Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My "Message in a Bottle"

[At one point I removed this post....I should never have done that.  This belongs to the person it was written for; it does not belong to me]


My "Message in a Bottle"

I rarely do things like this. I realize the person this is intended for may never see this. That is ok. I still feel there is value in putting some of these thoughts down....


I hope, one day, you might read these words from my heart. A tear has been shed for every letter of this message.

I have one wish. I wish we had the chance to meet at a different time and place in our lives. I wish the only challenge we had faced was to make our worlds one. Neither of us was ready for what happened...what we shared. Simply captivated my heart from the moment we met.

It saddens me that our last words were not really even "goodbye." There were only intense emotions from both of us. I can only speak for forever altered me as a person. To this day, you still impact my life in different ways.

I am "me." I have always been "me." I interact with all of the same people in my life. Deep feelings and an impossible scenario were the "x-factors" we shared. I did everything I could to keep you in my life. I tried to "turn off" the love I felt for you. I was never able to do so.

You told me I was not strong enough when I realized I had to let you go. That I should be able to control my emotions. Other times you said to me that love can't be controlled. In truth, I learned, over time, I did not want to control what I was feeling. It was so beautiful and felt so true.

Please know it took all of my strength to let go of someone that came to mean so much to me. I needed to be able to move on with my life though. Your heart belonged to another. I had to honor that.

You exposed me to Paulo Coelho's writings. This is from "By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept" -

"In real life, love has to be possible. Even if it is not returned right away, love can only survive when the hope exists that you will be able to win over the person you desire.

Anything else is fantasy."

Fantasy can only sustain one for so long...

I meant what I said. I would have moved mountains to make you mine. It was not my place to do so though.

There is another quote that was shared with me recently. It is appropriate to share as well -

"If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you." ~ A.A. Milne

I have not forgotten you...I NEVER will.

:)(: Sunshine - Zawsze będziesz miał miejsce w moim sercu :)(:

I hope you find peace and happiness in whatever you do.

I wish...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Living Our Lives....With a Sense of Urgency

A response from a friend triggered some of what I am going to share. I believe we can all identify with the scenario I describe below.

An old friend of mine and I have said we would like to get together some time. We would both like to get a cup of coffee and catch up a bit. A challenge friends some times face is transitioning intent into action. In this example, the challenge we face is to make this meeting actually happen. There are times in life it becomes easy to let good intentions remain just that...good intentions. There is nothing wrong with that. Our lives are fuller when good intentions are fully realized though. As I told this friend earlier, we will make this meeting happen.

Other recent events shaped this piece as well. The Chardon High School shootings have affected entire communities directly and indirectly. In my small corner of the world, I know two sets of parents that had children in school that morning. I cannot begin to understand what each of these friends, and their families, went through that morning...or what they continue to go through. It warms my heart to see how Chardon, and surrounding communities, have rallied to help one another begin the healing process.

Another recent event hit "close to home" quite literally. It was revealed that a very troubled man lived in our condo complex. This man took the life of another before taking his own life. If we stepped outside of the garage we could look at this man's condo. The community mailbox was just a matter of feet from the windows of this man's home. For a day or two it was a challenge to feel safe...even while at home.

Events like these lead me to be quite reflective of late. I find that I ask myself the following questions on a regular basis:

+ Am I making a difference in "my world" and in the lives of those around me?
+ Am I living life with an appropriate sense of urgency?

The answers to these questions are important. I believe these questions are never going to have concrete answers though. I believe re-visiting these question frequently can be just as important as the answers themselves.

There are days I "measure up" so-to-speak. There are other days I may fall short. I do my best to "act" according to where I am with things at that given point in time.

To close, the most important thought darting through my mind is this - none of us is promised tomorrow. Are we truly living our lives with that thought in mind? Are we placing an appropriate sense of urgency in how we live our how we love those around us? Are we truly grateful for the blessings in our lives? These are not easy questions. I believe a great deal of insight can be gained by reflecting on the answers though.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

[written in September 2011]

It is my hope that anyone that counts me as a friend will take a few moments to read this...

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month. I do my best to refrain from "soap box speeches." Some topics are too damn important though.

There are a couple statements I can make. I offer absolutely no qualifications or disclaimers when I state these things:

+ EVERY person reading this note can potentially save the life of a loved one. Life-saving is not limited to military, police, fire or medical vocations.

+ EVERY person reading this note has been touched by suicide. Sadly, many reading this have lost multiple family members and/or friends to suicide.

Some of the most intelligent people I know struggle with one mental illness or another - bipolar, moderate to severe depression, mood or personality disorders, etc. A strong mind can be a dual-edged sword. A strong mind can help us achieve great things in life. The same mind can be equally effective at destroying a person from within though.

A harsh reality still exists in our society - a stigma towards those with mental illness. Some of the common sentiments one might hear are:

+ "That person is weak-minded"
+ "So and so needs to just suck it up...get over it"
+ "That person looks fine on the outside..he/she must be doing ok"

The diseases that drive one to attempt suicide are physical. These physical ailments can be amplified by external events. These are facts...not conjecture. There are various regimens one needs to maintain to re-gain control of his/her life - counseling, possible medication, support from loved ones, etc.

Everyone would agree that diabetes is another physical ailment. It also requires a person to do certain things to maintain control of his/her ailment. I wonder how often people approach diabetics and tell them to "just suck it up???"

I thought a recent movie "The Beaver" did an excellent job of portraying the struggles of a man with severe mental illness. It depicts the lengths to which a person was willing to "take things" because of his struggles. I strongly recommend this movie to anyone interested in gaining additional insight into mental illness. Additionally, "A Beautiful Mind" did a wonderful job of depicting a person with paranoid schizophrenia.

Another important message from the movie dealt with the impact of mental illness. Mental illness affects a person's entire social "world" - family, friends, etc. The person is not isolated on an "island." The impact is felt by all and not just the person with mental illness.

