the trip perfect for anyone that gets seasick. There was almost no movement of the deck.

We were on shore touring the sites in the morning and early afternoon. The boats leave the dock in the afternoon and usually cruise through the night. The observation deck was ideal to watch the procession and the night shores glide by. The air smells different in Egypt, clean and fresh compared to home, with a little hint of sand.

The Hollywood image of the Nile is far from its reality. It is a beautiful river flowing between lush green shores bordered by bare rocky hills behind. The valley of the Nile narrows in places to only a narrow shore before the desert pushes in. Most of the Nile valley is wide and green, extending for miles into the desert, proving that the Nile is still the lifeblood of Egypt and will lead you to adventure.

On our flight to Cairo, we somehow ended up with an eleven-hour layover in Paris. Bummer! What will we do with ourselves? Well, we hire a driver and guide for a whirlwind tour of Paris, of course!

I contacted www.mydailydriver.fr and gave them our desired itinerary. They took care of the rest and did a bang-up job. The driver wasn’t fluent in English but super nice. Then once we were connected with our guide, we were able to communicate perfectly and she knew her stuff.

Paris has a few icons that every tourist must see. We chose to avoid the most tourist-trappy, i.e., the Eifel Tower. We did do a drive-by long enough to get a couple of pics from the car. Honestly, it was bigger than I expected. Very impressive for the period in which it was designed.

The four places on my list I really wanted to hit were:

1.  Sainte-Chapelle – because of the stained-glass windows.

2.  Notre Dame – because of the history and the fire.

3.  The Catacombs – because I love that sort of macabre setting.

4.  The Louvre – for everything NOT the Mona Lisa.

We met our guide at a café, because of course!

Food is always an important part of our adventures; we like to go on Food Safaris and try everything. Of course, the croissants in France are the best. But coffee is also important, and we like to sample the local brews. I like an espresso once in a while, but will normally order a ‘long’, so it’s more like American coffee. And I never put anything in my coffee: coffee should taste like coffee. The coffee at the little café was divine, almost chocolaty in creaminess.

St Chapelle was magnificent. I have a thing for churches simply because of the architecture and the beautiful art. I am not religious in the slightest, but I really love a good cathedral. This gothic style chapel is almost 800 years old and was consecrated on my birthday in 1248. I found it amazing that most of the windows have survived through wars, revolutions, storms, and vandalism. The space inside is not large, but the colors are breath-taking.

Notre Dame was closed, but we made a visit just to see it. I can be honest and admit that I cried when it burned. I watched the coverage of the fire for hours and cried over the lost history and beautiful art. It was a cultural tragedy for the entire world, not just France. Someday I will go back and see the completed rebuild.

We skipped the catacombs on the recommendation of our guide, because guides are not allowed to work inside the catacombs. She also warned us that once you get past the first chambers it’s just dirty smelly tunnels. I was a bit disappointed but found other ways to entertain ourselves.

The Louvre was amazing, of course. Our guide company had special passes for us, so we skipped right past the line. I was not interested in the Mona Lisa. It’s nice picture, but not that special. The Louvre is massive and many much more interesting items. One of my favorites was the ‘Winged Victory’. It is placed at the top of a wide sweeping staircase and is simply awe-inspiring.

I took a ton of pictures in the Louvre.

One of my very favorite paintings is located here. When I was a child of five or six, I remember my parents having a book with this painting in it. It is one of the first images I remember emotionally affecting me. I would seek out that page and stare at it. The tragedy and hope and pain and loss embodied in the piece hit me then and still resonate with me now. It is one of the great moments of my life to be able to stand directly in front of this magnificent painting and feel those same emotions.  

Paris deserved a longer stay, but I am glad we did the whirlwind tour. It was worth it and I highly recommend www.mydailydriver.fr if you have the time.

