In the fall, my daughters will take on the next scholastic chapters in both of their young and wonderful lives.
Penny, eight this coming August, will go into third grade – which I hear is a real doozy in modern times. It’s probably even more-so being that half of this year past year – and half of the last year – was spent distance learning, a situation that forced kids to get acclimated with technology with a quickness, and probably took something away from the organic learning experience.
Though it could be argued that they were instilled with a powerful dose of forced-independence, and there’s merit in that feat.
Either way, she adjusted to both scenarios like a champ.
Quinn, who just turned five and proudly tells everyone so, will take the leap into Kindergarten – an all day commitment at a new school.
Our hometown only hosts the PreK program she was in at one of the three elementary schools in town, and she’ll be heading on up – to the east side, at another elementary school – for the next 6 years of her life. Three of which will be spent with Penny – so she’s excited – Penny is excited – and so am I.
Today, being the final day of school for the girls, I decided to pick them each something from the yard to give them as a sign of love and congratulations.
In a yard full of flowers, I picked the Foxglove for Penny and the Daylily for Quinn. There was no precognition, no planning – I just picked them because each flower drew me to their personalities.
And man, I wasn’t far off…
“Foxglove” represents intuition and creativity – both things which Penny is renowned for. In fact, she was awarded for her creativity both last year and this year in school. Beyond that, she has an uncanny understanding of everything – generally with little introduction. Penny either gets it, or asks why and how something is the way it is or works – then gets it.
The orange “Daylily” represents courage, which is uncanny seeing that Quinn will be entering a new school, with new people, and new routines – and she’s jazzed for it. It also represents love, and – though both girls are incredibly emotional and caring – Quinn is a healer, in all rights. She wants people to be alright in life – and she’ll do whatever she can to make sure people feel that way.
I won’t lie – I’m a little in awe of this connection. Yes, they’re my daughters. Yes, 50% of their DNA is shared with mine. And yes, we spend an incredible amount of time together – but this is on another level. Our yard has more than a dozen flowers in bloom right now – but I was drawn to the ample Foxglove and the newly bloomed Daylily.
This is some kind of mix of stardust, glitter, and paying attention. Just goes to show, you don’t even know what you know…. And what you do could really mean…
All of my love ladies. I am just as excited as you are to see what’s around the next bend.
There’s always been a plan to plant things to grow things to sustain us here at our little homestead – and throughout the course of the pandemic, we made some serious headway:
8 Apple Trees (6 that are a sure thing).
10 Blueberry Bushes (8 that are putting out an impressive amount of fruit.. 2 that may end up on the burn pile).
Too many Wineberry and Raspberry Bushes to count – but I did buy 3 for posterity in April and are letting them thicken up a bit before I put them into the ground.
6 Hop Rhizomes that have turned into 5 intense bines that gave out 1 ounce of hops last year – and could give out a pound this year.
And a cherry tree that has yielded a snack time favorite in the last couple of weeks alone.
But no strawberries.
So, yesterday, to celebrate the end of the school year for the girls, we hit up Lyman Orchards yesterday and picked about 5lbs of some of the most amazing strawberries you ever have seen or eaten.
1lb went straightaway to Strawberry Shortcake to celebrate. And the other 4lbs. went to making jam – which I knew I would always make, but didn’t certainly plan on making.
I put all their tops in a shallow hole up near the apple trees – adjacent to the wineberry brambles and shoots in hopes to grow some plants for next year; after all – that’s how we got all these damn raspberries.
Anyway. Here’s the jam recipe. I have a feeling it’ll translate well to all the other berries in the yard as well. This recipe gives you 12 just about perfectly filled 4oz jelly jars – as well as a few generous spoon licks.
Strawberry Jam Recipe
4lbs of strawberries 2 cups of cane sugar 1/2 cup of lemon juice
Cover over low heat. Stir randomly Bring to boil Mash lightly
Remove from heat Jar Let cool Refrigerate overnight
And in all the dreams I have of you. You’re younger…
…And you’re doing crazy things.
And no one believes me when I talk about how you used to do crazy things. Sometimes I don’t believe me, but I know what I remember.
Crazy things that stuck us together like glue. Crazy things that made people worry. Crazy things like going shot for shot. Crazy things like stealing cold cuts and selling cigarettes. Crazy like making sandwiches from crumbs. Crazy to wake up laughing for so long. Crazy when we finally didn’t. Crazy nights in backyard tents – when no one in the world knew where we were. Crazy counting freckles through soft light fuzz. Crazy how it all became crazy.
Crazy, but I don’t think you’re crazy.
But I see you How I remember you. And now I’m crying.. And I’ve lost all defenses. In these waking moments…
But I least I saw you. So I can remember you the way I need to remember you.
I’ve got an area in the back yard… Well – it’s an area by definition, but it’s really a nook:
a little area boxed-in by the back of the house, the back of the shed, the front of the woods, and this temporary fence my neighbor put up in an obvious bout with insanity.
We grow our hops and raspberries back there and I guess you could consider the bow tip of the canoe part of it as well, but not the whole canoe – because that’s in another well-defined, and fawned over, part of the yard – one which has its own window that looks out on to it.
The nook is partially shaded by a couple of Staghorn Sumac trees and one, large, Tulip tree – which drops the most enchanting seed pods you could imagine:
an inviting yellow cone, filled with wild, seeded wonder – ensconced in vibrant green, silky leaves.
I’m constantly pruning these trees back as they are invasive – but they do provide a perch for a wonderful array of birds that range from common to uncommon to unreal and surreal.
With spring having sprung at this point, life has really returned to the nook. The hops are growing at an impressive rate, and its bits and pieces are bigger and thicker than the year before.
I pulled up all of the garlic mustard in the area, which has really allowed for some great ground coverage to take over, and expanding the trim of rocks that I put against the base of the shed has seemingly closed out the possibility of the woodchuck family from last year returning.
(They’re fine animals, but they eat all the raspberries I planted for the girls.)
That said, I did leave an area – in that shed to ground gap – unblocked in case they want to return for the 2021 season and live under there. Afterall, I’m not cruel – I’m considerate – and having a furry family live under the shed bars a family of Copperheads from living there. So I guess you could say I’m clever as well!
This morning, getting out of the shower and drying off, I ended up daydreaming and gazing out into the nook from the ample window which allows me to do so, and it allowed to make a grand conclusion about something I observed the other day:
There’s a young rabbit who lives under the shed. It’s not young enough to be a kitten, but it could be a young mother or father – it could even be out here on its own – I honestly don’t know.
This rabbit hops into the nook and fills its belly twice a day – once around now, and once much later (right before sunset). It leaves the hops and raspberries alone and focuses on the Tulip tree seed pods – in all their vivacious glory.
This particular rabbit has a very distinctive face that I can’t rightly describe, so I want to get a picture, but it’s not like anything I’ve seen in my lifetime – and I’ve been around rabbits my whole life.
Wild rabbits, like this one, of course. I’ve actually only seen the pet store variety a dozen or so times.
Once this rabbit establishes its presence and is focused solely on eating, a squirrel emerges from the woods and dives in alongside.
He’s a fat little bastard and obviously planned ahead last fall so he could gorge himself throughout the long, but mild winter.
They both rummage through the grass and pick and chew bits and pieces. The rabbit, focusing on the seed pods, finishes off the meal with clover – and the squirrel snatches up things I can’t really see, but seem tasty enough for him to push his nose through the dirt until he come up with a mouthful of something satiating.
It’s all a wonder – how this happens ever day. How these two creatures communicate without communicating, as far as I can tell. It’s nature looking out for nature with little to fear; not even me – who they can clearly see and decide to ignore.
In my real life, I engineer content – strategically – in order to create awareness for a brand or a brand’s endeavour. I work with companies to map out their journey by getting their widget and their message out in front of the crowd to help them take critical steps towards their success.
So, I wanted to take a minute and talk about branding, brand awareness, and the eventual need to rebrand. It’s a big cycle with no clear schedule that eventually charts a course that keeps your brand going.
Now there’s a million people out there writing about what I am about to write about – so keep in mind that this is just one opinion, based off of years of marketing, anticipating the changes, and adapting. I am by no means an expert – I just have experience.
Alright, this is going to go quick – buckle up:
BRANDING Right off the bat: you cannot be successful if your brand isn’t an extension of your ethos. There is no “fake it until you make it” equation in the marketing world. You’re either it, or you’re not. And if you’re trying to be it – and you’re not really it – the clock is ticking on your brand.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of building your brand here, but introducing your brand and creating that first impression – is actually really easy. You need to find where you fit in, and find a place to set up shop and share your dream. As long as you’re authentic and you keep pushing the envelope – staying in front of people – in their feeds and in their faces – you’re going to get where you want to be.
How do you do that? Brand Awareness.
BRAND AWARENESS We are living in the right time – in modern times – for creating awareness for your brand. Social Media has allowed for the development and growth of many new and interesting brands – most of whom are selling similar ideas. The downfall to that is that you NEED social media to be a success. So, if you’re not into social media, find someone who is and get them on your team.
That said, there’s a lot to say about good, old fashioned, boots on the ground marketing – hitting up trade shows, seminars, markets, colleges and the parking lot at your local liquor store can all be avenues that help you cement your foundation. Then, when you couple the power of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn with that kind of grassroots marketing – you can’t fail (if you have a good product and you believe in it).
However, everything plateaus. It could happen in a year, or it can happen in a decade, but eventually your brand will become commonplace and you’ll need to jumpstart your viability.
That’s when you rebrand.
REBRANDING When you set out to create a brand, you’re on a path – you have a mission to sell something, physically or allegorically – and it’s an extension of your mindset. However, over time, as you get a feel for your audience and clientele, there may be a shift in your approach – or a broadening of your scope – and it will only be to your benefit to address that evolution.
Rebranding can be both inward facing and outward facing. It can be a seamless change or it can be a big todo – but the wonderful thing about taking this kind of leap is that it is an opportunity that allows you to share or reshare your mission statement: your brand and why it exists.
Rebranding gets you out in front of people and amplifies your relevance by reminding people that you’re out here.
Rebranding also opens the door to new audiences who may not have heard of you before. Some people do this through a logo and a major social media campaign – but it’s also the perfect time to update and modify your mission statement – if need be.
Either way, you’re creating awareness through modification and that, my friends, is organic growth. You’re guaranteed to see a spike in your success – after that, it’s up to you to figure out how to maintain it.
That was awesome – I just shotgunned out that brain dump – actually as a preparation for an upcoming meeting. Literally – while eating lunch and making sure my kids are doing their schoolwork.
There’s a bunch of stuff I can go into depth on, and if you reach out – I gladly will. But for now, I think this summarizes the life cycle of a brand, any brand, anywhere.
It’s all about moving forward and staying in focus out there. If you’ve got an idea, chances are there’s something that resembles it already out there. Flipside to that is your idea may already be on the market and someone else will come up with something similar to it. You have to keep moving the pin to stay relative.
Adapt. Pivot. Stay relevant.
If you want to see your dream come true, you just need to pay attention.
Know your market. Know your audience. Keep your eye out for anything that makes your heart beat faster. Don’t be afraid to upset the apple cart to send your dream into orbit.
There’s a few specific areas on the mountain where you’re guaranteed to find your fill of fiddleheads this time of year.
They pop up from beneath the leaves under the canopies about three weeks after the peepers make their presence known.
I say this with confidence as I’ve been harvesting fiddleheads this time of year, every year, for the past fifteen years.
Yet today, I leave empty handed after mulling around for a mile, swatting away newborn gnats and other flying foragers of flesh.
I could have collected quite an impressive amount of Scapes, but they’re not really my thing. And though it’s not the end of days for me, I’m still a little baffled as to why these annual clockwork crops have yet to show.
Suffice to say, this is an apropos moment where I could say “suffice to say..” but there’s really not one concrete thing that I can pin their absence to.