The most important thing I want to say is love your loved ones. If you notice someone withdrawing, reach out to them. Let that person know you are there for them. Do not try to "fix" that person or solve all of his/her problems; instead, LISTEN and do your best to empathize with what your loved one is feeling. The other things can be dealt with over time.

Live Music - Reminds Us We Are Alive

[written in September 2011]

I have been to a couple concerts the past month or two. There would be stretches in my life where years would pass between going to hear live music. I need to make sure that does not happen again. Compared with most people, I have been to very few concerts. I believe I have had a chance to see some of the best entertainers to ever take the stage though.

Attending the shows recently reminded me how powerful live music can be. As I think back to the concerts I have attended, there is almost always a single moment/song that stands out for each concert attended. I am going to share some of those moments. These are not listed in any particular order -

+ Paul McCartney - Cleveland Municipal Stadium - Flowers in the Dirt Tour - First, I have never been involved with illicit drugs. The cloud of smoke hanging in the stadium was from "cigarette substitutes." I probably caught a secondary

The signature moment for me was the entire stadium singing "Hey Jude." It still moves me to think about that.

+ Don Henley - Blossom Music Center - End of the Innocence Tour - The song that comes to mind is "New York Minute." The imagery and cold, bright light used during that song always stood out in my mind.

Another moment was the playing of "Hotel California."

+ Elton John/Billy Joel - Three Rivers Stadium - It was not a particular song for this concert. It was seeing those "piano men" facing one another, dueling on pianos.

+ Genesis - Ohio Stadium - We Can't Dance Tour - I really enjoyed this show. The imagery used for "Drive the Last Spike" always stuck with me though.

+ Foo Fighters - Quicken Loans Arena - Wasting Light Tour - I never had a chance to see Nirvana. It was nice to at least see a member of the group (Dave Grohl) perform with his post-Nirvana group. My favorite part of this show was Dave Grohl playing three songs solo on an acoustic guitar.

+ Sara Bareilles - Cleveland House of Blues - Kaleidoscope Heart Tour - I really enjoyed seeing Sara play to maybe several hundred people at The House of Blues. There really was not a particular moment from this show. I listened to Kaleidoscope Heart countless times during the past year. I identified with several of the songs from that album.

+ Shawn Mullins - LC Pavilion - Soul's Core Tour - Shawn actually opened for Hootie and the Blowfish. I enjoyed his act more than the main act. He plays folk-style ballads that kind of lull one into self-reflection.

The memorable song from his set was "Lullaby."

Everything I Needed to Learn About Life...

...I learned from the Tour de Donut (or any "distance" bike ride)

First, many of my biking pictures have me wearing the same looking orange mesh shirt. This is not my lucky shirt or anything. I have three of these shirts. They were left over from a recent golf outing.

A number of things came to mind during my ride. While these things related to today's race, they can also relate to life. One of the things I thought about were goals. I initially thought it would be interesting to try and eat a dozen donuts (total) during the ride. I realized this was not realistic after eating my first donut. I adjusted my goal to four donuts. I ended up eating three.

Goals, in life, are important. We should "shoot for the stars." We need to accept we may need to adjust our goals to something more "attainable" though. It is great to hold ourselves to high standards. We should not label unsuccessful attempts as failures. Instead these attempts should be viewed as learning experiences.

Another thing I thought about dealt with pacing myself during the ride. The bike ride was a race. I simply wanted to focus on doing my best though. I did not pay attention to how many riders passed me or how many people I passed. That is not where my focus was. I focused on finding a pedaling rhythm that felt comfortable. I was alone for much of the ride. In some ways that was very peaceful...almost transcendental.

I believe in the same approach to life. It is important for each person to find his/her own unique rhythm. In essence, we need to "march to our own drummer." It is easy to focus on what others are doing or on what others think we should or should not do. Placing too much emphasis on these things can cause us to lose track of who we are as individuals though.

Another thing was striking about the race. Many age ranges, body types and ethnicities were represented. There were competitive riders, novice riders and everything in-between. Some of the bikes may have only cost $100.00; I am sure
there were numerous bikes that cost $5,000+. We all completed the same course though. In that respect, anyone that completed the course was an equal.

The Long and Winding Road

This piece is inspired by my recent trip to Tennessee. The proper mood has been set as I start writing this. I am drinking coffee from a Great Smoky Mountains Railroad mug. The coffee is flavored with Blackberry/Ginger sugar crystals purchased in Kentucky.

Different aspects of my trip to Tennessee reminded me of the path my life has taken since last Fall. In some instances, there are parallels. In other respects, there are differences between the two.

My journey began on a cool, gray morning. There was a slight drizzle in NE Ohio. As I traveled south, the sky started to brighten. The clouds were no longer gray. Eventually, blue skies appeared. White, billowy clouds dotted the sky. The temperature improved more than 30 degrees during the course of my trip.

The transition of weather during my trip reminded me of the past several months of my life. I gave up my former life for a chance at a more fulfilling life. Thunder, lightning and basketball-sized hail aptly describe the "weather" I faced initially. Over time, the clouds have been lifting. The hail has subsided. There is still rain at times. Rays of sunshine peaking through the clouds produce occasional rainbows. I know things will continue to head in a positive direction.

I am grateful for the chance I had to spend an extended period of time in Tennessee with my brother. I am also grateful for his hospitality. I thought of this time as a "personal sabbatical." I did not know what I expected from my time away. I think that revealed itself over time. I felt my soul had a chance to "breathe." I am not sure how else to describe it. I spent quality time with my brother, tried new things (I already wrote a short piece about "firsts") and enjoyed whatever direction we took in terms of exploring the area.

I am working to maintain the same outlook in my life. I do not know what the future holds for me. I look forward to finding out though. I remind myself that the journey is every bit as important as the destination. The little things in life have always held special meaning for me. That has been even more pronounced the past several months. I cannot adequately describe how much seeing mountain waterfalls, running the "Tail of the Dragon", enjoying the vistas from the mountains, etc. has meant to me.

