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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

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

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!!

Our new house is not far from the local airport allowing me to watch planes take off and land. I happen to love traveling and flying in particular. Flying is freedom in my mind. So, seeing these flights taking off for points unknown makes me smile. Someone is getting out and seeing the world and that is a great thing. I wave at them sometimes to be funny. I’m so jealous.

Flight to Somewhere – cooler than here.


Today I am sitting in my backyard on a beautiful sunny day and dreaming of travel as the planes claw their way into the sky. They are both an inspiration and a taunt. There is a world out there to experience, but I have to wait to board and explore. I’ve been waiting since last year. It’s time.


Our next trip is to New York City in August, only 37 days away! I’ve never been to NYC and I’m very excited. We’ve planned a sailing tour of the bay, a visit to Ellis Island and, of course, Times Square. Those are the big ones. We tried to get tickets to a Broadway show, but like they say in NY ‘fuggedaboutit’, ain’t gonna happen. Which is fine, there are a million other things to do there. Like deli’s, food trucks and one hundred thousand coffee shops. I’m excited!


We will be spending the last days of the trip in Syracuse, sitting on a lake and relaxing. I am actually looking forward to that more than the tourist thing. Give me a chair, a beverage, and a book, and I’m good for a few days. Can’t wait.
In the meantime, there goes another one.

Wave, everyone! Have a nice trip! See ya! Bring on August so I can get to the airport on time!

I took this photo on a trip to Austria years ago and it’s always been one of my favorites. Just a loyal dog waiting patiently for his owner.

What a great dog!

This would never be my dog. My dog would have run away or followed me into the store or taken off into the store without me. Anything but what a good dog would do, such as this very good dog is demonstrating.

I don’t have a dog, but if I did, he would be an asshole. That’s just the kind of dog parent I am.

Last weekend we took a long weekend trip to San Francisco. We had this trip planned for some time and refused to cancel it due to COVID. After months of being shut up in St Louis, we needed out. I, at least, get out almost every day, my work schedule has not been affected by the pandemic. I haven’t missed a day. However, I do limit how much time I spend around people, particularly in public areas: fewer trips to the store, limited restaurant exposure, always wearing a mask, etc.

My wife, on the other hand, has been working from home for months and has been taking it rather hard. She is a social butterfly with an innate talk quota that she must meet to maintain general health and sanity.  This trip months ago as a replacement for a family reunion that was canceled. Neither of us had ever been to Frisco and had a long list of things we wanted to do. Alcatraz and the Winchester House and see the Redwoods and ride the streetcars… Basically, San Francisco had been on our list for years. We planned a five-day trip and booked an Airbnb.

But then things started to fall apart. Alcatraz remained closed. The Winchester House was closed. The National and State Parks were closed. And then travel was discouraged. We had reserved and even prepaid for some tours and tickets. What is California without a wine tour, right?!

But regardless of all the roadblocks, we refused to cancel the trip; we needed to get out of St Louis!

Our new plan was to do more hiking than anything else. The National and State Parks were reopened, so we headed to Muir Woods to see the Redwoods. They were INCREDIBLE!! Walking through a grove of thirty-story, perfectly straight trees is a very grounding experience. The stress of the last months melted away to insignificance.

In San Francisco, we focused on the attractions at Pier 39. We went sailing in the bay, into the shadow of Alcatraz, and even went whale watching out into the Pacific. Watching whales jump out an ocean that covers 70% of an entire planet, makes life’s problems seem rather insignificant.

However, COVID was still a concern, and California is considered a hotspot. However, unlike St Louis, 95% of the people around us were wearing masks. I found it encouraging and even comforting to see everyone watching out for each other by simply covering their faces. Rather than focusing on the inconvenience and uncomfortable aspects of wearing a mask, they just jumped on board and did it. I believe that once a majority of people are participating, there is an unconscious peer pressure placed on anyone not participating. San Francisco has reached that level of conformity. And that’s a good thing!

For me, our trip was less about getting away from home or seeing something new than it was about resetting my perspective. I live a rather stress-free life and have built it that way. But I do tend to get hung up on issues around me and tasks I still have to complete. I’m an engineer, so task lists and deadlines are part of the gig. However, in the end, they really don’t matter in the long run. I need to keep that in mind when things start getting to me.

San Francisco was amazing, and we plan to return to hit all the things we were unable to do this time. We rarely return to a place once we’ve hit the major attractions, but Frisco has enough for multiple trips. I look forward to it.

I miss the stars of yesteryear
Before the emotions
Before the tears
Before the memories
When they were cold and crystal clear

I have found that too much familiarity can be a bad thing. Much of our enjoyment in life comes from our wonder at and awe of the unknown. Exploring and experiencing is life and as long as we can continue to seek new unknowns we can continue enjoying the awe and wonder.

But once we reach the point where everything in our life is familiar or a ‘been there, done that’ moment, we can only look back at our past and remember feeling those things. Like most things, it’s never quite as good as the first time.

I am fortunate to still be in the wonder and awe stage of my life. My wife and I are still exploring the world and chasing new experiences and new knowledge. We like to travel to more and more exotic places and try new foods and activities. I always strive to remain in wonder of the world and of the people around me. I am never bored, there are too many things to do and experience. I don’t watch much television because I have things I want to DO and experience and NONE of them are on television!

However, the excitement of discovery and experience can only survive a limited number of cycles before familiarity sets in. The wonders that once took your breath away can become mundane and ordinary. For example: How many of the people living in Denver still look out at the mountains with bated breathe? I love the mountains and am still in awe of them every time I see them. However, I also don’t see them Every Day!

There are people that actually LIVE IN ROME. What….??!!?! How could they not be in absolute awe of their surroundings every single day of their lives? I mean really?

Answer: They could see them every day of their lives. That’s how.

As I said: Too much familiarity can ruin the surprise or destroy the magic, destroy trust, taint emotion, and temper the awe and wonder of youth. As I get older I sense my wonder slackening. I am surprised by fewer movie twists or horrible news events because I’ve seen so many others. I don’t want to be that cynical old grump that frowns away my last years. I want to explore and wander and look up at the stars and breathlessly wonder at the mysteries of the universe.

PS: My wife and I are traveling to San Francisco on Friday. I’ve never been and am excited to explore. COVID is certain to put a damper on many of the activities we had planned (no Alcatraz, no Winchester House) but there will be plenty of hiking and scenery. And maybe some wine… We’ll see.

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