It certainly wasn’t the few hours of winter the other day that kept them from curling up. If it was – the Scapes would have been the first to retreat – as they are comparatively less hardy. Additionally, there wouldn’t be a valley of Trout Lillies, and I most certainly wouldn’t have seen a small collection of Dutchman’s Breeches hiding in plain site.
And how about that singular Bloodroot holding it down for others to sprout?
It’s just an anomaly; an off year.
Either way, I caught a good couple of miles of mixed terrain on this final day of my third decade in this life. That’s a gift enough in its own right.
The universe is so vast that it’s incredible that anything connects – let alone if multiple things connect. But they do. These connections are breadcrumbs; coincidences that capture our attention and set us on a path – consciously or subconsciously.
Tacitly, we’re drawn to it – this ethereal concept – and in some cases it gives us purpose. It’s a series of events that determine how relationships are made and how wars are won.
“The concept of coincidences was created for the subconscious to buy enough time to understand the concept of fate.”
But don’t get hung up on it – fate isn’t as dire as we’ve been led to believe.
Where coincidences can easily be passed off as chance, fate digs in a little deeper and has the power to move us. It’s an unavoidable pile of breadcrumbs that need to be dealt with to get by.
But, fate is what you make it. It doesn’t need to be all-encompassing; it all depends on how you feed it and digest it – how far you let it get inside your head and take over your day to day.
Don’t look at fate as an absolute, but as an opportunity.
If it makes you feel better, you can call it kismet…
You’re growing up in a world that’s just starting to understand the importance of equality; but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a man out there who tries to establish dominance over you.
It’s an antiquated dichotomy that seemed appealing in old movies, but never in real life. Submission isn’t living, it’s surviving.
You will never have to survive. You will only thrive.
But it won’t be without a couple of bumps and bruises.. Which is why I will teach you how to rise above – either with your words or your actions.
Which is why I’ve surrounded you with strong women – as there’s certain things that need to come from them that will have a greater impact than if they came from me.
I’m not the kind of father who will threaten your boyfriend. I’ll just always be ready if you need me.
I’m not the kind of father who cares if you have a girlfriend. Because that’s your choice. In fact, I think I would prefer it. Haha.
I’m also not the kind of person who will pressure you to be someone or something you’re not. This is your life, and right now I am your guide. It’s my job to foster a warm and beneficial environment for you – but not to dictate who you are.
You don’t want to dance with a purpose? Cool. Dance for fun!
I was raised by your grandmother, and for that I have a very unique view of the world which conflicts with my size and my loud and outlandish personality; but that’s a different story.
She raised me to accept everyone and everything – but she never made a big deal out of it – because when you make big deals out of tacit things, then they aren’t so tacit anymore; they become more austere and lose the innocence and openness that you should approach them with.
Regarding whoever you fall in love with, if you plan on falling in love with someone:
Should open doors for you.
Should ask you how your day was.
Should always offer you the fluffier pillow.
Should always stand up when you walk in the room.
Should feel comfortable crying in front of you.
Your mom and I didn’t make it, and I am sorry for that, but even now – in the weird and wild places we find ourselves in together – I respect her. She’s your mom and we loved one another enough to bring you both into this world.
I did those five things for her for fifteen years. I still open doors for her and stand up when she walks into a room..
We will always be behind you to support you. We may get mad at you – but we’ll never let anyone put you down. And even in our anger, we will support you. It’s critical that you know that – as I think some people think they’re all alone sometimes; and none of us really are – ever.
That said, when you need to – lean babies, lean – we’re both strong people and it’s our job to take on your worries and sorrow – from now until the end of time. That said, it’s also our job to make sure your shoulders are strong enough to take on the weight of the world.
6. You can always end an argument with a hug. 7. Be prepared to be disarmed by a hug. 8. Never go to bed angry.
That last one – #8 – is from your grandfather, my dad. He was an asshole. He thought money was the solution for everything. He loved me and your uncles and aunt – but he didn’t respect us. Your mom never met him – because he was the type of man I never want you to meet. He thought he was better than everyone, and he died alone.
We can talk about him when you’re older, if you want – but you have Goomie, and he’s the best grandfather you could ask for. He was the best “dad” I could have asked for.
9. Never think you’re better than anyone. We’re all in this together. 10. Never let anyone think they’re better than you. Roar when you need to road.
I love being your dad. It’s my everything – and everyone knows that. I’m not perfect, and I am learning with you – but while I’m still alive and kicking, I will do everything I can to prepare you for the world – on my own or with a little help from our friends.
Fact is, I am a better father to you than I would have been if I was still married to your mom. It’s a weird thing to say and it can be taken a lot of ways – but just know that I have to focus on you. I don’t have someone else to take the reins. I love it. It’s the best feeling in the world.
All in all, ladies – we are in this together and you’re more than welcome to get down to brass tacks with me and get my head straight – help me figure out the things that you need me to figure out.
All I ask from you is that you keep an open mind. Because you’re going to need it.
… And that’s not a bad thing.
You have my sword in war until you’re ready to wield it.
Recently, one thing led to another in my life and I found myself accessing a million memories I had put on a shelf for a rainy day, if ever another day.
As if being allowed to feel reminded me I had debts to settle with yesterday.
But good memories don’t need to be turned into sad songs – you just have to hope your head has enough room to add new verses to those old tunes – and, ultimately, you’re ready to accept these new thoughts and findings into canon.
Afterall, the past can’t break you, or it would have when it was your present. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to walk away without a couple of bumps and bruises.
Buckle up, baby – this is where the weird gets real – and you need to own it. Because this is you figuring you out in the midst of balance.
These memories were a mix of emotions and have led to a series of reinterpretations of my life – in my dreams:
Bits and pieces of my past mixing with my imagination and putting me through the paces – in detail, without regard for my waking life:
Re-enactments happening in different places, from different angles. Placing me haphazardly in scenes I’ve never seen before.
It’s all wild. It all wakes me up between 4:08am and 4:43am..
And, to some extent, it’s all amazing – all over again. But it lingers and mixes with my day, so I need to be cognizant of these ripples splashing at my ankles, randomly. I can’t afford to get too deep.
It’s the largest bout of balance I’ve ever had to face, and it proves just how well-built we are to deal with life.
I mean, at some point you have realize that it’s not all about butterflies and bunny rabbits – the gift of living and experiencing life is the reward; it’s the big picture, and it really isn’t always going to be perfect. After all, how do you feel the big feelings if all you feel is the same thing?
You need to laugh to cry. You need to experience sorrow to appreciate joy.
I don’t have any real hang-up’s from the life I’ve lived, thus far – as, at nearly 40, I have picked up all the pre-determined, modern society, big ticket items already – leaving me able to fuss over the details.
And that’s where the focus lands – as there’s always a bit of regret floating around in the minutiae – and those little things add up.
But still, even within all these reflections – accessing all these deep moments – I’m able to put one foot in front of the other and keep my mind, generally, free of those things that could – and maybe have been – crippling, from my past.
I don’t know. I’m not one to repress anything – nor do I scare easy and shift away from tough subjects and elaborate dramatics – but the only explanation for any of these things to be coming up now – these feelings – these ideas – these anything – must be a band-aid; a coping mechanism to keep me from getting out in to the deep waters of what’s happening in front of me.
… As if dangling my head over the edge is going to help my fear of heights. Haha. What about that ethereal force that wants to pull me all the way over the edge into oblivion!?!?
But that’s why, I believe, we’re built to get through anything. We’re fragile, but our determination and wonder keep us from cracking.
We’re all like a raindrop on the head of a pin fearing the wind, but secretly wanting to see what that wind can do.
We are built to withstand – and in that moment is where we experience life at its most amazing and raw. And those experiences get categorized by our interpretation.
For every great accomplishment, there’s a bit of regret floating in the current. Something you experienced where the focus was ultimately positive and beneficial, but the byproduct of which was sacrifice.
That’s balance – that’s the universe keeping its chakra aligned; even if it seems a little shitty.
I mean, she’s got a lot to deal with – what makes you think you’ve ever been the focus? You’re just part of the puzzle! And though the universe will guide you from time to time, she’s a busy bee – and sometimes you need to take over.
Our past is what’s pushing us forward. And it’s an accomplishment to be able to sift through it all and come out better for it. Those experiences are what’s reminding us to keep treading water. But eventually you need to swim, or you will sink.
Never hang out too long in the deep. Feel free to wade in the shallows. That’s what they’re there for.
I can’t tell you if I was asked to take on the role as a challenge or as a building block to an unavoidable friendship, but I knew I had to accept it, and take it seriously – because it meant something to the person who asked me.
So I did it. I helped “The Doc” rehearse her lines for her part, every Thursday night – and sometimes on the weekends in a living room we shared with the man we loved.
Today, she sent me a scan of that original script, warts and all, and it cast a million ships of memories through my mind – of a very different time in the world; socially, personally, etc.
And a very different version of me.
The Doc was, and still is, my best friend’s – best friend. And, she’s one of my best friends as well. In fact, it would be better to just consider her my sister at this point.
A wonderful woman who was raised by a wonderful woman to be a strong lead in everything she does, some might simply call her a feminist, which she proudly is. But she’s so much bigger than a singular label and a devout educator at the core.
Even at twenty-one, and drunk, she was laser-focused on Women’s Rights and Equality. We talked about it all the time. We disagreed about it all the time. I was brimming with testosterone and I couldn’t be refined, until someone decided they would take on that fight.
Which, 20 years later, she’s been an integral part of doing.
And no, it’s not that I had an issue with Women’s Rights or Equality or any of that stuff – it’s that I had a problem with her taking up my time with my best friend. But that’s what happens when love walks in. Twenty-on-year-old me didn’t think that way.
Imagine how I felt when she moved in?!?!
We would argue, then we would be drinking buddies. We would argue, then we wouldn’t talk for a week, while sharing a bathroom in a condo. We would argue over the last egg in the fridge.
We. Would. Argue.
But we would figure it out and get those lines practiced like clockwork – every week.
All in the middle of it was our best friend – so we knew we had to eventually draw a line – but we didn’t really do it for him; we did it for one another – because, and don’t tell 21 year old, or even 31 year old her or me this – we really did and do care about one another. We have just been pushing each other in the right direction the whole time, aggressively.
We were destined to be friends – because, ultimately, we wanted to be. Claws and all…
The Doc – I keep calling her that because she devoted half her life to earn that title – and I would spend hours in the bar at the Nathan Hale Inn on Thursday nights. Drinking expensive wine and bourbon – practicing those lines..
Openly talking, explicitly, about the explicits..
Looking back, it all seems so surreal – but half of my college loans were left on that bar top – so I know it all went down the way it went down.
And she ended up performing her role – a story about vagina’s, furniture, and an ordinary guy named Bob – as if she wrote it herself. A true extrovert; a true natural.
It’s moments like that – situations like this – that we shaping me. I didn’t know it then, but these out of context situations she got me into were breadcrumbs for my future.
She got me to meet Arun Gandhi, grandson of the Gandhi, while my face and knuckles were all busted up. Being embraced by a man of peace, as a man of petty war is still WOW. I cried then. I am crying now.
She got me to march in a pride parade when society was still openly using slurs as the punchline to jokes. A straight man in an openly-gay land in a time where those two things did not coexist.
I honestly don’t even know if she was at either of those events – but I was there because of her influence on me to embrace those things; to see those things – and to understand those things.
2001… 2002… 2005… 2012…
People didn’t understand how NOT OKAY things were out there in the world. These topics were always simmering, but were never the focus. And all the while, she was holding seminars on reality – trying to get people to see the big picture.
Trying to get people to get real. Trying to get everyone to get everyone.
And her work is working and will continue to work. Her impact is contagious. Her drive is uncanny. I stand behind her every stride.
So, Doc, thanks.
Thank you for creating a better environment for anyone that will listen. Thank you for making my best friend a happy husband and father.. Thank you for showing me a world beyond me. Thank you for never pulling punches and always being you.
When my daughter was in Kindergarten her mother and I went to our first ever parent teacher conference. Everything was on par – she talks, she colors, she contributes, she’s five.