Another thing struck me as I made my journey to Tennessee. I passed within a couple hundred yards of where my brother used to live and only a matter of miles from our condominium. The Columbus area was home to both of us for some time. For years, Central Ohio has been a "focal point" of sorts for our family. Mark and I both still have good friends in the Columbus area. The city is no longer a focus of our family though. In a way, I was just passing through another metropolitan area to see where Mark currently lives.

I have also gained more appreciation for music the past several months. I find myself really "listening" to the lyrics of songs and not just hearing them. I have enjoyed listening to Sarah Bareilles, Lifehouse, The Corrs, Vanessa Carlton, Jim Brickman and countless other artists. There are certain songs that "click" as favorites for whatever reason.

Music also played a role during my trip to Tennessee. Songs on both my trip to Tennessee and my trip back to Ohio reminded me of a dear friend. On the way to Tennessee the song I heard was "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley. The song I heard returning to Ohio was "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon. These songs are examples of how music has gained new meaning in my life.

My time away allowed me to reflect on many areas of my life. I do not know exactly where the path before me leads. I look forward to the journey though.

"Firsts" - The Spice of Life

During my recent trip to Tennessee, North Carolina, etc. (May 2011) I found myself experiencing a number of "firsts." Some of the "firsts" listed below are serious in nature. Some of them are humorous. They all carry varying degrees of meaning though.

Here are some of the "firsts" from my trip. They are not listed in any particular order:

+ I took my first tram ride (Ober Gatlinburg.)
+ I turned 40 for the first time (guess it will be a "last" as
+ I ate my first antelope steak (it did not taste like chicken) It was tasty...reminded me of a cross between venison and pork.
+ I tried some exotic animal jerkies for the first time (I wrote another note about that.)
+ I experienced my first noteworthy mountain waterfalls (Bald River Falls and Mingo Falls.)
+ I went on my first train ride (Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.)
+ For the first time, I sat inside/on vehicles that were used in a movie or TV series (One of the General Lees from "Dukes of Hazzard" and the Trans Am from "Smokey and the Bandit."
+ I ate cheesy grits for the first time.
+ I watched my first episode of "Squidbillies." (I find myself saying the phrase "pinecone party liquor" from time-to-time.)
+ For the first time, I bought a new Blu-ray DVD "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I" not knowing when I will actually view it for the first time (there is a back-story related to this one.)
+ I witnessed moonshine being made for the first time.
+ I tried a different preparation of veal for the first time. I usually order Veal Parmigiana or Veal Marsala. I tried Veal Limone. I really enjoyed it.
+ I went for multiple rides on a stretch of road (The Tail of the Dragon - 300+ curves over an 11 mile route) that blew my mind.

I spent some time time thinking about these "firsts."

Being deliberate in experiencing "firsts" helps keep life interesting. It is easy to stick with what we know and are familiar with. We may miss out on other things in life if we never deviate from our comfort zones though.

There can be risk involved with experiencing "firsts" As Chaucer once said, "You can't get anywhere unless you're willing to take a risk." There are times taking risks is easier said than done. Generally speaking, rewards seem to outweigh risks though.

I will always be a work-in-progress when it comes to experiencing "firsts." I hope to continue improving in this area

When is the last time you experienced a "first?"


I am going to post some more of my writings shortly...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

May start posting here again...

I have not posted here lately. I still write from time-to-time. I tend to post my notes on Facebook now. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Final Update - Oregon Trip [December 2010]

So...I have been on hiatus...or something like that. I figured it is time to finish the re-cap of the Oregon trip. Fair warning...this will be a long post.

An alternate title for this could have been "pig, pig, pig....GOOSE!!"

We figured it would be best to start our day with a hearty breakfast. We were going to be on the road most of the day. My brother came across a restaurant that served bacon waffles, sausage waffles and ham waffles...ummmm...I GUESS we will try that place.

We decided we were not satisfied with the prospect of our waffles containing just one meat. We figured it never hurts to ask for something "off-menu." We asked our waitress if we could have all three meats in our waffles. She checked and was able to accommodate our request. Our waffles contained bits of ham, sausage and bacon. The "triple-pigged" waffles were a culinary delight.

Here is my brother showing off one of these bad boys:


Our plans for the day included visiting The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. The museum is located in McMinnville, OR.

First, this is an absolute must-visit for any aviation or space flight buffs. It is not possible to see this unique combination of exhibits anywhere else in the world. The museum is split into multiple buildings. There are separate buildings for the aviation and space museums.

We started in the aviation museum. The pièce de résistance of the museum is a mammoth airplane - The "Spruce Goose." This plane was featured in the movie - "The Aviator."

The are no words, pictures or videos that can adequately convey the size of the plane. A couple things are truly amazing. It was built over 60 years ago and is made of wood. I included a number of photos below.

Here is a plaque that talks about the construction of the plane -

The following picture does a good job of providing a feel for the size of the plane. My brother and I are over six feet tall -

Each wing housed four engines -

The tail fin was enormous -

This picture was taken from inside the plane -

There are plenty of other exhibits spread throughout the museum. I included some random pictures.

This is a replica of the plane used by the Wright Brothers -

I do not recall what type of plane this was. I thought this was an interesting perspective looking into the air intake area.

Staring down the barrel of a machine gun -

A picture of one of my favorite air show planes - a P51 "Mustang" -

I loved the art on the nose of this plane -

There were lots of great exhibits in the air museum that are not shown here.

Ok...we were ready to visit the space museum. On the walk from one building to the next, I saw Uranus... (I know at least one person will laugh when they read that)

Anyways, the space museum contained some great exhibits as well. I included a couple of my favorites.

It is possible to get "up close and personal" with a SR-71 Blackbird. This plane looks "fast" just sitting there -

A Titan rocket was on display as well.

There were also displays related to both the Moon and Mars landings. The space museum is also awaiting the arrival of a retired space shuttle.

