Walking on Bones

Moving through our day to day

Walking on bones of dreams tossed away

Books left unwritten, houses unbuilt

Far lands unexplored, and blood spilt

We know not our path or destination

Yet, dream them up to pass the time

Till our real dream is shown

Our destination revealed

And our selves complete

A W Kearney 2022

Growing up is not only about getting older. In fact, age does not automatically translate to ‘grown up’. It’s also about finding yourself. The problem is, you’re a moving target. The real you is not always who you thought you were. It can change from one day to the next.

In truth: Who are today is not who will be tomorrow.

So, how can you achieve your dreams or even find them if you can’t even find yourself.

Our goals and dreams and aspirations change as we change. Our dreams are tossed away or lost and forgotten like sweatshirts. We can get new ones. Once in a while an old one happens to turn up in the back of the closet and can become a focus again. But most are left behind with our promises, intentions, and acquaintances.

Our life is a trail of debris.

I have been away from the blog for a bit because of other activities. I’ve been busy, and there is only so much time in the day. I do have some writing in the works, but most of my time has been spent working on the house. We have been living here for a year and have made significant progress. Not enough to totally please the Goddess, yet enough to make it livable.

One of my projects was to mount the microwave oven in the kitchen. Leaving it sitting on the counter was never going to fly.

Our century house was never meant to have a big kitchen, which is sad. I am the cook and would love a well-laid-out kitchen. I will never have one in this house and have come to terms with that. However, I think we can still make our kitchen awesome until we can do a full remodel one of these days.

The room has an exposed chimney with bare brick, which looks cool as hell. But the mortar is beginning to crumble a little and we didn’t want to repair it because that would ruin the effect.

What’s better: new brickwork or 100-year-old brickwork?

My stove sits in front of the chimney, and I wanted to mount our big-ass microwave above it. This was a great plan but not an easily executed one. The chimney is beginning to crumble a little, and I didn’t want my microwave falling on anyone sometime in the future.

I approached this project as an engineer.

  1. There was no place for me to support the microwave from above; it would need to hang from the bricks alone.
  2. There were no commercial solutions that would fit my needs.
  3. I will have to create something!
    1. (Evil laugh while rubbing my hands together!)

I purchased some heavy-duty countertop brackets used for marble counters. They were strong enough to support the microwave alone, but the bricks were not. I would need to provide much more of a connection to the chimney. To give the brackets something to connect to, I purchased some steel strips and drilled them to match the hole pattern of the brackets. I wanted plenty of connection points with the brick.

Old brick has a tendency to crack easily, which is BAD! And I also avoided drilling into the crumbly mortar, I couldn’t rely on it to hold over time. I carefully drilled into the bricks and used anchor bolts to attach the brackets to the wall.

Then together, we hung the microwave and pushed the stove back into place. I still need to vent the fan somehow – venting back into the room doesn’t really do much.

I think it looks amazing. I am very happy with the results.

And, of course, so is the Goddess!

New York City is dirty and eternally under construction. But I loved it.

We stayed in Manhattan, in the Lower East Side close to the Bowery. It was everything you imagine NYC could be. It was smelly and loud and the melting pot chaos that is America. It also had its unfortunate ugliness and tragedy, but that is part of the package – always has been.

We saw a lot of homelessness and some of it was extreme. One poor soul was sleeping or passed out on the sidewalk with no shoes and his bare ass hanging out with his pants at his knees. People were just walking by like it was nothing. He might as well have been a potted plant. But then, what are we to do? What is the correct response to that? I’m not sure. And therefore we didn’t do anything.

There were also several obviously stoned individuals wandering the streets. Most of the time I find them to be comical. Yes, it is sad and tragic that they got themselves into that situation, but looking in from the outside, it is funny. I think most of us have been that drunk at least once in our lives. When it becomes a daily occurrence, someone should step in and get them some help. That is the part society seems to have forgotten. 

One thing that non-New Yorkers seem to consider a settled fact is that the subways and buses of New York are piss-covered and stinky. Most people think the same about any subway and city bus system. However, I have found the public transportation system clean and pleasant in every city I’ve been in. I like Chicago’s system the best, but New York’s was very nice if a bit more confusing. My wife and I never drive when we go to a city with a subway and bus system. That way we never have to worry about where to park or traffic or any other BS. We fly in, get on the train, and hit the town. We are downtown long before we could have driven there.