In our travels, my wife and I avoid tourist traps. We like foreigners and travel to meet them on their home turf, not to hang with other tourists. We seek to experience foreign parts with the locals. However, our vacation to Paris and Egypt was absolutely focused on tourist traps: the Eifel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Luxor temples, Valley of the Kings, Giza Pyramids, and the Egyptian Museum. There was no avoiding tourists.

Yet, we were helped by the fact that our visit was at the end of summer before the busy season, so most sites were at less than medium capacity allowing us to enjoy them in relative peace. We also had a private tour guide for most of the trip. We shared a guide with another couple for our cruise down the Nile, which included the Luxor temples, Edfu (my favorite), the Valley of the Kings, and the Temple of Isis at Aswan.

Ready for Adventure

Our days began at 7 or 8am to avoid the heat and crowds, allowing us to really experience the temples intimately without the crowds.

As the day progressed we had to contend with larger and larger groups of tourists. Busloads of people would be following a single guide around the temples. It turned into a cacophony of different languages. I can’t imagine they received much information from their guide. It didn’t look like a good time. We were usually done and back on the boat by early afternoon.

Our guides from Memphis Tours (https://www.memphistours.com) did a knock-up job, they were more than knowledgeable; actual Egyptologists. Not some random guy with a notebook.

The heat of Egypt was brutal and this Minnesota boy did some serious melting. My best suggestion to survive Egypt is to purchase a good quality Egyptian cotton scarf (not the $10 scarves sold by random vendors) and learn to make a turban. Once I was properly equipped, the trip was much more enjoyable. I sport a bald head and my dome was thoroughly baked after the first day. The turban was a life-saver.

We found the Egyptian people to be super friendly and helpful – for a tip. Tourism is really the only economy in Egypt and much of the local market is driven by tips. Don’t be stingy, but don’t be taken too easily. There is a fine line between being generous and being a sucker. I was caught as a sucker a few times, I know.

This trip was in the planning stages for almost four years; meant to be  Sheri’s fiftieth birthday trip. She wanted to scuba dive in the Red Sea. I learned to swim and then got my scuba certification for this adventure. We were set to go in the fall of 2020, but then disaster, pandemic, and general idiocy ensued ruining our plans.

As the date of our trip approached – again – I kept expecting something to happen; another outbreak of stupid, or an asteroid, or pilot strike… something. But nothing happened and we finally found ourselves on a plane to Paris and then Cairo! Crazy!

Three years of anticipation were finally coming to fruition and man was it worth it. I have 3000 pictures to sort through and memories to last a lifetime. Which is exactly why we travel.

The world is a really big place and we can never truly understand that if we never explore it. I love home and my boring middle-class American life, but I can never truly appreciate it until I experience other places. Only then can I recognize how fortunate I am to live where I do and how completely spoiled we are here. Never take where or how you live for granted, we are all only a stroke of luck away from living in a hovel or sleeping on the ground.

Enjoy life and see the world!!

More to come…

My wife recently attempted to buy us tickets to a show. She heard on the radio that the band Blue October would be in St Louis, and the tickets were on sale now. We’ve seen them twice, and they are amazing. Of course, we buy our tickets online like everyone else. Much like Amazon has us by the wallet, TicketMaster has deep roots in our credit history, and we’re okay with that.


My wife went to the site but found that the Blue October tickets weren’t available yet. So, since she was already there, she looked to see what other bands were coming to town. She saw that Steve Vai (one of my personal guitar heroes) would be playing in November. She clicked on a link and found that the tickets were general admission – didn’t think anything about it. Another click, enter her credit card info, a final click, and…….

2 GEN ADMISSION TICKETS HANSON THE PAGEANT, ST LOUIS 8/12/22

HANSON!!!

Yes, folks. My wife had bought us tickets for that very evening to see Hanson, the MMMBop kids from 1997, who apparently are still at it.


She immediately called me at work to tell me about it. Then after I laughed myself to the floor, I asked her if we would be going to the show. It was date night, after all.


“Hell no! The other twenty people that bought tickets are plenty.”