We ended the day in Pacific City @ the Pelican Brewpub. I shared about that experience in a prior post.

There were some other minor adventures after this. My posts hit most of the the main points though. A big thanks to my brother and good friend for making the trip possible. It was a blast guys!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Ripple Effect

I have been reflecting on many things lately. This imagery/concept came to mind when I messaged a friend the other day.

When we look at our lives, do we cause/re-transmit ripples or simply deflect/absorb the energy of the ripples that come our way? I don't believe there should be an intent one way or another. It is more a measure of how we conduct ourselves in our relationships.

Many things can cause ripples. When I refer to ripples, I am referring to how we affect others in our lives. To me, the definition is open-ended. Ripples could be things like the following:

+ openly expressing yourself - talking, writing, singing, etc.
+ selfless actions - supporting those in your life, sacrificing for others, setting a good example for others, etc.

Many of these things involve taking a risk. I think the old adage "nothing ventured...nothing gained" applies. Are we willing to take risks knowing we could positively impact someone in our life? Again, this should not be the focus. Instead, think of whether our action(s) COULD positively impact someone else. I think this could then be one of many factors in our internal decision-making process. It should not be the determining factor though.

I hope we all can find a way to make ripples in our lives. We all have an opportunity to make a profound impact on others. You may never fully comprehend the impact your ripples have on those around you. That is why it is so important to occasionally "roll the dice."

What are you going to do the next time a ripple comes your way?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Incomplete Roadmap of Life

Some recent discussions with a friend :)(: helped shift the focus I have on my life. I notice the scope of things switching from struggling with recent events to stepping back and reflecting on the "bigger picture." For the first time in years, I truly feel the sky can be the limit. On one hand this is exhilarating. On the other hand it is humbling to realize I did not always believe this to be the case.

When I look back over the course of my life, I realize I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how/why certain things happened. This can be constructive to a point. It can be detrimental as well. There are certain events in our lives that either cannot be explained/fully understood or are not meant to be fully comprehended.

One of the benchmark moments in my life happened when I was twelve years old. I remember the day I heard my father took his life by way of a drug overdose. For many years I felt I needed to arrive at concrete answers as to how and/or why this happened. This also rocked any faith I had in God. I struggled with questions like "How can a loving God take a child's parent away so early in a child's life?" or "How does a loving God allow someone to suffer to the point they choose death over life?"

My faith journey is just that. It is a journey. Over the years I came to realize that many of my questions will never be answered. It comes down to whether I am able to truly acknowledge that or not. If not, I could spend a lifetime searching for answers that do not exist.

There are other traps we can fall into:

+ dwelling on past choices
+ ruminating about future possibilities

We do not want to discount our past or approach the future haphazardly. Instead, we need to arrive at a balance. If we get too hung up on the past (or the future) we will not be able to experience the present.

I have heard the phrase "when one door closes another one opens." It is a simple statement. It captures the essence of our experiences though. We can either embrace our current and future opportunities or focus our energy on what could have been, wonder why something happened, etc.. I think the same could be said about the relationships in our lives.

Our world has gotten much smaller thanks to the Internet. Do we embrace the opportunities offered by this "smaller world" or limit ourselves to older notions when it comes to the relationships in our lives? If we do not approach things with an open mind we might miss a chance to help others, learn more about ourselves, etc..

I recently had some in-depth conversations with a friend online. Should I discount the impact this person might have on my life simply because we do not live across town from one another? We talked about this. We could both expend time and energy trying to understand how/why our paths crossed. During our conversation we agreed it made more sense to celebrate the fact we were each impacting the other person's life.

I think each person has to find his/her own way. Some approaches that work for me may not work for someone else. There are not necessarily right or wrong choices either. I believe keeping an open mind is the best way to fully realize the possibilities that might present themselves in our lives.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Treasures of My Life

A number of things have happened recently. I feel compelled to capture some of them.

Some people place value on exotic cars, immaculate homes or other "things." Sure, those "things" are nice but pale in comparison to the people in our lives.

Yesterday, there was a very dangerous natural gas situation in a nearby town - population of about 3,000. I know people that live there. One friend in particular came to mind. I went to high school and college with her. I panicked and ended up finding her family's phone number. I was able to establish contact with her. Her and her family are fine. A nearby home was badly burned though.

I have been thinking about another group of friends as the Tribe's Home Opener Day approaches. Somehow I found myself hanging out with a bunch of pharmacists...not that there is anything wrong with I met these "gentlemen" through my former appreciation of craft beer. We traded some stellar beers, partook in some Fantasy baseball and have hit a number of Home Openers the past several years.

Our Home Opener experience always includes spending way too much time (and money) at one of my fave Cleveland locales - Great Lakes Brewing Company. We have had some memorable experiences the past few years. One year, 12 or 13 adults "tetrised" themselves into a mini-van (video of that is available.) The van rode the rear axle for the short journey. Another year, we bummed a ride from some complete strangers. It turns out one of the older women in the vehicle had brain surgery just months earlier. They became part of our "story" as we did theirs.

My thoughts drift to another friend from high school that re-located to Colorado last year. I relish the fact that we have become closer friends over time and across greater distances. Friendships can overcome any temporal or spatial limitations if we let them.

I think of another friend I am getting to know in Italy. I don't exactly know how/why our paths have crossed. To be honest it doesn't matter. Across the span of the Atlantic Ocean, I feel like I stumbled upon a kindred spirit.

As for my family, I need to borrow a line from Lou Gehrig's farewell speech:

"I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth."

They have been with me through everything. Each member of my family is truly a blessing. I would not be here today if not for their love and support. Words cannot express how much they mean to me.

I may not be in constant contact with everyone in my life. It will never mean I care an iota less about them. There are countless other things that could be recounted here. The important thing to note is that I would not be the person I am without each and every one of these people in my life.

My family and friends are the platinum, gold and silver in my life. I will leave desiring/appreciating chunks of metal to others. As for thanks.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day Two - Oregon Trip [12-10-2010]

The saga continues...