And then it got weird.
The teacher told us she was very concerned about Penny because she really enjoyed talking about her grandfather – but the stories she told were unbelievable.
The teacher’s concern was abnormally heightened because Penny was so detailed in the tellings of her stories of this raggedy man; and she was able to tell the stories over and over again – at the same level of detail.
The teacher asked us if we had heard any of these stories, and with a grin – I replied “oh, you mean Rainbow?”
That’s where it got weirder.
When Penny was three, she began randomly telling me stories about an adventurous old man – who had a white beard and only one eye. He lost the eye fighting a shark, and later succumbed to his wounds – and now talked to her – exclusively – through some portal in the afterlife.
As the stories grew, she told me he was her grandfather. And because of the depth of the stories – the detail, and the incredible minutiae – I was all in; I wanted to know more and more – but I needed to figure out what we were dealing with:
Was this a little girl communicating with dead people? -or-
Was it her amazing imagination and she was just sharing her excitement?
I showed her pictures of her mom’s grandfather. Nope. I showed her pictures of my father, who had died before she was born. Nope. I even showed her pictures of my Uncle, who she knew, but had recently passed on to the afterlife.
Also nope. But she insisted that she was still talking to this person.
Time marches on: It wasn’t until we were all out to breakfast one Sunday when Penny announced to us that I, was in fact, Rainbow – but from another dimension.
Actually, she didn’t know the word “dimension” then, so she said “not from here”.
Either way, here I was her dad and there I was her one-eyed grandfather, with a white beard and matching ponytail, who died fighting the shark who took his eye. But not at the same time that he was fighting the shark. No. They fought a lot. Until one day, Rainbow killed the shark. Then, according to Penny, he got a little older, and then he died.
She thinks it had something to do with the missing eye and salt water. Totally the shark’s fault. Had to be. Because it’s that bond that brought them both back. See, the shark ended up turning into a mermaid, and Rainbow married that mermaid – but only after they both came back from the dead.
Oddly, Rainbow still only had one eye, but – you know what? This isn’t my story, so I’m not going to correct her.
I’m telling you all of this because today, on the way home from school, Penny asked me if I had heard from Rainbow recently.
This has always been her story.
She’s never asked for my contribution. So, of course I had seen him, sort of. I really had only heard about where he was from some people in town.
“Truth is” I told her “before winter, Rainbow was living in a treehouse in the the woods, selling mosquitoes and moths to a tribe of people that lived in those woods. But he moved on when the cold of winter forced him into the mountains.
“We’ll have to see what happens when all the snow falls and he can ride the river back down”. I concluded.
I figured that bit of on-the-spot story building would satiate her seven-year-old mind, but if anything – it just opened a door.
I looked in the rear view and her mind was on fire; eyes wide.
She went on to tell me – shaking her head back and forth and smiling – “of course he went up into the mountains! That’s where his wife lives, in their cabin. But only in the winter, because she has to go back to the ocean when it’s warm out. She’s a mermaid, remember?”
(Of course I remember! Who forgets a mermaid?)
Penny kind of faded into a daydream after that. Probably drumming up more adventures for the old man. Smiling the whole while. Kiddingly scoffing at me about the whole thing as she faded.
In fact, she hasn’t said much since then
She’s upstairs with Quinn, building Mega Bloks castles in their loft – mind still spinning with stories of this dimension-traveling old man who I guess I may or may not, someday be.
Before we left the conference that night, the teacher, who was still rattled and baffled that we knew about this whole thing and had ZERO issue with it, asked me if I thought Penny needed to talk to anyone about this. As “it wasn’t normal for a five year old girl to think so expansively and overtly”.
My response was simple…
“I hope she talks to everyone about it.”
That’s the last time I talked to that teacher. She was a fine woman – good with kids and all – gave me no cause for alarm. She just sort of distanced herself from me from that point on.
I’ll always love you, Penny.
Love, … Well, you tell me.
P.S. I don’t know Robert Plant and I post this with full knowledge that I don’t have any right to any of the amazing work he does. However, given the context, I hope we’re cool.
My junior year of college, I took a Beat Poetry class – taught by Ann Charters – who had built a career with the likes of Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, and Ginsberg – and had become somewhat synonymous with Kerouac for interviewing him and writing numerous bits and pieces about him.
She is – thankfully – responsible for introducing me to a wonderful world of poetry that purposely bucked the system – in format, tone, and subject matter; at the time.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a writer – but he never considered himself a Beat Poet. In fact, he spent his efforts – through his gift to the world; City Lights – getting the work of the Beats out to the masses.
That’s huge! There’s a lot of chaos in that thought – a lot of “what if’s” that we’ll never need to consider because Ferlinghetti did it, man – he did it – and it was a gift to us all.
And, it’ll continue to shine a light on people with open-mindedness and comfort for generations.
To be honest, I didn’t even know Lawrence Ferlinghetti was still alive. All of his contemporaries had moved on, so I was left to assume he had too. But to be honest, I haven’t really been paying attention.
Beat Poetry was a phase for me – albeit a foundation and ignition.
I’ve got a whole shelf of the stuff out on the bookcase – and I’ll pick at it from time to time. But I don’t actively read poetry today. Any of it.
Poetry embarrasses me; makes me blush – takes me out of my comfort zone – so I stick to writing it, and then – only editing it for content – and moving on.
There’s nothing as open and honest as a good poem, and the Beats proved that.
You want to bounce something off the Universe? Write a poem, and thank the Beats.
And because of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, it grew past the borders of places like San Francisco and New York and into the hearts and minds of those willing to expand their minds, throughout the world.
Good luck on your next adventure, amigo. Thank you!
I hitched a ride on the poetry train somewhere in middle school, and I’ve been reading and writing it ever since.
I got heavy into The Beats for a bit, and some of it shows in here – mostly in the erratic form and probably written out on the grass or in the cosmos.
It’s my favorite form to write in; poetry.
But – poetry embarasses me. I can’t read a ton of it because it makes me think too much and it makes me think someone wants me to think too much – so imagine how weird I get when I read my own poetry?
Either way, somewhere in college, I started to like the taste of being published for my work – which is scattered throughout numerous rags, collections, and a couple of issues of “The Long River Review”, The University of Connecticut’s literary publication – which I still hold dear to me as bigger accomplishments than my Degree in English.. My minor in Creative Writing.. On and on…
In 2008, I had been out of school for a couple of years, but still writing – and still very much into the taste of being published. SO, I published a book of my own poetry. I ordered a copy. It sits on my bookshelf. Maybe I’ll read it some day.
That said – this morning, Amazon alerted me that the price of my totem was going up! What price? Why Amazon? Why $44.10?
Well, the long and short of it is – the company I published the book through took it and put it on Amazon and I don’t get a single cent for it.
It’s a great collection of work, dedicated to a person I used to know – in a past life – and I’m still proud of what it is – after all, it’s not just a bunch of love poems – and even if it was, you can scratch her name off and make them about you – or share them with someone you love that doesn’t me well enough to know any of that.
I keep an open mind and I’m always thinking a mile down the road. But believe me, it took a few bumps and bruises to get this way. I won’t go as far as to say I was ever narrow-minded, but I was impulsive.
But that’s another story.
I still take risks. But now I calculate the variety of outcomes and make sure I’m good with where I land.
Here are a couple of really solid quotes – one of which I just found, the other of which I have been refining for content, for years – that I wanted to share because I think they’re good for the soul.
… And for anyone who’s putting reality in charge of their day to day.
Feeling safe in someone’s energy is a different type of love. That feeling of peace and protection is really underrated.
Julian Lennon… Mostly
You can pull from this quote what you will – but it goes with a constant feeling of mine that there are many versions of love; that love can be a place in time as well as a feeling and a way of being.
Lennon originally used the word “intimacy” instead of “love” but that didn’t do it for me – it didn’t seem to include all the facets that it could. Intimacy is a product of love but cannot exist without it. Love exists infinite. But that’s not on Jules! I love the guy. I hope he would appreciate the modification as much as I appreciated the original.
For me, love is letting go and knowing someone won’t let me fall to far – or that they’ll hang on and fall with me; and vice-versa. It’s constant state of being able to be yourself, and feel safe with someone else.
This thing, whatever it is, is going to happen. And you have two choices – you can either let it happen or get in its way and get knocked over.
Either way, it’s still going to happen
Ken Kesey… Sort of…
I originally thought this quote came from Ken Kesey when he was talking about an acid trip he witnessed in the documentary “Magic Trip”. Turns out it was a little bit of that and a little bit of me – and I’ve been using it, where applicable, ever since.
It goes with my idea that you need to bounce things off the universe because the universe is going to bounce things off of you. It’s about balance and fate – taking risks and living life. If I ever have a gravestone, I would expect this to be on it.
If you grab anything from these quotes, it’s the idea that there is an energy bigger than us out there and we need to realize it’s out there. We don’t have to like it (refer to quote #2) but we can benefit from it (refer to quote #1) if we just let go and let the universe drive for a little while.
I’ve long said that I have complete control over my mind, but I don’t decide what my heart does – and I believe that. I believe that my mind is fully capable of trying to reason with my heart, but it’s a waste of time. But I can balance out the two and find reasoning somewhere in the middle so that I can keep on keeping on.
“We’re one, but we’re not the same. We got to carry each other… Carry each other…”
The way this house was built, the sun will always rise outside of my bedroom window.
In proximity, it sits in the gap between the house and my shed, and slowly crawls west.
Out past the Brook… Over the Ridge…
And on the other side of the quarry, it crawls across the Connecticut River in a color that could only be described as Peaches and Cream oatmeal while it’s coagulating in a bowl on a kitchen counter.
The bowl is grey. The counter is butcher block. Surreal… This time of year.
Back on my property, it goes through three phases, that start in my sleep as my head rolls across my pillow:
Phase One is first light; that bit of light that illuminates but lacks color. It brightens up the snow and reminds me of the starkness of winter as it creeps through the trees.
Phase Two is where the colors come out. Pink and Orange. If there’s clouds in the sky, this is where the heavy purples and other spectral wonders sprinkle the landscape. Long and sometimes-swelling lines of color and light, hard-brushed through that section of my sky.
Phase Three of these winter wonders is when the sun finally appears, having crawled up from the river bed, up the walls of the valley – and into view. She’s bright, orange and white, and she splits the sky of color before those colors finally fade.
This all happens over the course of twenty minutes – give or take a few heartbeats – with the final phase lingering with my first morning thoughts.
It starts after the first frost of the last year and ends at the first sign of spring in the new year. I don’t need to set an alarm on these cold and technicolor days.
Phase One taps me on my shoulder in my dreams to let me know that morning has come.
By Phase Two, I’m either up and away and in wonder of it all. Or, letting the dog out; following her in the yard, around the side of the house, to stare and watch as the colors multiply and evolve.
Today the snow is half way up my fuzzy thigh. I wouldn’t regularly allow it up past the cuff of my boots, but today I don’t mind. In fact, today – I don’t think I could avoid it.
We’ve got more standing snow this year than any year in memory.
Phase Three is generally enjoyed with a cup of coffee in hand, as I stare at it through the dying Sawgrass and thriving Miscanthus off the edge of the deck.
I love the way the light fickers off of the spots of frost and gets magnified through the drops of dew on the feather fronds of these itchy plants that never die…
Tan and brittle now – but preserved in space when left to be… They act as a paint brush in the wind as they disrupt my view of the morning sky.
Winter in Maromas isn’t anything I’ve lived through before.
It makes my mind wander – making me think all the wonderful things.. Which makes my heart beat in sync.. Charting a course to where it needs to be.
Where I need to be.
This is all happens live, at the Lemonade Stand; 06457.
When I need to say something, sometimes I use song lyrics to convey a message and to avoid direct and possibly cringeworthy moments.
You know, those moments that you build yourself up to make happen and they can go either way – one of which fills your tanks with hope and happiness and the other in which the world around you implodes and your get red in the face.
Personal confessions.. Awkward admissions..
