America, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down

4th of July Parade, Monticello, IA (2018)

Nothing is ever perfect, and things are always changing. This much I know to be true each and every day, whether it’s at work or life in general.

The one thing that I have a hard time accepting is when something goes backwards. When we give up on ways of doing things that were functioning relatively positively or just generally working pretty well due to some illogical voices of reason or lack of effort on how to make the big picture work for the sake of the greater good.

That makes it hard to convey any happiness about any freedoms or independence.

The Lost Glory of War

January 17, 1991

I was 12 years old, laying on the floor as the afternoon sun faded away and doing my homework for my 6th-grade reading class for the next day.

The workbook was this stapled-together, quarter ream of light green pages that consisted of various English comprehension skills. I don’t recall it being difficult but do remember having that “big kid” feeling of being proud to have homework for school the next day.

Mike was 26 and talking through a tape recorder that we had started to use to send letters back and forth with. People had been doing that for years, but this cassette was almost two weeks old and from a land that I had a tough time understanding.

My oldest brother was talking about how things were going for him in the UAE.

Some months before that, my dad and I dug into the, dated but still relevant, collection of encyclopedia books in our house that they bought some time before my memories begin. At that point, these books might have been considered to be on the edge of being outdated, but I trusted those books with my fair share of reports that spared me having to go to the library up until that point. And sure enough, those musty books had information about the United Arab Emirates, and Mike was about to be stationed there with his Air Force squadron.

He went to college with the intent of enlisting to become a pilot, and I was always in such awe with all things military.

We have a deep history of people in my family who served in almost all branches of the armed forces, but Mike was the first one in ours.

Growing up as a kid in the wanning days of the Cold War and having other kids in the neighborhood with similar history in their extended families, the threat of conflict was always there. It became a fascination.

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The World Did Not End When Bill Clinton Was Elected President

I was 14 on the evening on November 3, 1992.

In the backseat of the car, Dad was driving, Mom in the passenger seat, 600 WMT on the radio, and the sun well below the horizon on a cold, fall night.

We had made the odd, Tuesday night run into Cedar Rapids to hit Sam’s Club, loading up the trunk with all sorts of bulk goods. Looking back on it now, maybe it was to get their minds off of what was going on that day. Usually these trips were a weekend event.

I can still remember not being very far from leaving the outskirts of the “big city” and going through the darkness of the country. We had been listening to the results come in on the radio the whole way there, but on the way home, the special bulletin hit.

Bill Clinton had been declared the winner and would become the next president.

In that backseat, I felt fear. Staring out into the darkness, I felt dread. My mind spiraled to the point where I felt like the world was going to end. The announcement scared me to my core.

I can’t remember what my parents said to each other about it, but they weren’t happy.

And then I just remember being cold.

I think about that night quite often. I think about those times quite often.

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Unexpected Wildlife Photography

While we were in Manning Park for their Dark Sky Festival last weekend, we decided to talk a walk around Lightning Lake to explore the area a little bit.  I had never been, so when we pulled into the day-use parking lot, I knew I had to grab my camera for the adventure. 

It actually ended up to be a great opportunity to not only take some breathtaking landscape photos, but some animals actually stopped to pose for me along the way.

Manning Park, Lightning Lake
Spruce Grouse
Manning Park, Lightning Lake
Baby Squirrel

The shade was very cool, and the sunlight was gloriously warm that day.

Manning Park, Lightning Lake
Manning Park, Lightning Lake
Manning Park, Lightning Lake
Manning Park, Lightning Lake
Manning Park, Lightning Lake

Live – White, Discussion

I have been trying to get back to listening to whole albums, start to finish, and picked this one as a bit of throw back while I did some work on my laptop a few weeks back. 

While this was a band that I immersed myself into during my teenage fandom years, it really struck me how this song is so fitting for the divisive, political climate we exist in today.

I talk of freedom
You talk of the flag
I talk of revolution
You’d much rather brag
And as the decibels of this disenchanting discourse
Continue to dampen the day
The coin flips again and again, and again, and again
As our sanity walks away
All this discussion though politically correct
Is dead beyond destruction
Though it leaves me quite erect
And as the final sunset rolls behind the earth
And the clock is finally dead
I’ll look at you, you’ll look at me
And we’ll cry a lot
But this will be what we said
This will be what we said
Look where all this talking got us, baby

Songwriters: Chad Alan Gracey / Chad David Taylor / Edward Joel Kowalczyk / Patrick Dahlheimer
White, Discussion

Below Zero on the Pentacrest

Bitter, Cold Day on the Pentacrest
A yearly visit back to Iowa City isn’t complete without a shot of this gorgeous, gold dome

When you go to the University of Iowa, this is a central point of many undergrads. If it’s not on your tour route, you have classes on the Pentacrest at some point.

I crossed this area many, many times. Some good memories, some not so much.

The one mantra that always comes back to me is my 20th Century Crisis professor that would often say, “Sometimes it pays to be a nerd.”

It took a number of years, but once you grasp that ideal, you block out the naysayers and carve your own path. Be a nerd about what you love to do and everything else will follow.

An Iowa IPA

Every visit back to Iowa, the numbers of craft beers and spirits being made in the state never fails to impress.

Millstream still makes my favorite IPA, a wonderful play on the name but not on my affinity for hoppy beer. A visit to their brewery in Amana introduced me to their pilsner and stout, but it’s the Iowa Pale Ale that keeps me coming back. A wonderful play on the name for my favorite style of beer from my home state.