I’ve also never felt unsafe in a public transportation system. Not once. Big cities are big, but not necessarily the untamed wilds that they are portrayed to be. There is just a lot of people in a small area. But they are still just people.

So, all you Timid-Tina’s and fainting lambs out there that want to see the big city but are terrified of taking subways or buses should calm down and get on. It’s gonna be fun! Life is supposed to be an adventure, right?

Some of the wildlife of NYC

The Christmas season has come again, and I’m not feeling the cheer you’d expect. This holiday hasn’t felt right to me for many years. It is one of my least favorite holidays. In contrast, my wife loves the decorations, the gifts, and the baking, the whole package. I do my best to play along, but Christmas just doesn’t hold the magic that I remember as a child.

We no longer have any children in the house and no family nearby, even before Covid Christmas was usually just the two of us. And I am fine with that. I prefer to stay home and cozy on Christmas. But there is no magic for me.

I grew up in Northern Minnesota with cold, snowy winters. We could expect to get snowed into our house at least once every year. Our neighbors had snowmobiles and would ferry us to the paved road to meet the school bus. Then once the snowplows finally got to our little dirt road, they would pile the snow up taller than the bus.

My best memories of Christmas are from this time.

Our little house was heated by a wood-burning stove in the basement, and the heat would rise up through a cast iron grate in the floor above the stove and up the staircase to the second floor. Many mornings we would wake to a house cold enough to see our breath. We would then crouch on the grate to warm up while we ate our cereal.

This was the 1980s! Not that long ago.

I grew up poor, much like a hillbilly living in the woods. We had an outhouse, no television, and wolves howling in the night. Most people can’t relate, but what a great way to grow up. I didn’t experience the over-commercialized Christmas that many think is the norm. There were no electronic toys, no designer clothes, nothing more expensive than a hardware store bicycle. And we could always count on getting good warm clothes or boots for Christmas.

We cut our Christmas tree fresh from the woods and dragged it home through the snow. Mom would make homemade bread and a tea ring for Christmas breakfast. I remember a big pot of chili boiling on the stove and the whole house smelling of bread and wood smoke. The smells of home.

There were seven of us; my parents and five boys. We had no television for many of those years, so we entertained ourselves with table games most Saturday nights, and Christmas was no different. We would make a pan of mulled cider and a giant bucket of popcorn and play games for hours, often until 2am. We had no other family around, and no one ever came to visit, making it a very isolated life. Winters were spent locked inside, cozy and warm.

But it is the snow and the cold and the darkness of those Minnesota winter months that I think about most. Often the nights would drop to below zero temperatures. The air would be so cold and dry it almost hurt to breathe. In the night we would hear trees splitting in the cold, like gunshots in the darkness. And if you felt brave enough to wander outside, you would find a sky alive with stars, sparkling as if on fire, the northern lights flickering and hissing above.

It is those things that I miss the most about this season.

In the years since, I have gotten an education, raised children, and moved far away from Minnesota. Yet every year, I get nostalgic about this time. Not for Christmas, not for the gifting, not for any religious significance, but for the frozen desolation and silence of the deep winter. That is what I miss the most, what holds the most emotion for me.

We purchased a house with a fireplace for the sole purpose of curling up in front of a fire on cold winter nights. That is what I look forward to more than any other aspect of this season. However, Christmas day was almost 60F with no snow in sight. Which doesn’t evoke memories of Christmas past in any way, shape, or form. It doesn’t feel right.

I haven’t been back to Minnesota in twenty years. I no longer have family there. However, I will always yearn for the bone-shattering cold of a Minnesota Christmas night.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

I should be writing. I want to write. I have the desire to write. But I’m having a hard time forcing myself to write. And it really is ‘forcing’ myself to write. I find myself avoiding the work, doing everything but write. I get lost on the internet daily when I know there is work to do. Then, after hours of this, I get angry with myself for not working, not accomplishing ANYTHING!

It is SO frustrating. I’m stuck in this circle of avoidance and self-disgust. I’m the worst employee, I swear. It’s sad.

However, I am honest with myself and can analyze my own actions. I’ve done this sort of thing before for ‘other’ issues. It’s time to use some psychoanalysis on this issue.

I’m in the rewrite stage of my novel, and, to be perfectly honest, this is the first project I’ve ever taken this far. I usually get to a ‘Final’ draft that has been polished to the best of my abilities and call it complete. However, this time I am working with an editor. She is a personal friend, and I trust her opinions and experience.

A scene in need of raking.

