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Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Have been lax in keeping my so-called "daily" blog up to date. At the risk of sounding like a whiner, I plead illness for most of last week as I had a bout of stomach flu.

Last week I got a surprise telephone call from my friend Bill Neiderberger. Bill and I first met while we were in the National Guard together way back in the 1960's. He is an excellent accordionist and he informed me that he would be coming up to Eau Claire on sunday to do a half hour performance for his grand daughter Emily's fifth grade class at Northwoods Elementary School on monday - and wanted to know if he and his wife Judy could stop to say hello on their way into town.

They did, indeed stop for a short visit and while they were here i volunteered to come with him and back him up on acoustic guitar for the performance.

So yesterday we met at Northwoods at 11 AM and ran through a few tunes prior to performing for the fifth graders. The performance went well - the half hour zipped right by. We finished the set with one of my tunes "The Nose Song" and I was impressed with the fifth graders willingness to learn and sing the chorus throughout.

After the performance, Emily, her mother and dad, both of whom teach at Northwoods, Bill, Judy and I sat down to a sack lunch in the music room.


The BP oil spill has me really boiling! It has gotten so I cannot even bear to watch the news. And the fact that the damn Republicans and Teabaggers are trying to proclaim this to be "Obama's Katrina" is just insane!

My friend Linda Gruen who currently is still dealing with the massive flooding in Nashville, sent me a blog written by a blogger who goes by the handle "The Rude Pundit". As Linda says, he pretty much hits the nail on the head:

"Tell you what, when dead people are left to rot in the sun because of the incompetence of the federal government, when corpses are floating in the streets, when the President passively ignores the pleas of the governors of Gulf Coast states, when entire neighborhoods have been physically destroyed, when the federal government strands tens of thousands of people without food or water, when the federal government starts to blame the local governments, when the President praises the work of a failed, incompetent bureaucrat while a major city rots, then you can say that this is Barack Obama's "Katrina."

But until this happens, good, sweet conservatives who need so desperately to drag this president down, the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is a corporate-created disaster, and it actually serves to demonstrate, starkly, as if the ocean floor is in the midst of a prolonged sweet crude eruption, the utter failure of deregulation and the bullshit notion that capitalistic enterprises can police themselves when it comes to safety and environmental standards, whether it was, in this case, BP or Transocean or whoever. In other words, once again, as with so many things, this is about your ideology belly-flopping, much like, you know, when Katrina showed how years of neglect of the levees would lead to a nightmare.

So now Bobby Jindal, formerly of the "states can solve problems" crowd, is coming to the federal government with his hands out like a New Delhi beggar with leprosy. Hell, Haley Barbour already knows the routine. Bob Riley's about to discover that money from the fed ain't so bad now. Bow and scrape, assholes, as an environmental catastrophe that's coming your way is gonna destroy jobs, tourism, and wetlands.

Right now, as the Rude Pundit writes this, the booms that were set up to protect the beaches in Alabama and Mississippi are failing. They're being blown onto shore by the winds, by the waves. Dead things are washing up, too. The fishing's been halted. Pretty soon, the white, white sands, the Aryan beaches of the Redneck Riviera are going to get dingier and dingier looking, even more than when swarms of UA kids head there to vomit in the sun on spring break.

Yes, some day soon, a man with his Gulf Shores timeshare, probably a proud and loyal teabagger, will look out over his balcony during the two weeks a year he takes his family on vacation and see the bits of black that are rolling up onto the shore. And he'll wonder, even if they do everything they can, why the feds couldn't clean it up sooner. Then he'll go inside and watch Hannity or listen to Limbaugh tell him that his taxes are too high and that business, not Washington, can solve all his problems.


Whose door does this oil spill darken?

by debcoop
The NY Times thinks that President Obama has not responded aggressively enough to this spill. Let's be clear:
No way is this oil spill Barack Obama's fault.

The fault lies with the ideology and mores of the Republican party and its theory of government. Their solution to this country's energy's future is to drill anywhere and everywhere. In their theory of government, government has no right to control who, what, where and how the natural resources of this country or this planet are exploited or not exploited, resources that are needed by us all and are needed to protect us all. Like my friend Jim Gilliam said in a private email, government is supposed regulate corporate behavior not just be their willing partner/follower. This is a lesson that we all need to keep in mind and that includes the president.
In the Republican theory of government, government regulation is inherently evil or at least counterproductive. So under George Bush et al, the only regulation in the Gulf has been self regulation. This oil spill is the fault of Republican ideology.