Moments where you want to say something without saying it – but not so loud that you throw anyone off balance.
Just a tap on the shoulder..
“Hello, my name is Nick, and I use song lyrics as breadcrumbs.”
I throw them up in social media posts or in text messages just to say “hey” or to free up some space in my head.
To let someone know I’m thinking about them… .. Maybe to get them to think about me?
I should interject that I’m also ridiculously direct and insert myself in those moments more than I’d like to admit. I’m still human after all.. But this isn’t about that.
And an Aries!
(If you buy into that celestial syrup.. Which I think everyone should at least consider, but that’s another story for another time.)
This morning I went to go post something free of anything dramatic or emotional and found that every song I thought would accompany the moment alluded back to things that were dramatic and emotional and – for the first time – I was stumped.
Have I pigeonholed myself? Is my mind only geared towards a select group of things? Okay – honestly – one thing?
Or is it just that all of these songs written and performed to be breadcrumbs? Like these performers are doing exactly what I am doing – just on a bigger stage?
(Oh man, don’t allow me a stage..)
Even now, in writing this, I’ve thought about three or four songs I could use to compliment the photo I’m going to post – and they all lead back to where this all began.
What’s compounding is the fact that it might not be the lyric that I pick which is causing the problem – but possibly the lyrics around it.
I’m not hopeless – but I am romantic – and this isn’t the time for that.
I’m a forty year old guy who’s been through it all and have built a better me – and here I am playing coy before breakfast.
Note To Self: You’re a damn fool! Heart of stone? Bullshit.
I’ll just use something silly from the 80’s and pretend this didn’t happen.
I’m still going to make the post, afterall.. Which, in itself is IT happening..
I’ve been writing, as a form of expression, since I was a kid.
First it was short stories, then it became poetry – I mixed in some lyrics from time to time – then mostly back to poetry, with a brief infusion of reflections, some technical stuff, and even company processes and newsletters.
I write. It’s what I do. I even have a minor in it. Seriously.
… and American History, with a strong focus on Native American studies.
I am a writer.
At some point in high school, when I was fording the waters of emotions and angst, I would get a few beers in me on the weekends, and type my creative thoughts down – with the intention of writing them in my journal the next day (for posterity).
The Word file on my computer was titled “Write When Sober”.
Eventually I realized that posterity was overrated, which coincided with the worldwide adoption of electronic devices that you could store in your pocket and write whenever – so I completely gave up on writing these musings down and just stuck to my, ever-growing, Word file.
That file is over 200 pages long and currently lives on a computer which I can’t access for numerous reasons – but it’s still here, waiting for repair.
That said – I find writing to be the best outlet for anyone looking to get an idea or some emotions out.
Sad fact, it goes hand in hand with drinking – and some folks even think they’re better off – as writers – when they’re a little banged up.
And some are.
Fact is, though I have benefited from moments of levity while drunk or stoned, I am at my best when I am myself. I have realized, at almost 40 years old, that everything I am trying to say when I am under the influence is already there – I was just using chemicals to make it easier to get out of my head.
If I’m being honest, my writing has become more constant and consistent since I sobered up. I’ve always remembered the reason I wrote them the next day, but with this unending supply of clarity, I can now get my point across without getting to out there. Because, believe me, some of what I have written is out there.
Brass tacks: I am an introvert trapped inside of an extrovert. So writing has been a godsend.
I have long struggled with sharing my deep down feelings because I didn’t want to upset the flight of the cosmos – but in reality, what do you have to lose? Why not just get your thoughts and feelings out there and see what bounces back?
In short – say what you need to say and let the chips fall where they may.
If you can get through an awkward situation, sober – you can walk through fire without getting burned.
… That’s metaphorical, don’t get weird.
Approach it this way – keep a journal and don’t think of it as you trying to write something, because then you get caught up and start to think that you don’t know how to write.
Just express yourself. No one has to read it unless you want them to. But you should be expressing yourself.
No one was meant to keep all those thoughts in their head – good, bad, and otherwise.
Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to this picture. But, last night, as I was recapping my adventures to my girls, I noticed the sun. I noticed the winter common palette of color. I noted it’s contrast. I noticed how different this landscape was from where I usually was.
The carpeting of pine needles… The abundance of deadfall.. The cold tapping on my face…
I’m always out in the woods.. But it was my first time in these woods..
Goes to show how different things are, even in proximity. As this is just one a couple of towns over – and towns and cities in Connecticut aren’t large, by comparison.
And yet it was completely different.
Goes to show that this just wasn’t a random picture of my truck parked near a trailhead that I’ve never passed through before – but an inspiration.
Suffice to say, even after all the miles I’ve put into different places, it’s still important to pay attention to the changes and try and keep up.
Note: I am a constant traveler of Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve in Berlin, CT. This moment was captured (and now reflected upon) at the Northern Section section of Cockaponset State Forest. The two are similar, but different. It’s a bit of a mix-up that I haven’t wholly figured out; as this forest is everywhere out here in the Connecticut River Valley and Ragged Mountain is “merely” a preserve. Both are excellent escapes. The former may be my home away from home, but the latter beckons more of my attention.
Life in the outdoors is something I embrace and enjoy – but living in the outdoors is a whole other thing; which I would probably embrace and enjoy.
I mean – I’ve touched the void; camping, roughing it – but to commit my life to it seems like it could only be a dream.
That said, my good friend John shared this story with me yesterday, and it’s so much more than what you would imagine it would be. Which is why I feel compelled to share it with anyone who stumbles upon this.
Yes, on the surface, it’s a beautiful story about a couple of people roughing out their life in the wilderness of Alaska – but woven within the adventure, and the amazing scenery, is a story about love and being in a relationship where you rely on one another.
Some of the things Jean says, we all need to hear. This isn’t a chance occasion where two people cared about one another and went camping – this is their life, day to day, and her way of explaining it should be an eye-opener for most folks.
But don’t take my word for it – please, in your time – for your soul, check it out.
For those of you who like to read: Click Here For those of you who like video & stunning landscapes: Click Here
I’ve only watched about half of the documentary, but I am moved – and it is followed up with a sequel called “Arctic Son” . So, I feel like the lives of these people are going to inspire me a little longer than anticipated.
Thanks for sharing your amazing story, Jean. At the time of writing – I can’t wait to learn more about you and your family.
Music is the best form of communication on the planet. But the trick to music is listening to it – and being in the right place and time to be able to listen to it.
Generally, we just hear music – it fills in random voids in the background. But when we listen to it – it’s everything: the scenery, the mood, the source of the moment.
Music has been used, since inception, to send messages. It’s been used to tell stories, used to celebrate life or to say goodbye to it, and it’s been widely seen as being therapeutic.
Music is magic and has been used for magic. Some people use it to make it rain, others use it to get out of bed. And some use it so they don’t get lonely when their kids are at their mother’s house.
This is probably something that has evolved through evolution, but – suffice to say – we’re hard-wired to respond to music. We even had a factory installed sensation called “frisson” which is our psychological response to music that comes in a form of elation or chills.
When frisson hits, it’s because we’re listening. We’re responding in our own way and gleaning from it what we need.
During that sensational sensation, we interpret lyrics and vacillations in sound because they resonate with where we are; in the moment. This is why you can be listening to music for hours and not really hear it – and then it randomly catches you off guard and you subconsciously react which could become an overt reaction if its a real banger.
Essentially, frisson signifies that we’re tuned in and turned on – AND – depending how submerged you get in it, the music in those moments can change your mood, your day, etc..
I’ve used music to help me understand my feelings for years. I’ve used lyrics to help other people understand me or how I feel, for years. Lyrics are either written to the music or the music is written to them – but either way, they complement one another and that syncopation is appealing to us on many levels.
… It’s all about the flow.
Sometimes it’s hard to get your point across, but when you find the right words, within the right music, you’re success rate in hitting your mark intensifies exponentially. Music allows us to tell our secrets – it’s our amplifier.
Most of the good stuff out there – the catchy stuff that you listen to over and over again – is the artist’s way of telling the listener how they feel. We can relate, so we’re receptive to it when the stars align and we find ourselves listening.
I would recommend to anyone out there, to get themselves involved with a good music service and a couple of radio stations – that match their personality – and just let those things drive you for a while.
Spotify has the uncanny ability of following the pattern of the music you are listening to and complementing it with recommended songs. It’s a great way to keep your head on straight – and also a great way to expand your musical catalog.
Let the music guide you through life; the deeper you are – the deeper it’ll hit you.
The universe relies on pings in order to stay in motion; balanced in its greatness – floating along with us inside – causing a commotion.
We are a primary source of pings and everything we do has a cause and effect. We are ripples and we are waves. And though we, alone, may not be significant enough to really shift things around – we, the many – can really fuck things up terrifically.
Hence the ripples and waves comment.
And there’s really no map to how we go about it – any of it – the day to day. There’s no instruction manual either – there is just being and doing; and the hope that we find a soft spot to land when we leap outside of the norm.
Sometimes you really do need to put yourself out there without a net – say the things you need to say and do the things you need to do. Stand out in the crowd and buck the balance for your betterment. You alone won’t cause a cataclysmic change in the grand scheme of things – but you sure can get the ball rolling.
Sure you need to keep a couple of nuggets tight to your chest so you can sleep better at night – but anything that gnaws at you really needs to get out into the open so you can see all the sides of it.
Inspect the shit out of it – overthink it – try and spin it around so it’ll fit into a specific mold. Maybe even make a new mold; if you have time.
And keep in mind that each one of us is different – we all have unique requirements and conditions. So, mind your audience before you overshare. Missing your mark could change everything. Maybe not for you; maybe only for you – in moments of chaos, you can’t predict the outcome.
But don’t be deterred.
In order to keep this thing going, be willing to take risks – be willing to put yourself out there in the most uncomfortable of ways.
Be willing to be yourself. Be willing to take chances.
Stoke the flame. Keep kindling in your pockets and never let your fire go out. That way people will stick around…
And if you get knocked down? Well, hell – get back up… That’s half the fun.
Growing up in the 1980’s – Harrison Ford quickly solidified his role in my life as something of a father figure, if not as someone I wanted to aspire to be like. But really, if I’m really being real – I wanted to be Indiana Jones; not Harrison Ford.
My older brother even gave me the hat – the actual, official, Indiana Jones hat.
And where that persona has blossomed into part of who I am today – in terms of being intrigued by adventure and the daydreams of landing some crunchy punches on Nazi Supervillains – it turns out that Harrison, himself – is a bit of a salty dog.
In interview after interview, he seems particularly jaded with the roles who made him who he is, and with people in general.
However, in this particular interview with Jimmy Fallon – where he’s just as disenfranchised as usual – he breaks “character” when talking about the loss of Peter Mayhew, who made a career of playing Chewbacca and lived his life being a gentle giant.
This whole interview is worth the watch. But when Ford’s eyes well-up around 3:58, mine do too.
I haven’t really reflected on 2020 because it was one of the strangest years on memory. But it wasn’t bad. Not entirely. So I can’t complain…
Thing is, we were all involved – not one of us could avoid it. So many things got rolled into one and were dropped on us when we least expected it. If you weren’t paying attention, you could have gotten knocked right over only to get back up to get knocked over again.
But I have to say, 2020 was mostly good to me. As the pace of life slowed down, I was able to see myself for who I am and get back to being that guy. So I can’t complain during a time when everyone has something to complain about.
Then again, 2017-2019 we’re really rough on me – while most of you had good years, so if I even considered to feel guilty about the 2020 I experienced, it’s only so deep.
I hardly came out of this whole thing unscathed. 2020 brought it’s share of deep cuts; things that either hit really hard and moved on, things that had a ripple effect, or things that are still happening.
I’m just dealing with it all with more of an open mind.
That said – when my kids come to me and say “I’m having a horrible day”. I ask them, “well, is it the whole day – or was there some point where you laughed or smiled?” and then they laugh and smile – realizing that it’s not the whole day – just bits and pieces of it.