Part of of our adventure included a "gaming" component.

There has been a standing joke about an old Nintendo fishing game "The Black Bass." We enjoyed messing around with this game about 20 years ago. My brother brought his Nintendo and the game to Portland. This was entertaining in and of itself (please see comment in previous post about the low threshold required to amuse us.)

Our friend stepped it up a notch. He went into another room and unveiled Rappala's fishing game for the Xbox 360. The game included a controller that was a shortened version of a rod with an open-face reel. We had fun messing around with the newer game.

Our friend also gave my brother and I a year-long Xbox Live subscription for Christmas. We stepped through the process of setting up the Xbox Live accounts. Each person is assigned a system-generated username. My brother's default username was pretty funny -LopsidedErmine4 (basically means crooked weasel.) I am not sure which is more funny...the username itself or the fact LopsidedErmine1 through 3 were previously assigned.

My friend and I also created my brother's avatar. We thought it was spot-on. He decided to change it though.

On to other things...

We decided to grab lunch at a "greasy spoon" in the area - Helvetia Tavern. I have been here both times I visited Oregon. My brother has been here numerous times as well. There are a couple things that set this diner apart from others.

First, there are hundreds of hats hanging from the ceiling. I am not sure what the back-story is. Feel free to make up your own.

The other thing that sets this place apart is their food. Their burger, fries and onion rings are great. They also offer a mayo-based dipping sauce they call "Goop." Here is a "beauty shot" of one of our meals:

After we finished eating, our friend took us to another attraction in the area. The following are pictures of an all-wood train tressel that is still in use. It reminded me of the same architecture utilized in the construction of wooden roller coasters.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode...triple-pigged waffles and a very large wooden waterfowl...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Mother of All Storms

I am going to step away from the posting of day-to-day accounts from my recent trip to Oregon.

First, I realize some people may not understand what I am going to post. I am at peace with that. There are times in life where seemingly unorthodox things need to be done for one to move forward. I think this post will demonstrate it is possible to have a transcendental moment while sharing a beer with good friends.

Some background information is needed for context. Up until a couple years ago I had a passion for craft beer. I gave that up due to medication I am currently taking. The circumstances of my last beer were not positive. I had not discussed this with with many people but felt driven to perform a "do-over" of my last beer. I privately made a pact with myself that I would do this if I ever made it out to Pelican Brewpub again.

I did something similar to this with a couple friends at Great Lakes Brewing recently. I had a single snifter of Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout. It was important for me to have positive vibes related to my last beer(s.)

Back to Pelican Brewpub...there are several reasons I wanted to do this at Pelican:

+ The brewpub is literally located on the beach. The scenery is awesome.
+ I knew I would be with one of my best friends. As it turns out I was with two of my best friends.

+ Pelican brews some of the best beer I have ever had.
+ The food is also great!

I did not tell my brother or friend about this initially. I originally planned on ordering a Tsunami Stout. I noticed an advertisement on our table that promoted a vertical tasting of Pelican's Barleywine. I caught them off-guard when I ordered the vertical:

The six samples were about the equivalent of a pint. I sipped on these all evening. Four of the samples were four different "vintages" of Pelican's Barleywine. The last two I tried were Pelican's Barleywine aged in Bourbon barrels. They named their barrel-aged beer "Mother of All Storms."

My favorites were the 2005 Stormwatcher's Barleywine and the 2009 Mother of All Storms. They were all well-crafted beers though.

I didn't realize it at the time. Upon further reflection, I realize I had the perfect beer for my last beer - The Mother of All Storms. Thanks to my family and friends I have been able to weather "The Mother of All Storms" the past couple of years.

I will never forget that night. Thanks again to my brother for making it all possible.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day One - Oregon Trip [12-09-2010]

Time to recount my Oregon adventure. My brother was kind enough to fly us to Portland, Oregon recently. We stayed with a good friend of ours. History dictated this trip would be an "adventure." We were not disappointed.

The trip consisted of many "firsts." This was the first time I flied First Class. It was nice to have the extra leg room and attention from the flight staff.

My journey started in Northeast Ohio. I drove down to Columbus the day of our flight. We were able to navigate the security screening without any problems.

We boarded the plane on-time. Here is a picture of the frozen tarmac at Columbus:

Unfortunately, an hour and a half later our progress was limited. The scenery hadn't changed much:

I wish our conversation was recorded during the delay. Based on our observations, we concluded an engineer was required to pull the Nintendo Flight Control System cartridge out of the bay, spray it with canned air and re-seat the cartridge. We were able to leave after an issue with one of the drains was taken care of.

Our connecting flight went through Denver. I tried to arrange a get-together with a friend of ours. Unfortunately, our friend was not able to meet up with us. It turns out we would have missed meeting up with her anyways. We originally had more than enough time to account for any delays. We barely made our connecting flight though. We were in the Denver's airport for about 4 minutes. That time was spent getting to our gate (5 gates away.)

We arrived in Portland on-time. We decided to put the trip into gear and hit a wing joint our friend recommended - Fire on the Mountain. There was an interesting back-story to this place. Relatives of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, generally considered the birthplace of buffalo wings, own this establishment. The story is told on a wall in the restaurant (please excuse the glare):

We tried a raspberry habanero sauce that was solid.

Another thing that was interesting was the available desserts. The Pacific Northwest is known for organic foods, etc. Apparently there is a group of people that like to batter and deep fry odd things. The restaurant had some unique offerings We did not get the deep-fried Twinkies but did try a couple things.

What do you think these are?:

Care to venture a guess as to what these are?:

Hint - both of these are dessert items. Give up???

The top one is deep-fried Nutter Butters. The bottom image is deep-fried Oreos. This is the first time I tried anything like this. The Oreos were awesome. The Nutter Butters weren't bad either.