And the Times is wrong again in saying that if BP lied to Barack Obama and misled him that is not his fault. The spill itself and even, at the moment, the seemingly futile attempts to stop the spill is the result of Republicans, down to using Halliburton's technology over another technology that is more successfully employed in Europe.


While I sat in the reception area of my doctor's office, a woman rolled an elderly man in a wheelchair into the room. As she went to the receptionist's desk, the man sat there, alone and silent. Just as I was thinking I should make small talk with him, a little boy slipped off his mother's lap and walked over to the wheelchair. Placing his hand on the man's, he said, 'I know how you feel. My mom makes me ride in the stroller too.'


As I was nursing my baby, my cousin's six-year-old daughter, Krissy, came into the room. Never having seen anyone breast feed before, she was intrigued and full of all kinds of questions about what I was doing. After mulling over my answers, she remarked, 'My mom has some of those, but I don't think she knows how to use them.'


Out bicycling one day with my eight-year-old granddaughter, Carolyn, I got a little wistful. 'In ten years,' I said, 'you'll want to be with your friends and you won't go walking, biking, and swimming with me like you do now. Carolyn shrugged. 'In ten years you'll be too old to do all those things anyway.'


Working as a pediatric nurse, I had the difficult assignment of giving immunization shots to children. One day, I entered the examining room to give four-year-old Lizzie her needle. 'No, no, no!' she screamed. 'Lizzie,' scolded her mother, 'that's not polite behavior.' With that, the girl yelled even louder, 'No, thank you! No, thank you!


On the way back from a Cub Scout meeting, my grandson innocently said to my son, 'Dad, I know babies come from mommies' tummies, but how do they get there in the first place?' After my son hemmed and hawed awhile, my grandson finally spoke up in disgust, 'You don't have to make up something, Dad. It's okay if you don't know the answer..'

***** Just before I was deployed to Iraq , I sat my eight-year-old son down and broke the news to him. 'I'm going to be away for a long time,' I told him. 'I'm going to Iraq ..' 'Why?' he asked. 'Don't you know there's a war going on over there?'


Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children stricken with cancer, AIDS, and blood diseases. One afternoon, he and is wife, Joanne Woodward, stopped by to have lunch with the kids. A counselor at a nearby table, suspecting the young patients wouldn't know Newman was a famous movie star, explained, 'That's the man who made this camp possible. Maybe you've seen his picture on his salad dressing bottle?' Blank stares. 'Well, you've probably seen his face on his lemonade carton.' An eight-year-old girl perked up. 'How long was he missing?'


God's Problem Now.

His wife's graveside service was just barely finished, when there was a massive clap of thunder, followed by a tremendous bolt of lightning, accompanied by even more thunder rumbling in the distance. The little, old man looked at the pastor and calmly said, 'Well, she's there.


I got this from my friend, Jill Merrill. She works at a church-based daycare.
Thought you'd all enjoy it!


Oh, here's a cute religion story (happened today at work) for you to share with Larry and John:

Ruthanne was talking with one of our two year olds at daycare and he mentioned that his mom was at work. Ruthanne said of course and did he know where his mom worked. He said she works at the hospital. Ruthanne said that's where her mom used to work too. He asked Ruthanne where her mom is now. She told him that her mom is in heaven with God and Jesus. He said, "Hey, I know those guys!"




Monday, May 17, 2010


I couldn't help myself! When I got this photograph (and several others) from my nephew/new daddy I wanted to publish this one on my blog.

The photo really makes me smile because I know young Michael is an excellent father. Mike is a guy who knows how to listen when he is with a group of relatives or friends. And he always takes time to ask after you. He is witty, extremely intelligent, and I can tell by the way he reacts to beautiful little Mila, that he is deeply in love with his daughter.

Mila's mother, Trish, is also a very loving, giving person. She is an incredibly talented artist, designing logos for large companies but now she is a mother at home. One can feel a very close bond between Trish and Mila.

Can you tell I am pretty proud of this family?


I received this e mail recently from our good friend Robert One Man Johnson, currently in Thailand:

With the Red Shirts and the army at odds, Bangkok is not a lot of fun right now. Margery and I decided to take off for the weekend on a combination sightseeing and golfing expedition to Kanchanaburi, on the River Kwai. It is about 150 kilometers due west of Bangkok and only about 50 kilometers from the Myanmar (Burmese) border. Kanchanaburi is the famous site of the World War Two prisoner camp and The Bridge and it is hard not to whistle that familiar theme from the movie as you head down the road. We had hired a van and driver and were joined by Nancy and Mike Harris, originally from Iowa, and like us, long time overseas educators. Mike is retired and Nancy is a math teacher at ISB.