I’m sure the boys in HANSON are a fine band, but they are definitely not on our playlist. Unfortunately, the tickets were for that very evening, and we couldn’t find anyone that would take them. So they went unused, and we’re out $120 – which is another rant altogether.

So, let this be a warning to ALL online shoppers!

Look before you CLICK!
Be very very VERY sure before you CLICK.
Or you might end up with HANSON tickets!

I believe that people have a talk quota, with some having larger quotas than others.

I am not a talker. I don’t mind talking; I just don’t have much of a quota to fill. I know how to start and maintain a conversation and can work a room if needed. My wife even says I’m a ‘charmer,’ which I think is impossible. However, my small talk requirement often leaves me ready to bail out the back door if I am forced to say one more word.

On the other hand, my wife is a ‘social bug’; not a butterfly but a bug. She thrives on talking and has a social need that she must get out of her system. Lucky for her, I am a good listener and am perfectly willing to let her talk my ear off. I am only obligated to say ‘oh,’ ‘ah,’ or ‘really?’ in the appropriate places. I do have to listen to her, though – I’ve learned that lesson – because there will be a quiz!

My oldest daughter is much like my wife. As a teenager, I compared her to a shark: ‘if she stopped talking, she would suffocate.’ She never saw the humor in that.

Our talk quotas appear to carry over into social media, where we have replaced talking with other things: TikTok, Facetime, Twitter, Insta-whatever, etc. Watching a TikTok from a celebrity that will never know you exist apparently counts as being friends now. It may not be talking in the old definition of the word, but some social currency is exchanged. I’m willing to admit that. It’s not the usual one-for-one relationship, more of a one-for-.000001, but it still counts and ticks the necessary buttons on someone’s social quota.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

The average person in 2022 is connected socially to more people than has ever been possible. Yet, because of the digital distance, I think we are lonelier for it. When was the last time you had a long conversation with anyone other than your spouse or sibling? I can’t remember…

I am afraid that our social skills are becoming as fleeting as a Tweet: a couple of words and we scroll past.

Technology is making us lonelier and less social, not more.

Heck, people even spend most of their time at a concert watching it through their phones! The singer is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM, and they are watching through their phone! But…. that is a rant for another day.

The point:  We all have a social quota, large or small, that I believe can only truly be met by interacting one-on-one with other living humans. So, put your phone down and talk to someone. We don’t bite… usually.

  • Says the man that hates to leave the house!!

I am a Minnesota boy but after college and a divorce, I found myself in Nebraska. There I met and married a wonderful local woman and went on living for the next twelve years or so. I still considered Minnesota home, but hadn’t been back in over twenty years. Therefore Nebraska became home.

Five years ago we relocated to St Louis for a job opportunity. We love it here and now think of this as home. However, last weekend we returned to small-town Nebraska to attend a wedding. The youngest daughter of one of her oldest friends was getting married. We jumped at the chance to get all of her friends together; most of whom we hadn’t seen in years.

We drove my little VW Beetle the seven hours it took to get there. We don’t mind long drives and enjoy seeing the country. However, as we crossed into Nebraska we sensed a change in the atmosphere. It felt as if a dark cloud was materializing above us. We could feel the oppression building. Our mood deteriorated the closer we got to ‘home’. There was a Children of the Corn vibe going on with a little Cujo skin-prickle added.

Subconsciously, we were both dreading going back there. The old hometown had turned dark and depressing while we were gong. One of us finally mentioned the change in mood and we immediately agreed that there was something to it. Our exciting and enjoyable occasion was instead full of dread and foreboding.

We realized that we had too much baggage in that town. We had each lived there for years before meeting, so it was littered with old relationships and old memories that had nothing at all to do with our new life. The whole trip felt like wading into murky bath water. We felt dirty afterward. There are too many things there that we don’t want to remember or relive. It is much easier to forget those things if we never revisit them.

We had a great time seeing old friends and will not be returning any time soon. We may have left friends but we didn’t leave home. Home is where the heart is and wants to be.

I am over the craft beer craze. I mean seriously OVER IT!

