Saturday, February 29, 2020

Music with a view

It is said that a Jack Reacher novel is sold somewhere in the world every nine seconds. Acknowledging the adage that statistics lie and liars use statistics, the song "Wagon Wheel" is played somewhere in the world every eight seconds.

Wifey and I had the pleasure of hearing ten different versions of "Wagon Wheel" last week while otherwise enjoying a week-long vacation at St. Pete's Beach in sunny, crazy Florida.

We stayed at a hotel on the Gulf Coast called Beachcombers and it had everything we like. We'll be going back. Every afternoon they had a different singer outside on their beachside deck/outdoor restaurant/bar. Then each evening they had a band at the adjacent indoor bar.

So we heard a wide variety of musicians, which is right up our alley. Most of them played a version of "Wagon Wheel" with their own spin and varying degrees of success. Another popular one was "Ring of Fire." If I go a few weeks without hearing either, I'll be good.

A couple random thoughts:

* Rapid City musicians we hear regularly can more than hold their own with the Floridians.

* If you're going to do a set, be organized. Don't take 30 seconds of silence between songs while you fiddle with your iPad to get the next lyrics or chords ready. Know your list, hit it, keep the momentum going.

Musician Josh Morningstar tweeted a while back that musicians should take some pride in their work and should take the time to know the lyrics and music well enough so that they don't need iPads to read off of.

* Have some personality, especially when you are a solo act. Don't just get up there and play "Margaritaville" and Kenny Chesney songs with no rapport with the audience. They're supposed to be fun songs. It's supposed to be a fun job. Have fun. Not everybody is a lead singer or font man, but if you're going solo, guess what, you are. Bands can hide the grumpy ol' man behind the bass guitar. You can't hide.

* Bands. Do your sound checks quickly and do them once. You don't have to do them for five minutes every time you begin a new set. Nobody was up their messing with your mic or your drum set while you were out smoking your cig. Get at it. I've heard hundreds of bands of varying ability over the years and never once walked out saying "Boy that snare drum sure sounded out of tune."

While I sound like I'm complaining, I'm not. I loved it. But when you listen to a dozen bands or solo acts in a short amount of time you can't help to compare and contrast what works for some and not for others. FYI, the Greek band at the Greek Fest event we attended on a whim was the best Greek band I've ever heard.

Next week we're going to see someone who does everything right. Heading to Deadwood to hear Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group. Looking forward to it and will probably report back.

Friday, February 14, 2020

PSA for dudes on Valentine's Day

The trap has been set. But like a three-legged badger who has chewed his way out of this kind of mess before, I'm not biting.

Valentine's Day is tomorrow. Wifey's birthday is two days later. Shortly after that is a little get-away to a warmer climate. Because of that trip, she told me: "You don't have to get me anything for Valentine's Day or my birthday. Maybe a single flower or a card, but don't buy me any presents."

I pursed my lips and nodded my head, as I always do when she tells me something. But I am not stupid. It's not this cowboy's first rodeo.

That all sounds fine and good and fiscally prudent two days before, but when the big V Day hits and her friends are posting pictures of roses and balloons on Facebook and the other lady in the office gets a big stuffed teddy bear while she gets nothing, will the green monster of envy rear it's head? Yes. Will she have forgotten her previous words? Yes. Will the cold-shoulder emerge until the Florida sun finally thaws it? Yes.

I'm not risking it. I have a Plan B set aside in my doomsday bunker. A secret stash of gifts. Always, always, always, have a Plan B. Haugen's Golden Rule.

For you young'ns, never fall for the "you don't have to get me anything" line. It's a test early in your relationship. It's like an IQ test. They want to see how dumb or smart you are. If you fall for it, soon they'll be telling you they're going to "Walgreens" and come home smelling like Daiquris. Then it's "oh, my mother is so sweet, you'll just love it when she stays over." You'll be trapped and it's a trip through Dante's hell to get out of it.

Early in our marriage, wifey told me she wanted an exercise bike. So I bought her one for our anniversary. Rookie mistake. That one's been hanging around my neck for years. But that's more of an advanced lesson.

The first is: always buy her something. Birthday, Christmas, Anniversary, Fourth of July and for God's sake, yes, Valentine's Day. Even if you are flat broke and have to sell a kidney, get her something.

Trust me on this, from one bro to another. But don't ask me for a kidney. I'm down to my last one.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The night Huckleberry OD'd

We've been on one of those streaks everybody has where if it weren't for bad news there'd be no news at all.

So it was on Friday morning when I was getting dressed for my father-in-law's funeral in Sioux Falls that I received a text from the neighbor watching our dogs: "Sorry to bother you at this time. One of the dogs knocked the medicine bottle off the counter, chewed it open and ate it."

It's actually a pretty good system the dogs have where if you aren't careful, and we often aren't. Stanley, the 10-year-old Golden/Lab, puts his front feet on the kitchen counter or oven and sees if the idiot owners have left anything good. Mmmm, bacon grease in the frying pan. Mmm, a bag of chips, box of chocolates, sleeve of crackers, etc.

Then he knocks the goodies onto the floor and he and Huckleberry, his six-year-old sidekick Basset Hound buddy, dive in. This time the results were more than one of them bargained for.

Before we'd left for the funeral I'd refilled Stanley's medicine. He is on Rimadyl, a pain-killer/anti-inflammatory he's been taking this past few months to help him deal with his long-running battle with cancer. One pill in the morning and one at night has really helped and he's seemed as good as new. The good and bad thing about Rimadyl is that it tastes good. It's liver flavored and he takes them like treats.