Yahoo Weather for Kanchanaburi said ‘105 degrees Fahrenheit’. Heat index was casually listed as, “Feels like 115 degrees”. That’s pretty hot, I guess. We settled into our rooms at Nichigo Golf Resort. We were the only ones there. The troubles here have caused many people to cancel their holidays, plus, I suppose the heat might have put a few people off. Our AC was not working so we had to change rooms. A sign outside room 224 read, ‘No Spikes Inside’. Our wooden floor looked like someone had failed to follow the rules.

Margery and Nancy made arrangements with the driver to do some exploring and shopping the next morning. Mike and I made tee times at 6:30 AM. We met at 6 for an ‘American Breakfast’. Two funky looking eggs, two slices of mystery meat, some mashed potatoes, Tang, a couple of pallid looking chicken sausages and a slice of pineapple. I decided to try the ‘Thai Breakfast’ the next day. Couldn’t be much worse. We paid our greens fees and walked out to meet our caddies. We had already decided that maybe renting an electric cart would be a good idea. 115 degrees, remember!

The course was incredibly beautiful, green and lush with mountains in the background, water everywhere with birds of all kinds making a lot of noise. We never did see the monkeys, but you could hear them. The trees were in full beauty ranging from that wonderful spring green to white to riotous Flame Trees the color of firecrackers. I hit my first tee shot long but slightly to the right, at the base of a gorgeous tree.

As I stepped up to hit the ball, I instinctively leaped up in the air. I am not sure what a nano-second really is, but it seems an appropriate measurement. I dropped my club, frantically brushing off about 100 fire ants. They got in at least four tasty bites before I could retrieve my club, gain my composure and take a ‘free drop’. It was my first encounter of that day with the animals inhabiting the course.

We progressed through the round and I seemed to be the designated driver. After another tee shot, we jumped in the cart with the two caddies on the back. As we went around a curve, I drove over what I thought was a tree branch across the cart path. It was slim and about 5 feet long, hardly noticeable as the rubber wheels passed over it. The caddies simultaneously let out a sound between a whoop and a shriek. Mike said, ‘Snake…big snake!’ The caddie said, ‘Cobra!’, with her Thai accent on the final syllable. I did not have rear view mirrors. I asked Mike if he wanted me to turn around to check it out again. His answer, ‘Nooooh!’ I stopped and looked behind me. The snake was gone, back into the woods along the cart path. I think all of us were a bit more vigilant for the rest of the round.

Although we saw lots of birds in the water and rising off each green where they perhaps were gathering sand for their gizzards, we didn’t see any more non-feathered life until some time in the third nine. (Yes, we did 27 holes both days!) As I raced around another corner, I swerved hard to avoid a 4 foot Monitor lizard which seemed never to consider the possibility that I wouldn’t avoid it. It was dark green with yellow stripes along its body, much like an American garter snake. It had a forked tongue. It looked bored.

The only other truly memorable event of the day (I didn’t shoot well enough to make any television highlight reels) was when I lined up to hit an errant second shot on number 6. I could see the green and the flag fluttering in the slight breeze. As I went into my practice swing, the caddie said, rather sharply, ‘Sai, Sai!’ That means ‘left’ in Thai. I disregarded her advice and hit a great shot, under some tree branches and directly toward the pin. Unfortunately, the green for number 6 was 30 degrees ‘Sai’ from number 9, the hole I was aiming for. I took a triple bogey on that one. The caddie was disgusted.

The final morning, after our second 27 holes, we trundled our gear to the van and drove back to Bangkok. Our apartment is in the extreme northwest of the city, well away from the barricades and the burning car tires and the location where yesterday 8 people died and 150 others were injured. I don’t think I will go downtown tomorrow night to sit in with the band.

Robert Johnson, Bangkok Spring, 2010


And yet another golfing story --

A Catholic priest, an Indian doctor, a rich Chinese businessman and an Italian from New York were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers in front of them.

The Italian from New
York fumed,
'What's with those jerks? We're waiting fifteen minutes between shots!'

The Indian doctor chimed in, 'I don't know, but I've never seen such poor golf!'

The Chinese businessman called out, 'Move it, time is money!'

The Catholic priest said, 'Here comes the greens keeper. Let's have a word with him. Excuse me, sir!' said the priest, 'What's wrong with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?'

The greens keeper replied, 'Oh, yes. That's a group of blind fire fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.'