I want to go into a restaurant and order a beer I’ve had before and have it taste the same as it always has. I am tired of needing to do a sampler to find a beer I think I can stomach for this one time. Because I may never see it again and will never ever ever order it again.

My wife and I have started to look at beer lists online before going to a restaurant. The food alone will no longer get us in the door. If they don’t have a beer we recognize, we will not be patronizing that establishment. We like beer. We don’t drink often, but when we go out, there will usually be a couple of beers with dinner or after. But if the restaurant doesn’t have a beer I want, the food loses its appeal. I no longer care how good their BBQ is.

I also don’t understand IPAs. ‘Bitter beer face’ was not a sought-after experience when I grew up. Now I find that there are people that believe that bitter is better. I don’t get it at all. This is fine; they can keep those beers and all the other witches’ brew concoctions that people are labeling as ‘beer’.

Such as these potions that I call ‘gag-beers’, like Habanero Stout or Peanut Butter and Jelly Ale, or even breakfast cereal beer with marshmallows. Those are beers you buy just for the novelty. You will never drink them more than once. But hey, you can now brag that you drank an entire can of HellFire IPA and kept it down. You are that kind of ‘man’! (Yes the quotes are needed.)

Sigh…

After all the forced exploration of the craft beer fad, I have realized that all I really want is a tall Guinness or a Stella or even a good old Miller Lite. I no longer care what your cousin is brewing in his basement. Please stop forcing us to drink it.

Thank you!

Ellis Island should be a required pilgrimage for anyone with immigrant ancestors. Or really anyone that wants to truly understand what makes America America.

We are ‘the’ melting pot, a stew of every race and language and religion and superstition on Earth. Whether we know it or are willing to admit it, our culture and beliefs are a patchwork of every immigrant family that has made their way here.

My own immigrant story is not recent. My Irish ancestors came to America around 1670. So, I haven’t been Irish in 300 years but still identify as being of Irish descent. I think that deserves some discussion.

How long before your family is ‘American’? If you’re white and American-English speaking, it can be almost instantaneous. But if you happen to be non-white or non-European or have a second language, you can assume that it will never happen. You will always be hyphenated-American.

Some Chinese-American families have been here for generations – since before the Civil War – and still speak Chinese but are not considered American by many of their more recently immigrated fellow Americans.

I don’t know if I have any ancestors that came through Ellis Island. Still, I felt the impact of the immigrant experience all the same. The pain, suffering, and desperation that traveled through that place is both tragic and heartening. I believe it is that suffering that created the fortitude that immigrants contributed to our country’s fabric. People came here with nothing but hope, leaving behind family, friends, and everything they had ever known. They did this knowing that it would be forever. Many had nothing waiting for them here, nothing but the pie-in-the-sky hope that was and is America.

Today America is still that pie-in-the-sky hope for many people. But we seem to have forgotten the humble origins that made us. My ancestors were German and Irish immigrants that came here for a better future. I don’t feel that I or anyone has the right to deny someone else the ability to pursue the same hope that our grandparents and great-grandparents were given. Were they any more desirable than a poor family from south of the border? I don’t believe that your country of origin determines your moral fabric or the strength of your character.  

Cages for the undesirables.

Our visit to Ellis Island distilled the immigrant experience down to its essence. It was clear that immigrating is not a holiday or a vacation visit. It’s never short-term. There is no trial basis that can be reversed if it doesn’t work out. It is forever for most. Immigrants almost never go back to visit the old village or those long-lost cousins. The families and friends and homes left behind were gone forever, never to be seen again.

One of the most tragic things we learned was that some families were separated upon reaching America. People were not allowed in willie-nillie. They were inspected for diseases, sometimes even political affiliation. If grandma was suspected of being sickly, she was sent back to their port of origin, often never to be heard from again. Those are the tragic stories that we don’t hear about. But those are the experiences that made America.

“Whatever happened to great-grandma?”

“No one knows…”

Liberty from Ellis Island
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