So, when you’re thinking about 2020 – just remember, even if it got really dark – even if you lost something or someone that you can never get back – there were better days; there will be better days. You just need to hold on and hope – you need to pay attention to the details and look for the signs.
After all – you made it; you’re still here – you might not be okay, and that’s okay. Reach out and find the love and positivity you need. Turn over every rock and look in every nook and cranny if you have to – just keep living.
And remember – as weird as everything is – we’re all in it and we’re all getting through it. It’s a crooked piece of time that we’re living in, but there’s still rainbows so – chin up! Foot forward! It might not be great, but you’re going to get through this one way or another.
I’m a collector of things – but I am far from a hoarder.
Instead of stacking newspapers in my basement, I like to pick up odd rocks and twisted sticks from the trail when I’m out hiking. In the spring and summer, I’ve been known to press flowers between pages, and it wouldn’t be out of the spectrum of reality for me to do the same with fallen leaves in autumn.
I like to acquire vessels to hold these things in – like this bowl – which I just bought three of, so the girls and I can walk the trails, and collect our treasures. But I have had the pleasure of finding a jar or two, in my travels, that have sufficed beyond sufficiency for the task.
And, yes – I’ve passed this passion onto my littles (you should see their collection of seashells and seaglass). It’s my job to maintain their imagination levels, afterall. Their attention to detail is astounding – even inspiring.
In our home, windowsills are filled with rocks and the crumbling structures of aforementioned flowers and leaves. We’re daydreamers and when we catch a glimpse of these things in our daily lives, they transport us to the time where we found them – what we were doing; what we felt that day.
As I’m writing, I’m staring at a stick – which you might call a limb – its three-inches in diameter and seven feet tall. It’s got a mighty twist on it and was part of a dying Beech tree, so I sawed it off and hauled it home. It’s making it hard for me to type right now – as I am thinking about that day – before the girls, with their mom, and our dog..
We’ve also got a collection of antlers and bones – a couple of skulls – and a pelt of rabbit fur. These are all things that appealed to us and came to us naturally. I hid a couple of old beer cans on Ragged that I’m going to go pick up today. I already know where I’m going to put them – one on the shelf above me – one on the table on the deck, where I put the turkey feathers we found before the first snow this year.
I’ve even been known to transplant plants because there’s nothing like watching something grow and that’s what kitchen windows are for.
I put these things inside and outside and everywhere; sometimes out in the open – like on windowsills, which I told you before – but sometimes we’ll tuck these memories into corners and slide them into drawers. We like surprises – the girls especially – as they’ll stop in their tracks and examine their special specimen and sigh or smile.
We are the stories that got us here – the moments in time that set our course and smoothed out our wrinkles. Why not have a trinket to amplify those times in space where chance meetings changed us forever?
I’ve got a box in one of the cubbies in our loft here at the house that has all of the aforementioned. It’s what I’ll give the girls when I move on – it’ll tell them the story about their mother and me before there was the all of us…
December is the beginning of the end; the swan song to the preceding year. We generally spend it getting ready for the holidays – which we’re still doing – but being that this year was a little off-kilter, I wanted to make a playlist that reflected more than just Christmas and New Year’s.
So I made a Spotify playlist about the month of December.
For me, December has always been a month filled with emotions. Yes, I’m still like a kid on Christmas, but what’s the otherside of that? Is there room for sadness in a month that anticipates happiness? Is there room for anger? You can’t just be in a state of bliss for thirty-one days, in your late-thirties, because of Christmas.
Especially this year – with it’s sharp turns, stress, and unlimited supply of unknowns.
So this playlist is about the snow. It’s about the changeover to flannel. It’s about short days and night hikes. It’s about love. It’s about loss. It’s about the change and the need to keep one foot in front of the other. In short, this playlist is a reaction to the bits and pieces I’ve picked up in the world around me.
I share a Christmas playlist every year, I felt it apropos to share something that takes the holiday’s into consideration in congress with my day to day life.
Around ten years ago – today – my friend Ian invited us out to an orchard in a nook and cranny town here in CT, to press apples for making cider.
I had made my own hard cider before, but not from personally fresh pressed juice. I had hunted down a farmer up in the Storrs-Mansfield area who sold me five gallons of unpasteurized apple swill for that one.
So, coming from a family of people who made their name in apples, this was big medicine to me. Heck, the idea of pressing apples was so agrarian and colonial to me, that it had my mind going a mile a minute.
I was giddy.
We spent the morning walking the orchard – collecting the perfect specimens – warts and all – and then spent the afternoon cranking away on the apple press. The smell was fantastic. My head was swimming. I was going to make a hard cider – from tip to tail.
I was in a state of continuous giddiness..
I remember driving the hour or so home and getting right to work on making this all into a delicious reality. I’m not even sure I walked the dog that night.
This was an extremely small batch – just two gallons – and I didn’t calculate for all the excitement when I mixed it all together, that night at home. I especially didn’t consider how potent the fresh maple syrup I used instead of sugar, to ignite the fermenting process, would be.
Either way, I put the four crowlers in a cooler, and left the whole get-go under my workbench in my warm and damp workshop; the same area where many home brews had been left to fester before.
Hindsight – this should have been a more methodical process. This should have all been done in a carboy – airlock and all – and then transferred, proper – wherein I could add in the maple syrup, once the natural sugars of the purée and the yeast had done their primary dance.
A couple of nights later – around 2am, I jumped out of bed after hearing, what sounded like, a shotgun blast. I cleared the house twice before my nerves were settled enough to let my mind wander back into dreamland..
The next morning, I headed downstairs – into the basement – where the workshop was – and was instantly hit with the smell of rotting apples when I opened the door.
There, under the workbench, was the blue Igloo cooler – shifted and disjointed and way worse for wear..
And inside was a pool of would be cider and shards of floating amber glass.
I over-primed something that really didn’t need priming. I ignored the need for this wort to breathe. I really dropped the ball..
That English Cider yeast and pure, unmolested, apple juice would have done a fine enough job on their own. But I had a vision and I took a chance with the addition of that Grade A Amber syrup.
Oh well. It would have been a real dandy – that’s for sure.
The little bit I did taste had a specific sweetness and tang that I know would have matured nicely to become a crisp, but creamy, apple cider – worthy of my Grandfather’s name.
Sure there’s a staunch group of diehard outdoor enthusiasts disbursed throughout the world that don’t mind the cold weather, But most folks take the winter off – in terms of outdoor activities in colder climates.
Truth be told: this is perfect hiking weather. Cold. Quiet. Covered in snow. It’s a real hell of a time to wander in your wonder. The perfect time to reflect and plan the next few steps in life…
Are you ready to get on with it? Good! Leave the concept of time behind. Dress warm. Open your mind and be prepared to experience something different and soulfully rewarding!
There’s very little on the trees and those familiar vivid colors you may have just experienced a few weeks ago have been usurped by base grey and stark white.
Here and there you’ll catch those autumn hues in a Beech leaf, but for the most part you’re left with a blank canvas to create the path of your journey.
And of course, living in New England, you’ll be graced with paths of verdant conifers that remind you that life goes on even in the biting cold..
But, how to you see the trail?
Well that’s even easier than before – look for the break in the lines of trees, or for patterns in the way the trees ebb and flow. Generally speaking, in heavily wooded areas, trails follow the natural path of trees. So, you may not see the trail on the ground, but you’ll see it’s shadow in the tree line.
If you’re down for a bigger adventure, follow the footprints of the residents of the woods – deer, rabbit, fox, and even bear – all of whom will have all been wicked active last night and early this morning. They’ll lead you where you need to go (but, remember: it won’t be on the trail – it will be on theirs).
Pro Tip: no need to change up your gear selection, but pack your water inside your pack and keep it close to you back. Pack and extra sweatshirt or mid layer to insulate the inside of the pack and keep things in there warm. They’ll keep you warm later.
Bring a fatty or high carb snack, and possibly a tin of bourbon. You will get cold – and these things will fill your tank with energy and warmth. If you don’t drink, hot cocoa in an insulated vessel will do the trick.
A good walking stick and an added traction contraption on your boots are a great addition. If the snow is deeper than 6”, snowshoes could really change your game. But! The downside to snowshoes is that they hate rocks and mud – so keep that in mind when traversing this new and wild landscape.
Keep in mind that you may be sharing space with hunters – so wear something out of the ordinary – orange, red – something that pops. Hell, bring the right rifle and you too may bag something proper for a good stew – just make sure to follow the seasons and guidelines in your state.
Also! Depending on how dedicated you are to this plan – bring a little bag with you to collect tinder for a fire. Everyone thinks that just because you’re in the woods that you can stop anywhere and start a fire, and get fuel for that fire. That’s not always so – especially in the snow. You need small, dry stuff to get a spark to keep. Then, once you get that tinder bundle up and running, you can be a little less picky and grab some dead fall around the area.
Remember to start small and go bigger, in terms of the size of material you’re putting on that fire. Avoid leaves, and be sure to save some water – or gather some snow – to put that fire out when you’re done. Though it’s less common in this cold, snowy environment, you can still start a forest fire. #leavenotrace
Another tip – from me to you – would be to mind your endurance levels. If you can usually do 5 miles on the trail, plan for 2 1/2. If you’ve got to really stomp through the snow – either bring snowshoes – or plan in less mileage. You’re exerting more energy in temperatures where your body is going to fatigue quicker.
Keep it slow and steady and absorb what’s around you. The great thing about walking in a winter wonderland is that you will notice things that aren’t white and grey, easier. Cardinals are abundant right now and are a wonderful juxtaposition.
Winter weather hiking is rewarding but less popular amongst the common folk. It’s completely different than any other time of year. Head out there and catch the sun, feel the wind, and find yourself. We can all use a little self-reflection under normal circumstances, but in 2020, the more instances the better.
During this pandemic, when life slowed down to a crawl, we should have all been given an opportunity to do a system’s check and suss out what we like and don’t like about ourselves, make adjustments, and adapt to what’s being called the “new normal”. This also should have been a time where we upped our levels of compassion and care and looked out for one another.
Sadly, that’s not what happened and that’s not where we are today, as a whole, in the United States.
Where our efforts should have been focused on burying the hatchet and stitching society back together, our time has been taken up with trying to find the truth in what’s going on in our world today. What should have been a straight line to a solution became a tangled breeding ground for agendas that have created an even bigger divide between us. And as society continues to tumble to the hairy edge of collapse, the only solace is in the fact that the majority is heading there blindly, as the wool covers their eyes.
Right now, more than ever, it is obvious – do to incestuous infighting – that our problems in this country originate with our politicians. There’s also a large piece of the media that has been poisoned to report particular narratives to keep us blinded from the goal line. Everything has to do with progress. Sadly, when there are so many agendas in place, progress that should benefit the whole has become fragmented to the point where it’s obvious that the people in control are only in it for themselves and those that line their pockets.
The government has failed. It’s not one side or the other – the whole damn thing has tripped and fallen and its fragile bones keep snapping under the weight of its own incompetence. However, needing an answer to cling to, people have generally become more stratified and have been steadfast in taking sides. This has created a much larger divide which has been fueled by the politicizing of this pandemic. Equally damning is a major uptick in racism as people fight for what’s right, only to be met by people not willing to change.
Would now be a good time to talk about the attempts being made to systematically dismantle our police forces? Anyway.
The once mighty and respectable United States has become a cold, dark place – and the whole world is laughing at us; turning away for their own safety. Rightfully so, I guess – but I’m still an American and I am proud that I am. I will always defend this country and the freedoms that it allows me.
That said, in this crooked piece of time, the general population feels forced to align itself with the left or the right. All the while, I find myself living in the middle – something a large number of Americans still do, and something I’ve caught a lot of shit for – as they probably have as well.
People in the middle are able to discuss tenets of both sides that they agree with and the ones they don’t. From there they draw conclusions which support their beliefs and help form new ones. This is another example of progress and if the whole thing needed a label, these people would be considered “independent” – but I like to refer to it as “balanced”.