The group fell silent for a moment.

The Catholic priest said, 'That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.'

The Indian doctor said, 'Good idea. I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there's anything that he might be able to do for them.'

The Chinese businessman replied, 'I think I'll donate $50,000 to the fire fighters union in honor of these brave souls!'

The Italian from New York said, 'Why the fuck can't they play at night?


Here we are in the Gulf of Mexico going through the worst catastrophe ever and this is what Sarah Palin has to say:

"After inheriting a good pro-development GOP plan that opened up both coasts for drilling, the Obama administration halted development ... and now we're gonna study, more study of the South Atlantic and parts of the Gulf of Mexico ... my goodness, folks, these areas have been studied to death ... I have seen so many, many studies! I say, let's send the White House this message: that, you know, we can save taxpayer time, save money and announce: there is oil and gas down there, and we can produce it safely and responsibly! We don't need more studies, we need more action! Because energy produced in America is security for America, and it is jobs for American workers, jobs that can't be outsourced. Let's drill baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall!"
Is there a clearer example of someone being wrong about something in public life - and refusing to acknowledge even a shred of reality? She really is the Bush-Cheney Republican party leader in so many ways.


Saturday, May 15, 2010


Been a while since I have had time to write. Between all my body maintenance appointments and rehearsing for last night's show, I have had a full plate.

Last night I worked the Harmony Corner Cafe. I had "stumbled" on the place when Kim and I sent in for lunch and met the owner, Greg Brice, who showed me the performance area in the back of the restaurant. I liked the set up as he has his own PA sytem and it would mean a minimum of set up.

As we discussed a date, Greg informed me that he had been an on the road musician for thirteen years as a piano player, singer, but wanted to settle down in Eau Claire. On the stage I noticed a spinet piano. When I asked about it, Greg informed me that he likes to get up and play for the customers during the dinner hour and before the entertainment starts. He asked if it would be all right if he sat in with me a bit when I performed.

I wasn't entirely comfortable with that, as we were dealing with an unknown, but I agreed.

Last night when I arrived to set up, I noticed two rather odd situations. Dead center on the stage was a full drum kit. The other odd situation was that Greg had two spotlights only - and both were trained on the area of the piano at the side of the stage.

I figured that sometime during set up, Greg would position those spot on center stage, where I would be working in the small area afforded me in front of the drums.

I was due to perform at 7 PM and about 6:30, Greg got up, accompanied by a drummer, Tyler. and he played tunes up until 7:PM.

I had set up my microphone and wanted him to plug into his PA and get a sound check but he negated that idea, saying I should use his microphone which was stationed at the piano.

At no time did he offer to re-adjust the spot lights. It became clear that they were there for a reason.

Somewhere in the middle of my first set, Greg announced that he was coming up to do a tune with me. I was so taken aback that I said nothing. We did a song or two together that we both kind of knew, and after an awkward pause, I thanked him and he left the stage and I finished my set.

Greg played all the way through my break and into the time set up for my second set.

I began my second set late, but was really starting to roll and had the audience with me. About four songs from the end of the set Greg again came up to the stage and said he was going to come up and sit in.

I told him that would be fine, but that I hadn't finished my second set yet and would he mind if i finished the set as I had rehearsed it the way i wanted to do it, but he insisted that he was coming up on stage, and he did so.

He also brought the drummer up with him and he did "Crying Time" and "King of he Road". At that point, I said good night, left the stage, and started packing away my gujitars.

Greg continued to play and almost the entire audience got up and left.

As I finished putting my gear away, Greg suddenly approached me and picked up my tip jar. "do you mind if I give the drummer some of the tips?" he asked. Completely dumb founded by this I mumbled a tentative "I suppose so", only to find my wife Kim wrenching the tip jar out of his hands, announcing: "I'll take this out to the car."

Early in the evening I had made a statement to the effect that it must be nice for Greg to have bought himself a place to play so he wouldn't have to go on the road.

Guess I inadvertently hit the nail on the head.

In thirty some years of entertaining I have never come across a situation like this.

Someone needs to tell Mr. Brice that if he is going to feature live entertainment, he had best let the people he brings in play the gig by themselves - otherwise he is going to be driving out not only customers, but performers as well.

Very strange.


Thursday, May 6, 2010


Larry Holbrooke is not your ordinary do-it-in-a-hurry and get it done workman.

But let me go back to the beginning. Anybody who knows me knows that I am addicted to television - I admit it. TV was my only friend on the road in many more motels than I care to recall.