She marked up my novel and was not kind about it. Kindness is not something you look for in an editor. They are meant to be mean, cut with broad strokes, and eviscerate our beloved words to produce a leaner, meaner, and more readable product.

Overall, I agree with most of her edits and suggestions. Yet, that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful or easy.

I need to rewrite a side character into a main character sidekick; she is essential to the story and needs to be more involved. To facilitate the fix, entire scenes need to not only be changed but COMPLETELY CUT! This is what my subconscious is balking at and why I am avoiding my work. Because I like those words, and I’m attached to those scenes. Hours and hours were spent writing and polishing them until they shone. How can I just DELETE them? But that is what I must do. 

All those beautiful words!!

I have read in a hundred different places that “writing is rewriting.” Yet, I could never fathom how true and incredibly hard it is. The sentence I struggled for days to get just right, to invoke the perfect emotion, the ideal atmosphere, now has to be sacrificed to strengthen the remaining words. Knowing how necessary the task is, doesn’t make it any less painful. Those are my words, my work, and it’s got to burn.

I know myself pretty well, and I tend to avoid the most difficult tasks, sometimes to the point where they get forgotten and are no longer necessary. Success! But… If I want to be a writer – a well-paid writer – I need to get past this particular hang-up and move the f*ck on and do the work.

Realizing the issue is often half the battle. Fixing or working around the issue is the other half. So, I’ve learned some psychological games I can use to ‘trick’ myself into doing something I don’t want to do.

Example: I used to hate eating my vegetables when I was little. I also knew my parents would make me eat them, so I forced myself to eat the vegs first and as fast as possible. That way, they were gone, and I could cover their yucky taste with the good stuff. I’m now in my fifties and love vegetables, but I still eat them first every time!

Question: What is the psychological trick I will use to avoid the pain of cutting all my beautiful words from the book?

Answer: I archived my highly polished turd of a final draft and started working on a new version as a NEW file. I deleted all the scenes that needed to go and most of the material that needed to be changed. Now I am essentially working with a clean slate. I’m no longer editing ‘that’ book; I’m working on a new book with someone else’s input. It may not be as good as the first or may fail to live up to our expectations. It doesn’t matter. The scenes and words I had such passion for but was unwilling to let go of are preserved. I can go reread them anytime I want.

Now I can get back to work with a clear conscience and a more compliant subconscious mind.

Writing is rewriting, and it sucks!!

Raked, bagged, deleted…

The 2020 election has been over and done with for months. However, there are still people that are unwilling to let it go. And I can’t understand them. It’s like debating the outcome of the Super Bowl XII and thinking it matters. Both the game and the election are now part of history. There is no going back, no changing the results, and continuing to brood over it can’t be healthy. (PS: I have no idea who won Super Bowl XII because it’s over and still doesn’t matter.)

Our stop in upstate New York was marred by an event that is really a poster-child for this discussion. 

We were in Skaneateles, NY, for lunch with Sheri’s cousins. It’s a lovely little lake town with the shores lined with rich people’s houses. I heard that one of the guys from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy has a home there and that Justin Bieber even got married nearby. I guess people were excited about it! Weird…

While walking around the little downtown area, we saw a die-hard Trump supporter doing a one-man parade. He was waving a flag all decked out in Trump gear. He may not have helped Trump’s political career at all, but he was undoubtedly bankrolling him. This guy must have spent a fortune on all that gear. The joker was at least wearing a mask, which was encouraging, except that he had the front of it completely cut out.

But the most comical part of this scene was that he was waving an ‘Indiana For Trump’ flag. Let me remind you  – We’re in NEW YORK!!

This area of New York is a mishmash of politics. The rural areas lean Republican while the cities are Democratic, reflecting most of the country. The cousins we were meeting were Trump supporters. But even they were embarrassed by this guy’s antics. I noticed that most of the people around us were shaking their heads and laughing.

“Idiot!! This is not Indiana! You’re embarrassing yourself!”

It was rather refreshing to see this kind of response to the extremists in their own party. We need more of this. Any extreme or crazy or blatantly ignorant talk from either party should be met with derision and mocking, and then silence. For the last ten years, the political conversation has been controlled by the loudest and craziest voices in the room. We need to remind ourselves that they do not represent the majority of either party and should simply be ignored when they get too loud.

As it turns out, most of our friends and relatives are Republicans. I don’t understand why we seem to attract them. However, none of them are extreme like Wrong-state-flag guy. On occasion, we will discuss politics, but it doesn’t come up for the most part. Yet, when it does, I find that we agree on more than we disagree.