This ability to think freely should seem like commonsense, but the roars of those who have confined themselves to their blue or red cages is loud and proud. Freethinking is something we all can do – and should be able to do – under our flag of freedom – but it seems to be a negative more than a positive these days.
The reality of all of this is that the blue team doesn’t seem to mind so much, as most of them have the ability to keep an open mind – so I shouldn’t slam them for their convictions. Their cage door is either unlocked or they’ve all been given keys to come and go as they please. It’s the red team, however, that seems the most disturbed and, to me – that’s disturbing.
Though both sides cling to their headlines and sound bites, where the blue team seems optimistic and understanding – the red team cannot allow such insolence as it leads to defectors who see the blinding light of reality and are drawn to it. But even that is unfair to say, as the real soldiers of misfortune and misinformation in this matter aren’t necessarily Republicans in general, but Trump supporters at the core. It’s going to really put those folks in a tailspin once they realize that they’re not really living in a red state, but within his grand illusion.
It’ll be an even bigger blow when they realize that they, themselves aren’t really on the red team and that the alpha force behind the Republican party is slowly pulling back their efforts in supporting Trump.
That statement alone is enough to cause a disturbance in the force – so the comments preceding it are sure to trigger some. My intention was to enlighten others. After all, this is America – land of the free, because of the brave – and we should all make our decisions based on our beliefs and not because of what a party that doesn’t care about us tells us to.
That said, there’s nothing special about being able to think collectively like a Democrat and a Republican – and even beyond. There’s nothing wrong with it either. It shouldn’t cause an issue or even be a topic of conversation, but if there’s an ugly scar on the United States of America, it’s that people feel they need to find a label and a team to follow, and there’s no room for free-thinking in that situation.
This has been holding back progress for years and in order to survive, we need to keep moving forward. Treading water works to keep you afloat, but it doesn’t move you in one way or another. So, eventually, thinking that’s all you can do, you get bored and accept your fate. All the while, if you opened your mind – you’d remember you can swim.
Enter Teddy Roosevelt, an extremely strong swimmer. Teddy was one of the best Republican presidents in our history because – one, he wasn’t a Republican, and two – because he wasn’t a politician. Teddy was an author, an ornithologist, and a freak for preserving nature. Politics just happened to work for him due to his robust personality, his uncanny knack for oration, and an adventurous course of action which kept him alive, even when he was told he was living in the confines of failing health.
The Republican Party invited him into their fold because they were tired of running around in circles, and he was their ticket onward and upward.
(Seriously, Google it. Read a book about it – as every book about Teddy mentions it in one way or another.)
Remember, the Republican Party was created to help this country grow as it had stalled under the Democrats. At the turn of the century, when the Republicans wrapped their arms around Teddy, they, themselves had stalled. They saw him as the spark they needed to gain enough momentum to move forward – and they were correct. Though they soon too would regret empowering him, as he was light years beyond being sequestered to the left or right.
Teddy Roosevelt was balance. He lived in the middle and he has been honored and chastised for it for more than a century. In a time where the country was treading water, Teddy was an excellent swimmer. In that, Teddy was progress.
One-hundred year later here we are, all being able to think freely in the freest country in the world, and we’re stuck to verbally abusing one another – online and in person – because we refuse to understand and respect one another. In 2020, under the shadow of a pandemic, you’re either a snowflake or a racist. There’s seemingly no room for anything else – and it’s all a distraction. We’re in a vicious cycle of treading water and creating more labels for labels to feed a system that has its claws in every aspect of everything out there – and never been stood up to in modern America.
Our government survives on our willingness to be submissive. It knows that we’re not going to put in the effort to stand up against it because it has programmed us to think that if we push back, they’ll cut us off and we’ll be left in the dark; forced to fend for ourselves.
Sadly, with all that power – they’re not that powerful.
We’re allowing this government to divide us by manipulating a virus and a cultural defect – racism – to distract us. All the while, it knows it’s running around in circles and running out of steam. That reality is what allowed the Republicans to let Donald Trump in – just as they did with Teddy Roosevelt over a century ago. But where Teddy was a revolutionary gunning for progress and posterity, Trump is a sensationalist who has aligned himself to gain – personally.
If anything, Donald Trump is living the American Dream. But in this sequence, America suffers while he prospers. And, look – he’s not all bad. In fact, he’s done a ton of good for our economy. He’s done this while being crippled by the Democrats at every turn. Every time he tries to make a difference, they sweep the leg and knock him down. But he’s a showman, a huckster, and he’s playing into their game and taking the Republican Party down with him.
(Which is probably why they’re starting to separate themselves from him.)
If there was a point in time in this generation where we should collectively stand up for what we believe in – it would be now. But it won’t be now, because every time we, as society, pull the wool back to see clearly, it only lasts for a minute before another agenda is executed and knocks us back. Once we start to swim, a wave of deceit takes us out and leaves us forced to tread until the waters calm down again; just in time for the next wave.
We’re living in a time where we’re being forced to question science because our government tells us to. We’re living in a time where we can no longer survive off the headlines of the news and a little lite-reading. We are pre-occupied in doing our own research and drawing our own conclusions. We are too-preoccupied, in general. This, in itself, is an agenda being pushed on us by a desperate government which has grown so long in the tooth to the point where it’s no longer effective. It can no longer power the engine of progress to benefit the whole and has become fractured and focused on only benefiting a select few.
This is why we need a middle. This is why we can’t currently fall to the left or the right. Right now isn’t the time to be a Democrat or a Republican. We need to toe the line and be Americans. We must balance ourselves in the middle. We must think for ourselves and align on the common goal to move past 2020. This, and only this will allow us – as the whole – to shed the wool and progress towards the future.
Again, there is nothing special or specific about thinking freely. It is your right to approach every aspect of your life with an open mind. I, like many other fellow Americans, have built my own belief system, culled from aspects of both political parties – and beyond – to draw my own conclusions. I was once labeled an Independent – then I chose to be a Democrat. I spent my thirties as a Republican, and now – as I touch the leading edge of my forties, I realize that if I want to be free in a country that exemplifies freedom, then I need to lead the charge – straight up the middle – and so I find myself Independent again.
Bottomline: if society is truly going to take a nose dive, I want to go out on my own two feet; not being carried to the fire by false prophets, profiteers, and sensationalists.
Open your mind. Find your balance. Start swimming. After all, wool is heavy in water and you’re only going to drown.
“Where most businesses usually suffer due to internal struggles, or an inferior product, saturation in craft beer is when the market has reached its capacity and breweries start to suffer because of it. Saturation is a naturally occurring outside force that has internal impacts, out of your control. It can only be countered by amplifying your presence and offering a superior craft beer experience.”
Craft beer, nationwide, has been growing steadily in the past decade – to the point where I like to refer to it as “America’s NEW pastime”. It’s more widespread and more accessible to anyone and everyone then ever, and though it’s bound to plateau, it’s here to stay.
In Connecticut, we’ve added nearly 100 breweries in the past decade, and that’s still on the up and up with more breweries filing for licensing and buying up old buildings to rehab, across the state, weekly.
It’s been a boost to the economy and has also created a well-blended micro-culture of people who have adopted craft beer as a lifestyle. Now, more than ever, people are are well-informed of what goes into their craft beer, what styles they like, and who’s brewing what. Most enthusiasts are in-tune and educated – having either gone out and sampled a ton of oat sodas, studied up on the various facets of craft beer, or – more commonly – a mix of both.
From the outside looking in, and even while on the inside – it seems like a bit of elitism ruling over the rest of the rising class. And that’s not a knock or a negative, it’s the best way I can describe the customer base in the demographic I work within: some folks come in, order what they know they like, and enjoy it. Other folks come in and ask for a beer based on a specific ingredient – usually hops – confirm the presence of an expected set of specific tastes and mouthfeel’s, and then enjoy it.
I liken it to sports. Some folks enjoy watching a game, other folks commit player and team statistics to memory.
I think there’s room for both types of followers and welcome them as they riff off of one another to (usually) create a bigger and better experience, as well as keep the ball rolling in terms of organic business and brand growth – a lot of which happens on social media.
Three years ago, I was brought into Kinsmen Brewing Company, in Milldale, Connecticut to help create a customer base while they were still under construction. They already had the foundation of their brand built and wanted me to create the voice and spread the word of “Kinsmen”. So I began writing copy and posting to their social media platforms all while the brewery was still being built (this is “Brand Amplification” in it’s purest and most enjoyable form).
This role grew into many more positions – bartender, manager, event coordinator, construction worker, and mascot. It became my life after years of craft beer being my lifestyle. The whole thing was – and still is – surreal.
In a short period of time, as Kinsmen grew, other people came on board, or rose to the occasion, to take on different roles and even out the workload, and I became the sole, driving force behind their social media outlets. It allowed me to express my creative writing and photography talents for a good cause, but it also kept me close to trends and changes within the market, which allowed the brand to be proactive and stay relevant.
I was recently asked – in so many words – how to open a brewery and be successful in a market that’s nearing saturation. There’s a million ways I could have answered that question, but I kept it close to the vest – and stuck to what I knew, as opposed to what I assumed.
So, having a good financial backing and stellar craft beverage assortment aside, this is how I see it:
“Opening the brewery and establishing the Kinsmen brand and voice seemed easy compared to creating a differentiation between our brand and other brands in a market nearing saturation. But it requires constant upkeep. Nothing in this market can go on “autopilot”. You need to stay relevant to keep the lights on. To do that, we continually research what other breweries are doing in terms of beers they’re brewing, social media efforts and trends, as well as how they set themselves apart, or if they do at all. Additionally, we visit other breweries and try their beers and attend any and all relevant beer tastings and brewfests, either as the brand or part of the crowd. It’s hard to not develop a “house palate”, but if you’re supporting a brewery – in our current market – you need to have knowledge of what’s going on around you – and that includes tasting notes. Essentially – your brand needs to be your primary focus, but the customer base is so in-tune with trends, popular hops, etc – they will eventually quiz you on other brands. And they’ll call you on your bullshit, so you need to be relevant as well.
Bottomline:If you want to succeed in craft beer – and want your brand to succeed – you need to be part of the craft beer culture.Beard and Flannel Optional.“
It’s important to note that most of us – across breweries – even across state lines – are friends. We may start off as strangers, but once you talk about your common bond in beer, then the friendship quickly forms and rarely dwindles. We’re constantly talking about what we see in the industry and how we employ particular tactics to stay organically viable. And we’re always supporting one another – either directly, or indirectly – most obviously seen in the myriad beer collaborations out there today – but also by hanging our trying one another’s lab samples and giving honest feedback.
We also benefit from bunch of enthusiast groups and official organizations – such as The CT Brewers Guild – who promote various brands and keep us all connected either through social media, or boots on the ground efforts – like throwing their own brewfests. These factions are all borne out of their adopting of the craft beer culture as their way of life. It’s like being a Jedi, really..
If I had to end this whole thing with one message to my friends and family in craft beer:
Having gotten into craft beer, and then into homebrewing, way back in 2000, I feel like an old man out here. But, I’m rooted, open-minded, and make my rounds in the scene – and that helps me stay relevant. I thrive on writing about our beers as well as photographing them and thinking of new and different ways to present those beers to the public. With people’s spans forever shrinking, and the market forever expanding, I can only hype the Kinsmen brand so much as a person. But social media – just like print before it – will exist forever and has the uncanny ability to spread its wings damn near anywhere. So make sure you’re getting out there and getting people’s attentions in the most organic way possible – Instagram, Facebook.. Visiting other breweries… OH! And cool merch. Don’t skimp on the merch. Especially stickers!
If I had to end this whole thing with one message to the craft been enthusiasts:
Make sure you’re out there having fun. If you’re dreading waiting in lines to mule beer, and you need to put a pause on a mortgage payment – for beer – then you’re making it more of a miasma then something that could easily allow you to flourish socially and culturally. We’re brewing it and marketing it because it’s something we enjoy – and want you to enjoy. After all, it’s just beer. It’s here to make you happy. Also, don’t let it become an addiction – and I don’t mean the fact that this stuff is alcohol – I mean, don’t let it run you around. There’s plenty of IPA’s, Lagers, and Stouts for everyone!
