Saturday, April 19, 2014

Going Back Four Years

Today was not one of the great days in the lightning household. Mrs. lightning has been sick and our family dog, Ginger, was unable to walk. Ginger suffers from Canine Cushing's disease and has pain in her hind legs. Getting her to the vet's office was quite a trick since she is no little dog. Not to mention that the trip to the vet was like losing a buy-in ... cha-ching!

In the evening my son and his girlfriend fixed us dinner. Somehow the conversation got around to my son's bout with cancer, which happened fours ago. In fact, four years ago today he had his initial doctor visit at the Mayo Clinic, only to be operated on the next day. What a terrible and scary time that was.

But ... that was then and this is now. Life is good. Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Make Me Smile

I recently responded to a post made by fellow blogger ~Coach entitled "I Have So Much to Say." I posted the lyrics of a song by the group Chicago -- "So Much to Say, So Much to Give." What significance does this song have? It is part of one of the best rock compositions of all time.

Chicago trombone player Jimmy Pankow is the man who wrote the song, one of seven songs of his suite "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon," which appeared on Chicago's second album, Chicago II. The suite was inspired by a girl in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Yes -- the spelling of the song title is funky.

A little side note: Jimmy Pankow attended (for one year) the same college I attended as an undergrad. In taking a Music Appreciation class for my fine arts general education requirement, I was interested to hear one of the music professor's take on Pankow. "Jimmy wasn't the greatest trombone player in the world. I told him that his strength is in composition," related music instructor and demi-god Charles Winking. I don't know about the trombone assessment, but Pankow's strength certainly is composition.

The suite is anchored by the hit Make Me Smile and includes the tender song Colour My World, which served as a prom theme in high schools throughout the United States.

The following clip of Chicago is from 1970. It is difficult for me to imagine a better combination of composition and musicianship. Chicago was never the same after the death of soulful singer and guitar player Terry Kath.


 
Amazingly, the group Chicago still performs today, with keyboard player Robert Lamm and the entire original brass section (Lee Loughnane, Walt Parazaider and Jimmy Pankow) still intact. They played a FREE concert in Bloomington, Illinois earlier this year for those affected by central Illinois tornadoes. Yes, I went to the concert, and yes -- they made me and others smile!

 


Saturday, April 05, 2014

"It Was Twenty Years Ago Today:" - Kurt Cobain


The words "musical genius" are often thrown around cavalierly. They certainly applied to Kurt Cobain, who took his own life twenty years ago today. Some people are just not meant for this world.





 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekend Trip to Memphis

Maybe it was the trip to northern Wisconsin we took last weekend. Maybe it was my co-worker who travels quite frequently. Maybe it was the weather -- beginning to finally look like spring after a long, cold winter. For whatever reason, I decided to take a trip to Memphis with my wife this weekend. It turned out to be a pretty good decision.

We left Friday morning to decent travel weather. Our first big stop was going to be lunch at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston, MO -- "Home of the Throwed Rolls." However, just as we pulled in the parking lot, we saw the last half dozen people from a bus get in line at the entrance. Great timing! However, religious and dietary considerations made eating at Lambert's a poor choice this particular day, so we passed. More about Lambert's later.

We got to our hotel in Memphis only to find ... a line waiting to check in. We stumbled into a family reunion at the hotel. Not the greatest of starts to a trip, but ...

The weather took a turn for the worse as a heavy thunderstorm moved into the area. We were out looking for a place to eat and settled upon Phat Pat's Southern Quisine. Although the service had a minor glitch or two, the blackened fish fillet meal with sides was very good.

After dinner, my wife noticed a women's clothing store nearby. She recently lost some weight and had been talking about needing some new clothes. Ut oh. Seemingly several hours later ...

Saturday morning after breakfast (people who know me well know that I chose a hotel with free breakfast!) we headed to an interesting tourist site we had never visited: the Pink Palace Museum. I was amazed at what an interesting place this was. Fossils, animals, the history of Memphis ...
Afterwards, it was time to try a barbeque place we had never been to but had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: Tom's Bar-B-Q and Deli.