So when we moved out to this beautiful lot, surrounded by yellow pine hundreds of years old, we weren't able to get a clear shot on the horizon. so I went the only way possible - UP. I bought a 40 foot wind mill, disasssembled, reassembled, and crane hoisted a 10 foot C Band dish (state of the art at the time) to perch 45 feet above ground and over the tops of the pines!
Last month we got the news. As if January 1, C Band will no longer exist.

So we went to Dish Network this time as last time I had a brief and unhappy relationship with DirecTV - including the crew that came out and supposedly installed the system. (I found out from Larry of Dish Network that they hadn't even grounded their system.

So having Larry Holbrooke install the dish system for us was the complete opposite of the treatment we had gotten from the DirecTV crew.

Larry had been out to install Dish Network once before, but after attempting to get readings on the correct azimuth, he concluded that there was no place we could install.

But now I knew we were up against it. One thing we hadn't tried was shooting the azimuth from the top of the wind mill. So out comes out comes good guy Larry. I say that because Larry Holbrooke is the kind of guy who looks you in the eye when he talks to you and you instantly feel like you are with an old friend.

I explained to him that this was our last hope for having any appreciable television out here. I pointed out the perch on the wind mill and I could tell that he wasn't too crazy about climbing up that high. But climb, he did.

Then the bad news. He couldn't get a clear shot even from 40 feet in the air! I could not believe it! Turns out the Dish Network satellites fly pretty low on our horizon.

So I am about to go into dispair when Larry suggests we check out a point way over on the far edge of the office property, almost beyond our land. He shoots it and tells me that he can, indeed install.

I watched this man work all day by himself and incredibly he wired up the dish to not only the house but to the office as well -- at $5.00 a month it was as no brainer -- He wired all that up, then he buried all that cable! I helped him a little - very little with these legs - and I was amazed with the precision and clockwork in laying the cable.

When it became apparent he would be here most of the day I offered to make him a pizza - my symbol of respect and love - and why not? this Larry really appreciated that Larry.

So I rolled out a 12 inch pepperoni for him and he had a late lunch about 2PM, which gave me a chance to sit and visit with him, person to person -- not installer to customer. He is a staunch environmentalist, both towards wild life and the land - he is a man of the country, living down Cleghorn way.

He has his own little pond that attracts wonderful wild life fowl including sand hill cranes. He has cats and ferrets. Anybody that has cats is okay by me.

So I really needed to write this up because I want everyone (especially Dish Network itself) tg know that Larry Holbrooke is a professional and warm human being.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Today is a day that I wish I had a complete command of the language so that I could say what I want to say and say it well. Today is Jonathan Heagle's birthday.

All day today I had flashes of memories with Jonathan as he grew.

For a time we lived out on Elk Lake and the memory flashes back to the day that Jon, then around 2-3 years of age, was riding in his child seat on the handle bars of my bike, we were speeding down a steep hill and a german shepherd came out of nowhere and threw himself into my bicycle.

Miraculously neither of us was injured severely. I had a goodly sized abrasion on my leg and Jon had a cheek abrasion.

Thereafter, whenever we passed the house where that dog lived, Jon would point and say: "german sheffer".

When he was four years old or so, he and I would get up early of a saturday morning and the two of us would walk on down to the Country Kitchen which was little more than a mile from the house.

I remember fondly organizing his sixth birthday for his first grade friends - sent them on a "treasure hunt" and enjoyed the children's excitement right along with them.

Then came a long long separation from my two boys. They went with their mother to Austin, Texas and were gone for two years. It was a very difficult time for all of us.

I was so proud of Jonathan all the way through high school. He had begun playing guitar and in the blink of an eye surpassed any and all of the knowledge that I have about the instrument. He totally dedicated himself to his instrument and he grew.

He attended jazz camp up on Shell Lake, hung with Geoffrey Keezer and lots of other good musicians. He finished his university years at a great music school, Indiana, University.

I so admire his courage of conviction in taking the step to move out to New York City to make his way as a player. That takes tremendous courage!

And over and over he has proved himself to be one of the best guitar players around.

Several times he has come home and stepped up and jammed with me and/or my bands. He and I have had some soul touching musical moments together.

He got his band nickname: "Circus" from having been chosen to tour nationwide with the Ringling Barnum Bailey Show Kaliedoscape.

Jon Heagle has turned into a really good man in so may ways. I miss him and wish I could be with him. Happy Birthday, Jon! I hope I live long enough to see you get your due as a guitarist. You are my number one picker, dude!