Another thing that entertained us (mind doesn't take much) was the tabletops. Various "odd" headlines from publications, like "The Onion", were underneath a Plexiglas tabletop. Here are a couple examples:

That is enough for the first day. Please stay tuned for the Adventures of the Black Bass and other tales of wonder....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Palette of Our Life

It has been awhile since I posted. Time to remedy that I guess.

Virtually all aspects of my life are in flux. Support from family and friends is helping me keep things moving in the right direction. I struggle with relaying how much the support is truly appreciated.

There are various thoughts that continue to cross my mind.

I have been thinking about all of the people I have encountered during my journey. The same mental (or abstract) imagery keeps surfacing. A blank canvas comes to mind. Our being is represented by general, non-precise pencil markings - an outline of sorts. The painting comes to life throughout our lifetime. There are those in our lives that have a positive impact on us - represented by bright, vibrant colors. There are also those that may have a a negative impact on us - represented by dull, dark or neutral colors.

A painting consisting of all bright (or all dark) colors will appear to be somewhat one dimensional. It would be difficult to appreciate the beauty of the image without the contrast offered by a blend of vibrant and darker colors. I think the same can be said of our lives. We are not able to truly appreciate our successes unless we have confronted and overcome challenges along the way.

Another point to consider is that we will never know which brush stroke(s) truly brings our "painting" to life. Our "painting" is always a work-in-progress. It is continually tweaked as we make our way through life. Some of the people we interact with in life are going to make pronounced brush strokes. Other interactions may result in subtle brush strokes. Trying to identify which interaction is more important would be fruitless though. Each interaction adds to the painting - or who we are as a person.

The last point may be the most important. Our "painting" will have imperfections. That is a foregone conclusion. There may be visible brush stokes, globs of paint, etc. To me, these imperfections do not detract from the painting. Instead, these imperfections make each "painting" unique. Each person's life is unique and the resulting "painting" should be considered a masterpiece in its own right.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

To my fellow Cleveland sports fans...this wall's for you!

I haven't posted lately. Things have been busy with the Holidays and what not. We also moved into a condo a couple of months ago. That is a lead-in to the rest of this post.

I was given the "nod" to do some decorating in our office. I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity.

I have been a fan of Cleveland sports teams the past few decades. Through the years I have also collected sports cards and memorabilia. I set aside cards from the Indians, Browns and Cavs. I would tell myself I was going to do something with them...well...I finally did something with them. This is dedicated to all of the Cleveland sports out there.


Do you know recognize who Beau Allred, Lloyd (World) B. Free or Chip Banks are?

Does the mention of Jerry Dybzinski, Tree Rollins or Hanford Dixon bring back any memories?

How about Len Barker, John Bagley or Don Cockroft...anything???

What about "Gentle" Ben Poquette, Joe Charboneau or Brian Sipe?

If you recognize even half of these names...well...please accept my are a Cleveland sports fan.

Are there any Michael Jordan cards on the wall? No. How about Dan Marino? He isn't on the wall either. Derek

You might wonder "Who made the cut to be included on the wall?" The requirements were simple...the players were in a Cleveland jersey OR the card contained a logo from one of the Cleveland sports teams. Most of the 1,000 plus cards are Indians players. There are some Brown and Cavs mixed in as well. There are original cards from the 1970s and on. There are also reprints of cards for some of the "Old School" Tribe.

The first picture captures the "mosaic" look of the wall:

There are some close-ups of random sections below. The following pictures may take a moment to load after clicking on them -

All together now..."There is always next season."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

There is always hope...

Fair warning - this will probably be a long post.

For some reason certain arbitrary passages of time seem to resonate with us. The span of one year fits in to this category. We recognize "anniversaries" in marriage, in the workplace, etc. Other events can be viewed from this perspective as well.

So much has happened during the past year. A year ago, to the day, a shell of my being was in so much pain that I made an attempt on my life. I struggled for so long I felt I couldn't endure any more pain. Leading up to that point so much energy was expended to maintain a facade that everything was ok. I needed to reach out but found myself withdrawing more and more as time passed.

There was a part of me that swore I would never attempt suicide. I spent most of my life dealing with the aftermath of my Dad taking his life. Unfortunately, the more I struggled, the harder it became to approach things rationally.

No part of me condones suicide. The following will contain reflections of that morning. I am not saying what I experienced that morning was right, wrong or otherwise. I am simply trying to describe aspects of the darkest day of my life.

I struggled with suicidal ideation throughout last summer. Until that day, no actions had been taken. The attempt wasn't something that was planned. Early that morning I probably couldn't have predicted what would transpire that day.

There were extended struggles leading up to that day. It would take too long to explain those, in detail, in a post like this. Around mid-morning I began spiraling downward. I was consumed by despair and was not able to deal with the intense emotions I was experiencing. At some point I gave in and lost the will to live.

There were numerous times I could have called for help or stepped back from the situation. I found that I wasn't able to though. I remember my actions were very deliberate that morning. I gathered a few prescription bottles and a large bottle of ibuprofen. I set all of the bottles out and took the caps off and just stared into the containers. A few minutes passed before I began taking more pills than I could count. I also remember writing a note to my wife.

A strange feeling set in. Once the decision was made I felt at peace. I am not sure how to describe it. I felt as if I was in the eye of a hurricane that had battered me throughout my life. I remember taking at least two handfuls of pills. After that I leaned back in my recliner and covered up with a blanket and just closed my eyes. I didn't expect to ever open my eyes again.

From that point, a period of sixteen hours passed before I could remember anything. I learned, after the fact, that I called my wife after taking the pills. I don't have any re-collection of ever doing that. There is so much more that could be said about what happened that day and shortly after. I am going to move forward though.

It was a challenge to learn how to live again. My family and friends are the reason I was able to make it back. Their support through everything meant the world to me. There were also some special people, from both my inpatient stay and outpatient program I attended, that had a great impact on me. I know how difficult it was to return to a life I once wanted to escape. I have the deepest respect for other survivors that have made the same transition.