My beef sandwich platter and my wife's baby ribs platter: outstanding! Friendly service, excellent food, large portions, cheap prices. What more can you ask? This is clearly among the best barbeque joints in Memphis.

After gorging ourselves on primo barbeque, we headed to ... another women's clothing store! Actually, it was part of the same chain as the store we went to the night before. They were holding a dress for my wife since the original store did not have it in the size she needed. Of course, Mrs. lightning also saw some other things she liked, and ... cha-ching!

So ... it was FINALLY time to hit a poker room -- Harrah's Horseshoe Tunica. The poker room was crowded as Saturday was the last day of a car giveaway promotion. To make the trip special, I got to meet up with old friend and blogger  Memphis MOJO and meet blogger jusdealem.

Oh yeah -- jusdealem is the cutie on the left!
 
I played some $1-3 NL, but alas I was card dead almost the entire time. I ended up dropping part of a buy-in as my play mode was fold ... fold ... fold ... To make matters worse, I went to my old friend, the Willy Wonka slot machine, but Mr. Wonka disappointed. Such is life.
 
A drive back to Memphis and a late dinner ended the eventful day. Shopping trips and a poor poker session -- it's only money, right?
 
We decided to just get on the road Sunday morning, anxious to get back home to life's regular drudgery. We attempted to stop at Lambert's on the way back, but a 1 1/2 hour wait for a table made for an easy decision to eat somewhere else.
 
Next weekend: ???

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Little Time Up North

 

My mother-in-law recently turned 80, and yesterday was the day when many of the family got together to celebrate with her. Unfortunately, this meant a trip to northern Wisconsin -- about 800 miles round trip. My wife insisted that all our kids go, so it was like the good old days when we were all together and loaded up the family van.

Strangely enough, things went pretty well. The party was a good time, and the time spent with our adult-ish kids was great. There were some realizations, however. I told my kids that this weekend was important because it was likely the last big celebration that would have my mother-in-law at the center. She is in perpetually poor health and looked quite fragile. It is difficult to imagine her having another milestone birthday.

The trip was also a reminder that our family -- myself, my wife and kids -- have grown older. Two of the kids no longer live at home (although they are close by), and we rarely pack in the van for trips anymore. In life we must roll with the changes and learn to adapt, but there was certainly a feeling of melancholy, remembering those years when the kids were young and every day brought new excitement and challenges.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Couple of Early Season MLB Games

Spring training is now going on in Arizona and Florida, and hopes are alive for all baseball fans -- including Chicago fans, who had a rough year last season. Both the White Sox and Cubs lost close to 100 games, but ... this is a new season!

Early season games in Chicago are not always fun. I have gone to a number of home openers for both the Sox and the Cubs. You have to be prepared for some cold, windy weather.

I have tickets for two games so far:


A guy I work with, Randy, is a huge Red Sox fan. We went to a White Sox-Red Sox game early last season, so perhaps we have a new tradition!


And ... a nice early season Cubs-Cards match at Wrigley, which I will attend along with my brother, who has taken on the chat/forum name of "thundering36!"

I am proud to report that at this time, both the White Sox AND the Cubs are tied for first place in their respective divisions -- AND ARE UNDEFEATED! Just thought I'd say that while I can ...

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Hanging Them Up



Today was the day to finally face reality. After several seasons with my softball team, it was time to hang up the spikes. Last season I really felt like I was a liability to the team (except when they needed a substitute pitcher!), stumbling my way around second base.

There was a time many moons ago when I was playing on five softball teams one summer. That was absolutely crazy. Now, I look across the diamond to see guys who are less than 1/3 my age. A few years ago when they lowered the age for playing in the adult leagues, there were guys playing who still had peach fuzz on their faces. But dang -- could they run.

Time to decide whether or not to pursue the next step: the senior league!