A Marketing Engineer who’s main objective is to increase a brand’s presence through social media, merchandising, and boots on the ground marketing.
Life is about you, so why not make it about you?
Why should we settle into an occupation that we were conditioned for, when we can work at one that utilizes our natural, raw talent?
I’m a square peg.
An engineer without an engineering degree who excels at engineering, but thrives in marketing and brand amplification situations.
I became an engineer because someone took a chance on me and allowed me to learn how to become an engineer. Through enthusiasm, I took it upon myself to design in 3D, utilizing my ability to think outside the box – all while learning to understand why I designed something the way I did.
Theory. That’s what engineering is really about. The end result is always the goal – but the theory behind the design is the objective.
And I enjoy it. Man, do I enjoy it. But I don’t thrive behind a desk for 10 hours a day. I need stimulation. I need an environment that cultivates my interests.
I’m forever writing. I’m forever getting behind an idea and exploiting it, organically. When I find something that interests me, there’s no glass ceiling to my capabilities.
I’m creative. From taking photos, to creating custom graphics, to materializing successful events, or supporting brands at events, I thrive when I’m allowed to take off the suit and be myself.
It’s been craft beer. It’s been knives and tools. It’s been after-market roof racks.
It’s all been an extension of who I am. It’s all been an exploitation of a hobby or my culture.
And I’ve been successful at all of it. But Engineering has always paid the bills.
Engineering has also allowed me to get my fix for tinkering. But marketing – and to that extent – sales – is where my personality is allowed to show up, everyday, for work.
So that’s the next adventure, right? Shouldn’t I focus on “me” at 38 years old, and find that one brand that let’s me give it my all to their benefit?
Well, here I am.
Looking for a place that allows me to be me and utilizes my natural talents.
If you had to put a name on it, I would call it a “Marketing Engineer”. Someone who understands the goal, but isn’t afraid to think outside the box to get there. A creative tinkerer with a interesting way of getting the message out there. Whatever that message is.
But here, we’re going to call it a “Brand Amplifier” because it draws attention as it leaves the outermost edges of your lips when you say it. It’s more captivating.
As a modern design engineer, your job is to design and virtually build a part or assembly that someone is going to have to fabricate and assemble in the real world. You are creating models and drawings on a computer that a fellow human-being is going to have dissect with their brain and transcribe into an actual “thing”, that takes up space in the real world, with the tools they have available to them.
So why not design it to their abilities, with the tools they have in their toolkit? Or, in the very least, present it to them in a familiar format that they understand (which would be more practical)?
I became an engineer through unethical and unacceptable means: by experience when someone took a chance on me and exploited my enthusiasm and creativity – taught me how to harness it and focus on the task at hand – and, mostly about what really can be built on the real world.
It’s something that some recruiters and hiring agents dismiss me for because I don’t have a degree, so I don’t fit in a checkbox on their paperwork. But I am full of theory, am proficient in Autodesk Inventor, and professionally certified in SolidWorks.
In short, I am experienced. I learned in the field. I’m good at what I do. I’m an asset. I also think outside the box, am open to criticism, and work well on a team and alone. Work doesn’t scare me. Neither does putting myself on the firing line and pleading my case, in defense of a design.
In the process of getting to where I am as an engineer, I have working with companies where the engineers worked with fabricators and assemblers – directly – so I’ve been able to ask those folks how they want the information delivered to them; or in the very least, have been able to apply processes that help them understand how they’re going to manufacture something – and keep the delivery consistent across the board.
This involved utilizing standardized dimensioning on drawings (a common, but forgotten practice), standardized Bills Of Material, standardized file structures for easy drawing and rendering access, and – here’s the biggie – communication. All of the aforementioned was communicated and taught so that everyone was familiar with the process and could get their jobs done.
I also left my door open to make myself available to anyone who had a question or suggestion and had to problem getting my hand dirty, turning wrenches, to help people get the job done. I’m a natural tinkerer.
I’ve left two jobs, in the past five years, where – while working with fabricators and assemblers – I was able to implement these SOP’s to help streamline the manufacturing process. It made us a well-oiled machine where we could all talk to one another during the fabrication or build processes, and learn from one another where applicable.
It allowed for everyone to be part of the same team – where troubleshooting and feedback became less of a burden and more a form of learning and growing.
So imagine my horror when I found out that this wasn’t the norm!?!?
Imagine how I had to comprehend the fact that there are manufacturing companies where the engineers do not communicate with the soldiers in the field!?!?
That, in some cases, there’s a perception of elitism, where the engineers hand-off their compiled information and the people on the floor are simply left to “figure it out” !?!?
As if these engineers float by and hand off their work in a bin and are never heard of again?
One. That’s horseshit. Two. In a world of 5S-Kaizen-Lean Manufacturing; how the heck does that type of practice even hold up? How does a company succeed when its labor force is constantly struggling and doesn’t feel as if they have a support line within the engineering team?
That’s like a sales team and a marketing team not working together. You’re getting sparks, not fire – working hard, and not smart. It burns people out and has minimal effectiveness, at best.
Yes, sure – to an extent – fabricators and assemblers are familiar with common practices and are able to decipher drawings and renderings to a point where they can get the job done.
But there are more situations where products can be new and confusing and it’s pure egotism to think, as an engineer, that you can hand-off something you transmitted from your brain to a program on your computer, and then to an uninformed coworker so they could try and figure out what you’re thinking.
Here’s where this rant stems from: a series of unrelated conversations I’ve had the random chance of having over the past month or so with folks who weld and assemble for a living. People who have been in the manufacturing field for a while, who, when I told them I was a design engineer – immediately went into a tirade about engineers and their lack of communication.
There’s lots of jokes about engineers assuming their designs are easy to physically create, a lot of real accurate dingers – but the issue here is that a growing number of engineers are fresh-faced kids coming out of college and are being hired by firms who employ a workforce full of either seasoned welders and assemblers, or seasonal workers with little experience.
These kids are smart, yes – but a lot of them don’t have job experience. They don’t know how to work with a welder, or someone turning screws – so why would they try? They come into the job, pre-programmed to design and engineer widgets; not communicate the process. How can you expect them to step out of their comfort zone and troubleshoot or accept feedback?
I have been fortunate enough to have worked for a large company (Okay, it was Thule), where every person involved in a project was part of the whole process – from beginning to end – so that everyone was well-informed on the methodology used in designing and building the product – whether it was a simple part or complicated assembly.
Everyone was brought on board, even if it took hours of explaining the meaning behind something or the purpose of the product. No one was dismissed – no questions were tossed off. Everything was communicated and had a lengthy paper trail.
But, as I mentioned previously, what I’m finding out, more and more, is that this isn’t what’s happening out in the world – normally. That the normal process is to work in an environment with minimal communication across the departments and to just expect people to figure it out.
As I previously stated – that’s horseshit.
By the way, FYI – ICYMI – This isn’t an issue with older engineers – most of them, though generally thinking of a much more complex wavelength, are open to talking about their designs and welcome feedback. But those guys – like the guys who helped me along the way – are getting to the age or retirement.
It might be a good time, while manufacturing continues to make its triumphant return to the United States, for these companies where their engineers don’t feel the need to inform and educate, shift their step and focus on company-wide communication.
It might take a little more time to onboard everyone, but once you get a process in place and open lines of communication, your company can only profit.
” For me, it’s not always about being an audiophile. It’s about being a functioning music aficionado who isn’t trying to block out the world, but to enhance his day to day life with some background music.”
A little while back, I admitted that I listen to music all the time – even while sleeping – and recommended you do the same.
It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a kid, that has become borderline therapeutic; as an adult. Music sets the tone and the mood, but it also keeps us from getting sucked down the rabbit-hole of life – and is also a proven trigger that leads to memory recall.
At home, listening to music is easy. I just tell Sonos, via Alexa, what I want to listen to (or to turn my lights on and off) and I am able to exploit my mood, recall a moment, or even just go through the motions while the music acts as white noise. But, out on the street, at work, or in the woods – music becomes a personal enhancement.
Not only do I NOT feel the need to share what I am listening to with anyone else – it’s kind of a jerk move to do so.
After all, we are almost in our fourth decade of personal music devices; a movement, arguably launched, by “The Walkman” – so there’s no need to make the music we listen to part of someone else’s day.
In fact, why would we? Why would we want anyone else to know about the adventure we’re on? Save that shit for a romantic moment – when you really want to “wow” someone. Don’t infect your neighbor next to you at the grocery store with your personal, freethinking movement. That’s not the time where you want to influence someone or have them draw opinions about you; they’ve already judged you for those two cans of SPAM in your cart or basket; why offer them more fuel for the fire?
With myriad devices – corded, uncorded, budded, and unbudded – available in the market today, what have I singled out as the right device for multifarious old me?
Well, truth be told, I was a huge subscriber and town crier for Skullcandy’s Method Sport Earbuds until my dog ate them. I’m not even kidding – I wore them all day, every day – for a solid year – and left them on the table for a couple of minutes and the dog ate them.
This left me with the option to buy that neckband style headset again – or to branch into a territory I have briefly lived within a couple of years prior – totally wireless earbuds.
Looking at my current, over-active, lifestyle, I chose the latter over the former because it fit into my career-life, dad-life, outdoor life, and every other type of life I live, daily, indoors and outdoors.
In the end, I stuck with Skullcandy and chose their “Sesh”, True Wireless Earbuds, and I have been nothing but stoked about their fit, form and function for the last two months.
PROS – Easy to pair, and they stay paired. – Easy to control for both music and phone calls from my iPhone. – Continuously play music for 4-5 hours. – 5-6 recharges via recharge case. – Fit (and stay) in my ear, comfortably and mostly inconspicuously. – Sound great for the price.
CONS – Easier to control via phone than on-board controls (especially if you’re only using one bud – which has to be the left bud).
Now, I don’t mind – AT ALL – having to use my phone to control the earbuds, but some folks might find them to not be “truly wireless” being that each bud has its own set of functions where, if you’re only wearing one bud – and want to use the on-board controls – you can’t.
Furthermore, the left earbud has been determined to be THE earbud to use – by Skullcandy – if you’re only going with one bud in. When that runs out of battery – you can’t just pop the right one in. The right bud needs the left bud to function, bud.
Full-disclosure, I thought the two couldn’t operate on their own was drawback at first, but when considering that:
1. I use my phone to control the buds. 2. I don’t have the buds playing for a full, continuous, 4-5 hour clip. 3. I rarely have both buds in. 4. There’s a lot of buds on the market, for double the price of the Sesh, that function the same way.
I quickly got over it. And found that these earbuds not only fit my ear and stayed in my ear without discomfort, but they also were putting out some great sound which I had no trouble hearing, even in a factory setting. They were even equalized well at higher decibels – with little to no noticeable distortion.
Also, the price is quite nice: $60 to be untethered and at peace at your own personal concert, for a few hours – is quite the bargain – especially seeing that most buds that make it on to any type of rating review usually are at $80 or higher (sure I only cherry-picked one link, but it’s thorough and reputable).
So Why Skullcandy, Bud? Being a gear reviewer who has also worked in the outdoor gear industry – where trading products is a way of survival – I have had the opportunity to try out a lot – A LOT – of different headphones and earbuds. I have also spent way too many hours traveling the world on an airplane RELYING on headphones. So, I know what I want – and I want something affordable, reliable, and quality driven that I can replace, without crippling my income, if I lose them or my shitty dog (who I love quite a bit) eats them.
I have an awesome pair of Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Headphones sitting feet away from me now, as I type – and yeah, they sound epic – but that’s not my style – and they won’t cut it out in a global warming downpour on a hike. So, for me, it’s not always about being an audiophile. It’s about being a functioning music aficionado who isn’t trying to block out the world, but to enhance his day to day life with some background music.