One thing I am learning to truly accept is that life is not perfect and never will be. The same can be said about me as a person. In the past I might have viewed personal flaws or weaknesses in a negative light. We are all a blend of strengths and weaknesses. These are the things that make us who we are. An analogy came to mind - at first glance, one may think a steak is of poor quality due to marbling of fat in the cut of meat. Once the steak has been prepared we realize the perceived imperfection (fat) actually adds flavor to the steak.

For anyone that is struggling, please reach out before things progress too far. There are countless resources available to assist with the challenges of life. For those that count me as a friend, please consider me as one of your resources.

We also need to reach out to those in our lives that may be struggling. Depressed individuals tend to isolate themselves from those that matter most. It may be necessary to draw the individual out.

I realize I have been given a second chance. I feel compelled to share what I have gone through in case any part of my story can help someone else.

Please remember - there is always hope. It is up to each of us to believe in that hope even when we are facing the most difficult challenges in our lives.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who we were...who we are...who we will become

First, this is dedicated to Painesville Riverside's Class of 1989. Last weekend reminded me how special all of you are. I wish nothing but the best to all of you. I look forward to when we can all do this again!

I don't really know what direction this is going to take. I guess that could be said of anything in life. The context of this post involves my reflecting on the past. The catalyst for many of these thoughts was our 20th High School Class Reunion which took place last weekend. The months leading up to the Reunion, and the Reunion itself, were full of enlightening moments about myself and those I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years.

One of the first things that came to mind was the quality of the individuals I got to know in junior and senior high. For lack of a better way to describe this - there was an abundance of "good" people in our class. Over time I have been able to appreciate this fact even more.

We had a decent sized class of around 300 people. During our years in school, that was our world. It did not seem like we would ever be exposed to a larger community than that. Until that point in our lives, we were all part of each other's "story." That changed after graduation [cue Don Henley's End of the Innocence.] Some of us went to college right after high school, others took a slightly different route before going to college, some started families, some joined a branch of the Armed Forces, etc. Each of our paths lead to the creation of our own unique story.

As each year passed, we started to lose contact with one another. Some of us remained in contact with certain classmates longer than we did with others. Our focus turned towards our lives, our families and our futures. Even though we may have lost contact with one another, it didn't mean we cared any less about each other or didn't still have an impact on one another. There were countless times through the years where I would think about this classmate or that classmate. I would wonder how they were doing, what they were up to and hope that life was treating them well. Occasionally, we would get a chance to re-connect with classmates here and there. It was always such a great thing to hear how someone's story was evolving.

A couple of years ago, I tried to look up a classmate of ours on the 'Net. I thought I might be able to find an e-mail address to send this person a message. Instead of finding contact information, I found an obituary for someone that shared the same name I was searching for. I read the obituary over and realized this wasn't a person sharing the same name as our classmate but was our classmate. I knew the names of Derek's family and was in disbelief once I saw the names of his parents.

Once we started to re-connect for the Reunion, we realized we had lost a number of classmates over the past several years. In my opinion, our Reunion Planning Committee did their memories justice. The moment of silence for each of our classmates was profound. The murmurs of discussions that were heard during other announcements were no longer audible. The slides for each classmate were simple in design. Each slide consisted of a classmate's name and a picture from when they walked the halls of Riverside. This was a time where less was definitely more.

I remember poking around on Facebook last Fall and finding the Class Reunion group. There were only a handful of classmates in the group at that time. It was so nice to touch base with those that were there. By the time of our Reunion, the group had grown to almost 100 classmates. The group helped serve as an ice-breaker well before the actual Reunion took place.

I enjoyed exchanging messages with classmates I already knew. I also felt blessed to get an opportunity to get to know other classmates. By the end of some of the exchanges, promises of hugs (at the Reunion) were made to one another. As far as I know, I kept up my end of things in those scenarios.

I never expected the turnout we had at the mixer at Capp's on Friday night. If ever I experienced sensory overload, it was that night and Saturday night. There were so many people I wanted to talk to yet so little time. There were classmates I wanted to talk to Friday night but never got around to it. I talked to many of them on Saturday instead.

To me, Saturday was like Reunion 2.0. There were many classmates in attendance Saturday night that were not at Capp's on Friday. It was so special getting to hang out with so many of our classmates. Digital cameras have allowed all us to share in different perspectives of the events that weekend. Ten years ago it wouldn't have been as easy to pull that off.

Getting to hang out with Roberto and his wife that weekend was special to me on several levels. Roberto lived with my family for about six months our Senior year. If that wasn't enough, we both went to Edinboro University for almost four more years. It was great to meet his wife and re-connect with him.

I've rambled long enough. If I had to summarize my feelings about the Reunion, it would be something along these lines:

I appreciated the classmates who were there, missed the classmates that weren't able to attend and felt sorrow for our classmates who are no longer with us.

Thanks again to the Reunion Planning Committee for making the Reunion weekend possible.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

20 Year High School Reunion - captured in a poem

This past weekend I attended my 20 year high school reunion. It was a great experience. I may try to post about it another time.

Last month, a classmate of mine wrote a poem about our upcoming reunion. I asked her if I could share it in a blog post. She was ok with me doing so.

I thought she did a great job of capturing the sentiments many of us felt leading up to our reunion. Here was what she wrote:

We were all in different places
All at the same time
Though pursuing various outcomes
We all had one in mind
Never realized 'til we were older
How similar we all were
Growing up in different phases
s o m e s l o w e r
---some a blur---
"Halls of Ivy", parties, classes left and right
Crossing paths, exchanging glances
Forming friendships- sometimes fights
We grew together...
We grew apart...
In many ways each of us affected many hearts
Sadly, we have lost some classmates along the way
So we'll bring memories of them with us on Reunion Day
For those of us still on this earth -
People are anxiously waiting to see you
And know you're doing fine
After all, it is EACH ONE that makes up the whole


Thanks again for sharing this with all of us Callico.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another Indians team dismantled

Cleveland sports fans were once again put through the wringer over the past weeks (and years for that matter.) An Indians team that once demonstrated such great promise has been systematically dismantled at the direction of team ownership. This is becoming a recurring event with team ownership.