The relationship we have with our Republican friends is an example of what we need in politics. We need to agree to disagree and find what we can agree on, rather than trying to shove our own ideology down each other’s throats. Neither party is perfect or has a monopoly on good ideas. Nor does either party want to destroy America or even represent ‘real’ America.

This country is not its political parties, and we need to realize that. We need to move beyond our past and work together for the future. Rehashing, debating, or pouting about an election isn’t going to accomplish anything for anybody. America as a nation is tired of the bickering and name-calling. We need a leader who can walk the extremely thin line between the parties to bring us together. And we as Americans must be willing to allow that to happen.

My wife seems to have a thing for chainsaws. She’s never run one, but I used one regularly in my youth. I grew up with a wood stove to heat the house, and a chainsaw was a normal thing for me. But I’ve never seen the need to have one since. Yet, it somehow became a hot topic once we began our search for a house.

The new house has a large yard with lots of trees, which is one reason we purchased it. Our basic requirements were simple: an old house with a big yard and trees. We love trees and shade and squirrels. The house is a hundred years old, and several of the trees may be that old or more.

Shortly after moving in, I noticed that the large locust tree next to the house was beginning to show its age and would need to be removed within the next five years. I was hoping to get a little time before I really needed to address it. However, over the summer, we had a few severe storms that knocked off several large limbs. Luckily there was no damage to the house, though it was a close call. The tree is nearly four feet wide at the base and probably 60 feet tall. For most of a hundred years, it has provided the house with shade, and I hate to see it go. But now, most of the top limbs are missing or damaged and dying.

The Old Locust

Which has brought the topic of a chainsaw back to the fore. Yes, we have trees now, but I had no intention of trimming them myself. Even though we have a fireplace, I had every intention of buying pre-cut wood for it. We live in St Louis, in the city; I saw no need for a chainsaw.

Shortly after moving in, my stepson brought me a $2 chainsaw he’d purchased at a garage sale. He is not mechanically inclined but figured I could get it running. He was right. I am very familiar with chainsaws and their repair. For $10, I was able to get the little junker running, just in time to cut up a couple limbs that fell next to the house. It took all of fifteen minutes to cut and clean up.

Then a couple of weeks ago, we got hit by another doozy of a storm. It threw down one of the trees in the empty yard behind us. The falling tree tore out several of my honeysuckle bushes and damaged some other trees. The most significant limb was probably 20 inches thick. That is a good-sized tree.

I pulled out my repaired and newly sharpened chainsaw and set out to get the job done. However, three cuts into the project, the saw stopped. I never got running again. I wore myself out pull-starting the POS. As you can imagine, I was pissed by this time.

Behind me I could  hear my wife quietly saying: “Just go buy a chainsaw… Just go buy a chainsaw…”

As you can probably guess: I bought a Damn Chainsaw!

Rather than getting the $140 Craftsman model (I don’t trust Craftsman anymore), I stepped it up to the $300 Husqvarna model. I am partial to the Husqvarna due to past experience and expect this to be my LAST chainsaw. I fought this purchase for long enough that I only wanted to do it once. It’s a nice saw, and I won’t be using it much. Therefore, there is no reason it shouldn’t last the life of its owner.

So, now I have a chainsaw. I expect the neighbors to soon come knocking.

“I hear you’ve got a chainsaw…”

Having a chainsaw is a lot like having a pickup truck; all your friends without one will want to borrow it. (I also don’t have a pickup… yet.)

While writing my previous post, I wanted to remember the little café we had stopped at on our first day in upstate New York.

What was the name of that place? Oh, I can find it on google maps. I’m good at maps.

I assumed I would be tracing our route on a map and locating the café that way. But once I got to the Maps page, I remembered Google Timeline. I had used the app before but had forgotten about it.  It was hidden in the drop-down options menu.

There was more than a decade of my travel history displayed on the world map. It showed my travels from 2009 onward. Almost every place I had been was there. All the restaurants, stores, places I’d worked and just driven by! I spent an hour reliving my trips and recalling wonderful places I had forgotten about.

It wasn’t until later that the creepiness started to hit me. Who else was seeing this? Could someone hack into my Google Timeline page and know where I had been, when, and for how long? And, if so, what could they do with that information?

It was at this point that my writer-imagination clicked on.