And you know what? I think a lot of people are like me – who woke up one day and wanted to have gadgets and gizmos – but wanted to be conscious about where they spent their money – so they had to find a middle ground, and the middle ground turned out to be a goldmine of awesome products hiding in the shadows of commercialized hype.
That said – for me, right now, in my active day to day, inside and outside, four seasons out of the year, life – the “Sesh” by Skullcandy is where I want my personal concert coming from. In my qualified opinion, they offer the perfect balance in form and function – and, for the price – they can’t be beat.
Recently, I was catching up with an old friend and we were talking about the overlap, in the outdoor gear and clothing category, between technical and tactical – and how the two categories share so many commonalities, including the intended user – that it makes sense that they become more and more woven together.
Anyway, I remembered writing about it a few years back – summing the whole thing up – and I wanted to share my perception:
“It seems that with each changing season, the worlds of outdoor products and tactical gear overlap more and more. Not only has this amalgamation increased the amount of Cordura and earth tones used in common clothing and gear, but it has also introduced a new approach to outdoor activities – one that is more zeroed in on preparedness. It can be argued that this type of clothing and gear, when coupled with a focused approach, has allowed people to go further and further into the outdoors. It can also be argued that this unification was a long time coming, and I for one am all about it. This hybrid approach is interesting because it brings two different schools of thought together, and yet somehow it just works. It’s a little easy and outdoorsy, and a little tactical and militaristic, but it works.”
It was the opening paragraph on a bit I wrote on Prometheus Design Werx for Gear Institute . And I wrote it – the whole article – because I was super-impressed how PDW hit the market right as a consorted focus on preparedness and survivalism had peaked and was started to wane. Time, love, and tenderness all went into the launch and execution of that brand, and their timing was perfect.
Flash forward three years, and though I believe there is some stale air in the outdoor industry, in terms of new and wow things, I believe that, industry-wide, we’re seeing that the melding of technical and tactical – or sport and military – or true grit and outdoorsy – is really a THING. And it might just be the next big thing. In fact, we might be in the middle of the next big thing and just don’t realize it.. Hmm.
Well, either way, I dig the overlap. I think it’s pretty wild to be able mix up the color palette and introduce Earth tones into the mainstream. I think we’re benefiting from the introduction of technology that has been used by the military for years – even if it is something as small and simple as adding a red light option to your headlamp; or in anti-microbial clothing – which has been around the outdoor industry for a while, but stems from the military.
Maybe it’s always been happening, but it’s just more noticeable now? Not sure.
I guess the flip-side to all of this would be to see how much the outdoor gear and clothing world has impacted the tactical and military segments?
Anybody humping packs and ammo out in the desert in Chaco sandals?
Whenever I look through one of my multiple boxes and bags of gear that I have accumulated over the years, I am bound to pass by myriad charging cables and rechargeable battery packs – solar or conventional – and, as I do, I feel a wave of elation come over me.
Like many of you, I fear that randomly my gadgets will run out of power – and, to some extent, being without a cell or WiFi signal to keep me tethered to society and social media.
The latter, not as much – but the former is a big one; like “whoa”.
Like feeling phantom vibrations in your pocket or on your wrist from your cell phone and ever-tethering smart watch, we have become conditioned to rely on things that didn’t exist until most of us were adults or teenagers. I mean, we’ve always had electronics in our lives, but I don’t remember stockpiling batteries. Sure, we had a drawer in the kitchen with a few – but nothing like this; nothing like a bin full of wires and a collection of battery packs.
The wires are easy to explain: everything that you buy – that requires power – comes with a wire; which is generally a duplicate of a wire we already have in our collection.
But the rechargeable battery packs? Well, I guess it could be the same reason we always upgrade our phones, televisions, etc. – we are a society who has to have the best of the best?
But those are just excuses.
In all reality – it’s fear that keeps us hanging on to these widgets. The fear that we will find ourselves in some situation where we need to rely on each and every one of these items. Because, you know, a Lightning cable will most likely fail when it senses impending doom. Or a battery pack, that has proved reliable thus far, will just shit the bed – in the middle of this apocalypse that is, seemingly, always on the horizon – but never landing on our front steps.
I liken the whole thing to the Ketchup packets my grandmother used to horde due to a fear of running out of food – triggered by living through two world-wars.
But this fear seems a little slapdash – the fear that my cellphone won’t turn on. The fear that, because I am so conditioned, my mom won’t be able to text me when the ice giants finally take over the planet and steal our souls.
When compared to dying of starvation it all seems a little silly. (Yes, a Ketchup packet can keep you alive).
Music has always played a large roll in my life. There isn’t a certain type of music I lean towards, but I’m currently drenching myself in Americana. Actually, it’s probably always in this realm, but I don’t mind branching out and listening to a little bit of everything.
Bigger than what I’m listening to – is what it does for me. There are key moments in my life that are associated with key songs. Even more – there are albums that define full seasons I’ve lived through. And I don’t think I’m alone – in fact, I know I’m not. Music has shaped my personality.
As a kid I would visit my aunt and uncle at their place in Andover, VT. You would enter the house and, ever so softly, there would be music. This music would play all day, be turned off at night, and then turned back on when my aunt or uncle woke up the next morning.
I’ve adopted something of the same routine, over the years, but go as far as to keep it playing throughout the night. Sometimes it’s white noise, going undistinguishable across the wooden floor boards, up the wall, and out the window. Other times, it’s the center piece and we all sit around it and feed from it’s wonderful bounty.
I find it sets my tone, helps me work better, and keeps me from getting lonely when my girls aren’t around.
Anyway. I wanted to share a couple of playlists that I would encourage you to follow – if you have Spotify.
This is a collection of music – most of which kept my head on straight during my divorce – that became my culture and personality. It fit me well at the time, and I think it still does. It’s great for long drives out on crisp nights – roads, trails, wherever your vehicle will take you.
This one is my whole life, in song. Literally, a collection of songs that either trigger memories, or make new ones as I hear them. This is my opus. This is what needs to be played by my family, after I check out, so people who didn’t know me well – get to know me well.
Music is culture and it is what has allowed civilization to grow and expand. It’s the stories once told by a campfire and shared by different cultures to break the ice in their first meetings. It’s therapeutic and it’s medicinal.
We all need music.
It’s like sharing part of my soul with all of you…
Being that this blog is new, I haven’t really given you all the information about me – because, well, I like to be coy.
So here’s the scoop: I am a knifemaker. After years of study – under my former father in law; bladesmith – John Zembko of Zemknives – I started a knife company called “Ragged Mountain Knife Works” with my best friend, The Wolf (Really, that’s his name).
RMKW is in a state of hibernation right now, but we’re working on the next batch of knives, eternally. I’ll go deeper into that realm another time, eternally…
I am also an overly-technical, deep-dive reviewer of knives, tools, and all sorts of things related to hiking, camping, overlanding, and living my life in the outdoors.
So all of this a natural fit – an extension of my soul – as I find myself at the peak of my existence when out wandering.
Over the years, I’ve made a bit of a name for myself, through various channels – all in an attempt to keep myself writing, exploring, and entertained. It all worked, believe me – life is good. I am happy. The creativity within me seems endless if not ethereal, and I keep finding more ways to keep on sharing my thoughts and ideas.
I digress, again.
In July, an email came across the wire from Joe Jackson at Outside Magazine. He’d been given my name and some cocktail napkin credentials from a mutual friend in the industry (I love you, Tal-ee), and he wanted to ping me about knife care.
We got on the phone, talked shop for a bit – had a few laughs – and then it was a bit silent for about a month. Then comes another email, followed by another phone call, a bit more of the laughs, and then the stage was set.
Lyricist for the Grateful Dead, and so much more – Hunter penned some of the stuff that became our memorable moments in life. His words carried through the tunes and gave them the spirit they needed to sit up on the shelf for generations; without need of support. He was so prolific, that what he was able to create didn’t need explanation. Which is kind of wild, seeing how out there the Dead were known to get – how out there those lyrics were known to get…⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And now he’s gone.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I saw Hunter years ago. He played somewhere that I can’t right now remember. But I do remember how he came on to the stage quietly, there was a burst of energy and enlightenment, and then he left the stage, as he came, about an hour later.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Not knowing him, I get the feeling that, that is what just happened. That, that scenario sums up Robert Hunter – as well as I know him. That he came into the world quietly – had a burst – and left quietly. How amazing. How beautiful. How lyrical.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
So goodbye, a friend I never knew – who helped see me through the good times and the bad times, along with his brother in song, Jerry Garcia. May your next life be as much of an adventure as this one.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“Hi” to Jerry when you see him down the road.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“Many a hand has scaled the grand old face of the plateau. Some belong to strangers and some to folks you know…”
“Plateau” by The Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II
Social media has become much more than it was ever meant to be, and to that end – it’s a problem.
What was supposed to be a place where we could check in, check out, and see updates from our family and friends – has become a battleground of opinions where people are talking AT one another instead of TO one another.
Twitter was a shit show from the get go, although Facebook has taken the cake in terms of being the platform for drama, doom, and gloom. But that doesn’t mean that, that ethos hasn’t trickled over to instagram – where people have found ways to argue over pictures. LinkedIn has some flare-ups from time to time, but it’s still the professional platform of choice – and anything else out there is probably full of Busch League brawling just the same.
I won’t get into what we’re actually sharing on these platforms, behind the scenes, because we all agreed to it; one way or another – but yeah, that’s pretty shitty too. The only solace being that the targeted ads remind us of the stuff we want to buy on Amazon.
So, for me – social media has reached its plateau: it can’t get any better, but it will get a whole lot worse. And, I know I am not alone in this proclamation.
Slowly but surely, friends and family we’re logging on less and less. The truly committed were still commenting and liking my posts, but in all reality – a lot of the attention coming my way has been from people in the outer circle; which is fine – but there’s something to say about what to do when the people in your inner-circle aren’t there anymore.
For Facebook, the obvious answer is to branch out and argue with people.
I’m not completely jaded, however. I still enjoy Instagram because I love taking pictures and sharing them. But, even there, the want for likes and follows has been whittled down to an app that lets me edit and post my pictures, in lieu of a picture book that sits on a shelf.
A good friend recently said “Man, you sure post a lot of pictures on social media – but you don’t share anything with me anymore.” And he was right – moments and memories – that we used to trade off as part of our relationship – became public fodder; I lost my balance and social media won.
That hit home. It made me pivot. If I had to get personal about it, it may have put the sparkle back into who we are as friends.
What could make this bigger and weirder is that I made a living off of social media and I still work with it, on a professional level, today. But I have been able to catch myself from falling and have compartmentalized how I use social media on a business level so that it doesn’t interfere with my personal life.
Fact is – social media is the strongest tool in marketing and business right now. You can’t succeed in business without it. It’s only when you compare it to your life when you realize that it’s something of a cesspool.
Overall, and I am going to pick on Facebook here for a minute, social media only gives us back what we put into it. Who and what we like and follow are what we see on our pages and streams, ultimately. So we’re partly to blame for sure. But there’s more to it than that. I mean, how much time do we actually spend on FB, IG, TWTR, ETC?
It’s become the new Worldwide Pastime.
We sit there and stare into the glow, scrolling through things we didn’t know we needed to know and engaging in conversations and situations that we could save ourselves a lot of time and stress if we just didn’t.
Who needs action when you got words?
“Plateau” by The Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II
It’s creating a society of passive aggressive people who feel empowered because they can throttle someone in a comment or a post without having to deal directly with them – what’s worse is that it’s replaced traditional news outlets and acts as a conduit for misinformation.
And I was susceptible to it from time to time; lowering my standards and getting down in the weed to argue with perfect strangers for ZERO gain in life. Heck, I still am – even in admitting this.
Like I said, it’s now a battleground…
Okay, so maybe it’s really just Facebook and Twitter! Maybe we can fix Instagram as long as we stick to pictures and hash tags?
Either way, I don’t believe any of it is going to get better. There’s no evolution from here.