So I had a full 60-count bottle on the counter for the sitter that I'd even added a few from the old bottle. They were all gone.

A quick Q&A with the dog-sitter revealed that Huck most likely ate them all. He does that because he eats every meal or treat like it is his first and last meal. He attacks food with a fervor. Wifey even tossed some blame my way for teaching him how to open bottles. It's a trick he does when we're done with a hike or jog and I drink my Gatorade. He takes the bottle, chews the lid off, spits it out and licks up the last couple drops of liquid inside. It's a talent of his, the only one.

Anyway, in between bathroom duties I called the vet. She said we better get him in. I told her I was 350 miles away and I'd get back to her. As the family waited in the church basement before the funeral I hit up my niece, a pharmacist for humans, for some free advice. She looked up Rimadyl on her phone, read the ingredients, said it was basically ibuprofen and if we didn't get it out of Huck in the first hour or two it was probably already soaked into his system and not much we could do.

There was basically a window of about 12 hours now where Huck could have eaten the stuff. So we didn't know. After a little more Googling, I made the executive decision to put my faith in Huck's cast-iron stomach and general orneriness. The dog-sitter checked on him every couple hours and said all seemed fine.

Back home on Friday night. Huck heaved up several times during the night more food than I thought his 60-pound body could hold, but was otherwise the same old Huck. Symptoms to look for, according to the computer, were drowsiness, depression and laziness. Heck, that's him on a good day.

Twelve hours after the last puke, I started him on a diet of small servings of white rice and canned chicken breast. Saturday I noticed a little blood in his stool, but not much. He was peeing plenty and eating and drinking fine.

Sunday he was his usual self, annoying Stanley, barking at neighbors, and barking at wifey while she was eating popcorn. He didn't get any.

So it looks like his liver and kidneys may have survived. Only my checkbook took a hit for another $100 when I had to go in on Saturday morning for another bottle of drugs.

Oh, and on the way, the brakes went out on my old pickup and I had to take it to the repair shop.

The hits keep on coming.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A word about Maynard

If you’ve spent any time around me, you have most likely heard me crack wise about my in-laws. If you’ve spent any time around them, you would accuse me of understatement.

But one person you’ve never heard me joke about is my father-in-law, Maynard Hennings.

There are two reasons for that: 1, there are only a couple topics off-limits, lest my wife catch word of it, and one of them is any slight toward her father; 2, there’s just no material there because he is such a solid man.

Was. He passed away Sunday night at the age of 84.

Maynard was one of those few guys who I don’t know a soul who could say a bad word about. He was a simple man, but not simple in any derogatory way. Simple, as in the kind of man many of you know, blue collar, devout and unheralded. They’ll never lower flags to half-staff statewide for guys like him, but they should. They don't interrupt your television show with breaking news of his death, but they should.

He worked thirty or so years at Morrell’s until they went on strike and never considered crossing the picket line. He worked many more years as maintenance man at the Cathedral and school before retiring. He was married for over sixty years to the same woman (sorry, no mother-in-law jokes today).

He spoke little, but I suspect he did earlier in life. That was before he had a son and four loud loquacious daughters. Then there was no dead air left to fill. So he just sat back and took it all in. The noise, the laughter, the arguments, the young, dumb son-in-laws.

Maynard and I were never super close or shared any deep thoughts outside of the Minnesota Twins and where the fish were biting. But I always admired him from across the room. I always had the feeling he looked at me like one would look at a three-legged chicken. Kind of like he was wondering about the private-college punk who thought he was hot stuff and what his daughter saw in a guy who couldn’t change his own oil.

But I grew on him, in large part because I gave him three grandchildren. Katie Jo, as he was apt to call her, and Rylee and “Luker,” another pet name used by him. Grandchildren were his thing and he had a ton of them. Sure, he loved his kids, but he adored his grands, and they him.

Fishing, hunting, his dogs (and mine as the photo shows Maynard sharing his ice cream with Stanley) and his grandchildren’s sporting events were his passions. The athletic events were about the only place I heard him speak much, sometimes loudly, and it was primarily directed at the officials and umpires. While he never uttered a cross word about anybody else, he saved them for the folks in striped shirts.

Maynard himself had been a very good athlete, serving as running back for some of Coach Bob Burns’ best Washington Warrior teams in the 1950s. Burns called him “Crazy Legs.”

And Maynard’s grand boys never failed as athletes – in his eyes. If they were tackled, it was because the pulling guard missed his block; if they missed a shot in basketball, it was because they were hacked. Every one of Luke’s pitches was a strike, no matter how high and outside, and if one happened to bean the batter (as was too often the case) it was because the batter "was leaning over the plate.”

He shared his love of hunting with the boys too. As my kids will attest, I was never keen to offer excuses for them to miss school or practices. Yet Luke convinced me a couple times to excuse him early so he could go antelope or turkey hunting with his grandpa. It meant so much to him.

One day I asked him: “So what do you and Grandpa talk about in the turkey blind for eight hours?”

Grandpa would’ve been proud of his one-word answer: “Life.” That's a lucky kid to have had that opportunity. I wish I could’ve had that talk with Maynard when I was 15, or 25. Might’ve done me some good.

Rest in peace, Maynard. You were one of the good ones.