What could be done with this information? Hmmm…

– A killer could predict my daily route to work and set up an ambush or an ‘accident’.

– Someone could research my travel itinerary and pose as someone I might have met on the trip as a means of getting closer to me.

– A door-to-door salesman could predict when I would be home and available!

– An employer could check to see what I was really doing on the day I called in sick.

– A sexy foreign spy would know what coffee shop I go to alone on Saturdays and make sure to be there sitting next to me. (All foreign lady-spies are sexy by default. Foreignness plus spyiness equals sexy – period.)

I am not one to see hidden conspiracies in every shadow, nor do I have a knee-jerk distrust of new technology or BigTech. So, I actually don’t mind being tracked or filmed or recorded or whatever my Alexa is doing. But then, I am also not involved in any illegal or seditious activities. So track away. I’ve got nothing to hide.

In truth, I have an appreciation for Google Timeline. Rather than just having a file of pictures from my trips that will require me to remember where they were taken and who is in the view, I now have mapped moment-to-moment tracking of the route we took. In addition, my pictures have embedded date and time data that I can then match to the map. So, if I wanted to, I could create a minute-by-minute itinerary of my trip with pictures of that moment. How’s that for a vacation slide show?

 Google maps tracks me every day, and I am very cool with that. I find it both extremely handy and kind of creepy. However, unless I become a target for spies or start thinking about trading in contraband, my life is much too dull for this detailed information to be useful to anyone.  

“How odd… I stopped at the guitar store on the way home. And now look, Marge, here is an ad for a deal on strings at Amazon. How do those online algorithms know so much?!”

Hmmm…

For vacation 2021, we went to New York: four days in the Syracuse/Finger Lakes region and three days in NEW YORK CITY!! I’ve never been to NY other than passing through Kennedy airport, so I was excited for new adventures. I consider NYC to be one of the things every American should do once, like seeing the Grand Canyon. It can put things into perspective for you.

I am very much a Midwestern guy, and the coasts are relatively unexplored by me. Sheri, my lovely wife, and manager has relatives in the Syracuse area and has been to NYC a few times. She was to be my guide.

I’ve seen enough travel television and movies to have a few expectations of New York City. Upstate New York, on the other hand, was a blank. I had no expectations at all. I spent most of my youth in Northern Minnesota, and found the Finger Lakes area to be very similar. It felt rural but with a big city tourist patina that prevented it from being hick.

The one thing about Upstate that I knew about and was very much looking forward to was Poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish that I have wanted to try for years. I finally got it, and it was AMAZING! A Poutine is usually french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. I had mine as a breakfast on fried potatoes with brisket and fried egg. It was divine. I highly recommend it. The savory gravy brought it all together, and the cheese curds provided an occasional surprise gush of flavor.

We stayed in Brewerton, NY, and stopped at the aptly named Brewer Union Cafe  (https://brewerunioncafe.com) on our first morning. Breakfast is our favorite meal, so we always go big while on vacation. The staff was friendly and attentive and whoever they have mixing it up in back knows what they’re doing.

For vacation 2021, we went to New York: four days in the Syracuse/Finger Lakes region and three days in NEW YORK CITY!! I’ve never been to NY other than passing through Kennedy airport, so I was excited for new adventures. I consider NYC to be one of the things every American should do once, like seeing the Grand Canyon. It can put things into perspective for you.

I am very much a Midwestern guy, and the coasts are relatively unexplored by me. Sheri, my lovely wife, and manager has relatives in the Syracuse area and has been to NYC a few times. She was to be my guide.

I’ve seen enough travel television and movies to have a few expectations of New York City. Upstate New York, on the other hand, was a blank. I had no expectations at all. I spent most of my youth in Nothern Minnesota, and found the Finger Lakes area to be very similar. It felt rural but with a big city tourist patina that prevented it from being hick.

The one thing about Upstate that I knew about and was very much looking forward to was Poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish that I have wanted to try for years. I finally got it, and it was AMAZING! A Poutine is usually french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. I had mine as a breakfast on fried potatoes with brisket and fried egg. It was divine. I highly recommend it. The savory gravy brought it all together, and the cheese curds provided an occasional surprise gush of flavor.

We stayed in Brewerton, NY, and stopped at the aptly named Brewer Union Café  on our first morning. Breakfast is our favorite meal, so we always go big while on vacation. The staff was friendly and attentive and whoever they have mixing it up in back knows what they’re doing.

Poutine Breakfast!!

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