Over the past year, the Indians have been able to add depth to their Farm System. LaPorta and Brantley were key parts of the C.C. deal last summer. The emphasis this season has been on acquiring young arms. That depth has been at the expense of fielding a competitive team in the Majors, for the near term, though. So many solid players have been "re-located" since this time last season:

+ C.C. Sabathia
+ Rafael Betancourt
+ Mark DeRosa
+ Ryan Garko
+ Cliff Lee
+ Ben Francisco
+ Victor Martinez

The thing that makes these deals tough on all involved is that many of the players involved came up through the Indian's Farm System. Cleveland isn't the only sports city that experiences this. One would think ownership would make an effort to try and keep a core together as long as possible though.

It is easy to want to lash out at Mark Shapiro. Shapiro has done a great deal for the Indians though. A good example is the great value resulting from the Colon deal. Some of that benefit was traded away in the form of Cliff Lee, just as he has came in to his own. Tribe fans can only hope that the talent received in the various trades pans out.

There has been one tactic put forth by the Front Office that simply failed to hit its mark in my opinion. Shapiro spoke with the STO team during last night's game against Detroit. He insisted this isn't a period of re-building for the team. My only question is...if this isn't a period of rebuilding, how should it be characterized then?

The Front Office of the Indians is put in a difficult spot by team ownership. Many of the deals have been pro-active out of necessity. Like in the case of C.C., the Front Office staff knew they weren't going to be able to sign C.C. for the long haul. Instead of losing him outright, the team got as much for him as they could. The same could be said in the case of Lee and Martinez. It was disappointing that certain key players weren't required as part of the Lee (Happ or Drabek) and Martinez (Buchholz) deals though.

It looks like Indians fans will have to continue rooting for the Chief Wahoo logo that has come to mean so much to so many. As soon as fans embrace a player or "team," thing are just turned upside down again. Current ownership doesn't seem willing to commit to a championship-caliber team. This continued approach will leave ownership with plenty of empty seats. As for fans, they get to enjoy another sub-par team. Ownership knows they have gotten accustomed to it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tribe Home Opener - 2009 Edition

This will have to fall under the category of "Better Late Than Never."

The Cleveland Indians Home Opener was on April 10th this year. Each year, friends come together from near and far to frequent a couple Cleveland institutions - Great Lakes Brewing Company and Jacobs Field (it will always be Jacobs Field to me.)

Once again, Mother Nature intervened to make things interesting. Not even the "Lucky Poncho" could hold back the rain this year. A side note - one of the crew has a poncho that is still in its original packaging. To be honest, the chemical composition of this thing has probably changed over time. In the past, the presence of the poncho was able to ward off rain. It didn't work this time around.

The day began at Great Lakes Brewing Company. A total of 12 of us spent a few hours there before game time. There were a couple of us that didn't drink. After some great appetizers, food and copious amounts of fermented water, the total (with tip) came to about $500...nice. I don't remember all of the specifics but recall six pitchers of Burning River Pale Ale (known as BuRPA by some), a couple pitchers of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, close to a dozen snifters of Blackout Stout, etc. was time to catch the Great Lakes Brewing shuttle over to the Jake. The shuttle is called the "Fatty Wagon" because it is powered by vegetable oil. For $1, the shuttle will take you to the Jake and bring you back. Unfortunately, the Fatty Wagon didn't appear to be in service that day. Instead, a boring, extended-length van was used.

Here was a little banter while waiting for the van:

The substitute transportation didn't offer the same capacity as the Fatty Wagon. For that reason, the line for the shuttle was longer than normal. Never fear, where there's a Miglin there's a way. Most TV commercials for mini-vans boast seating capacities of 5 - 6 - 7 people. Not this mini-van - 12 adults made the short journey to the Jake (insert your best sardine cliche here.) The videos don't do this justice:

Once we arrived near the Jake, we climbed out of the mini-van. It had to look like numerous circus clowns getting out of a small car. A small group walking by took note of the number of people. They were impressed when we told them 12 of us were in there.

We made our way to our seats and settled in amidst shaky weather. One thing of note - a couple members of our crew fell asleep during the game. I won't mention any names but wonder if some sanctions should be levied against the culprits?

The game entered a delay in the fifth inning. We stayed up until that point. The weather wasn't looking very promising so we headed on to Painesville to visit family.

Needless to say - a few pints of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream were re-located to Dublin.

The Indians would end up losing 13-7 after 7+ hours (including the delay.)

It was great seeing the gang again. I look forward to doing it all again next year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Am A Fan...

I am a fan of buying an over-priced hot dog to serve as a delivery mechanism for Stadium Mustard.

I have become a fan of getting together with the crew each year for Opening Day at the Jake.

I was a fan of heading to Municipal Stadium during some afternoons my Senior year of high school and walking up to the gate and getting seats behind the dugout.

I am a fan of watching towering fly balls and wondering whether they will carry over the outfield fence.

I am a fan of plays like seeing a ball bounce off Jose Canseco's head over the fence for a homer.

I am a fan of players that do the little things well.

I am a fan of players, managers and base coaches that have the brass to attempt to steal home.

I am not a fan of the Evil Empire (or other teams that outspend a strong majority of the league each year.)

I am a huge fan of seeing the Evil Empire sitting at home when the playoffs roll around (or better yet - being beat by a small market team in the opening round of the playoffs.)

I was a fan of the Buffalo Bisons but am now a fan of the Columbus Clippers.

I am a fan of players that play the game straight-up.

I am not a fan of players that felt it was necessary to cheat the game, the fans and themselves.

I am even less of a fan of those who lie about the fact they cheated.

I am a fan of the name of a former player - Razor Shines.

I am a fan of the game of baseball.