Saturday, September 29, 2012

My obscure record has been broken

Last night, for the first time since 1996, our high school Alma Mater played a football game against their traditional arch-rival. The series had been on hiatus because the two schools had become vastly different sizes for most of the intervening years. Our school's population had shrunk precipitously while our rival's numbers had grown dramatically. In fact, there was a distinct possibility that old Alma Mater would close, owing to declining population and expanding expenses.

Fortunately, over the last decade or so, the slide was halted, the school began to re-emphasize the religious aspect of their educational program, and a rejuvenation began. Class sizes have increased, and although there are not as many students attending as did back in our days, the increase has been steady, and fiscal management sound, and the school is on a solid footing again.

Unsurprisingly, there has also been an uptick in the athletic fortunes of the school, and they have become a recognized power in several sports.The agreement to begin playing their arch-rival again in football was a big step forward for the program.

Prior to last night, our rivals had a 29-3 series lead. I was one of the few people who could truthfully state I had seen every victory by old Alma Mater over the detested maroon-and-gold.


eagles        14
HAWKS   28

I was not in attendance last night; I was at another football game matching the two schools from our community in which the "old" school had won all five football games vs the "new" school. Seemingly the entire community was there. Extra stands had been brought in, but it was still standing room only. Mrs. North and I had two of the Sweeties with us, and we managed to hunker down on the track behind a temporary fence to (try to)  watch the game. A large number of non-involved people standing on the sidelines next to the team made it almost impossible to see much. We stayed through halftime to let the Sweeties see the two marching bands, and then we left.

Perhaps I started a new "streak" last night: the "new" school won 37-0. For now, I am one of at least 10,000 who have seen every football win by the Panthers over the Tigers.

If there was someone in attendance at the Hawks' game that has now seen each of the now 4 wins by Alma Mater in the series, please keep it up! It is a record I will gladly surrender to you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sounds of aluminum foil

Having read North of 50's post on the Sounds of Summer, I was called upon to have my own reflections concerning those sounds of our youth. Specifically, sounds embedded in the memory banks of my esteemed brother.

In those formative years, North was my baseball idol. He didn't know that and will likely get a big head over this. I'll keep a pin handy to pop that balloon. Back in the day, as it were, he was a notch above others on the baseball field. We played in back yards, on diamonds and nearly anywhere we could imagine a game. On the diamond, he was simply better than all the other kids our age. He started (and finished) as a pitcher and it took many years before hitters caught up with his arm. Alas, when they did, that was it.

When we weren't on the diamond, we made up games in the back yard. We played whiffle-ball on grass with a lawn chair as a catcher and the garage and house as the "green monsters" of our day. As a Yankee fan, I'm sure he is not happy with that reference. But going into the 'way-back machine' we played in a dirt yard with plastic bats and when we ran out of balls, we stole Sainted Mother's aluminum foil and wadded it up tightly. It did a passable job.

Back then, North knew virtually every lineup in the majors and knew if the batter was a righty or a lefty. We would play for hours in the back going through lineup after lineup. I always suspected that when it came down to a critical bat by myself, he would tell me the batter was left-handed which would eventually lead to me striking out.

Now, I've never accused him of cheating, I'm just here to set the record straight.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Turn to the voices

As anyone who has read these pages knows, I am not much of a music buff. There are many styles I like to listen to. They range from rock to jazz to swing and other genres that fit a particular setting or the mood I am in. I enjoy listening to Andrea Bocelli on occasion. That being said, I don't really know (Bo) diddly about music. (The fact that I made that reference was a stretch for me). I think my family was astonished when I had piano lessons as a boy.

What surprises me is how interested I have become in the blind auditions from the television show The Voice. Once those first few episodes are complete, I rapidly lose interest. When American Idol first appeared, I was impressed by the multitude of vocalists and the wide range of talent. After the first season I was more interested in the odd-balls that were really bad. Then, I stopped watching all together. I also don't watch much television in the first place. It is more 'background noise' in my home than anything, at least for me. My Beloved controls the remote.

The Voice rekindled my interest, not necessarily in the show itself so much, but in the performers. Again, the array of talent is remarkable and the passion they bring to the audition. Many have rich voices and strong stylings. They not only sing to an audience but to their judge's backs. It made me think of what the indie writer goes through. It is our audience however that has their back to us. We must put forth such an effort to make our readers turn around and take notice of our efforts. Our passion is in our written words, yet the readers do not know us. We are the voice in the hotel bar and the country stage in nowhere America looking for a break.

If you are a fan of reading, give the indie 'voices' a listen. You might be surprised at what you read.

The Sounds of Summer

As opposed to the Simon & Garfunkel hit "The Sound of Silence", from late 1965.

We are winding down the last days of a long, hot summer in our area. The children have been back in school for a few weeks, older students have gone back to college, and I am still retired. Thankfully.

When I was a child, school did not begin until after Labor Day, which seemed to make summer last a very long time. What I associate most with my childhood summers are the sounds:

- untold numbers of crickets and other insects making their lovely cacophony of chirping and other noises, especially if you were fortunate to be out at night away from the city

- a baseball bat being dragged across concrete, barrel side down, as I walked to another game of pickup baseball

- tennis shoes (pronounced "tenna shoes") being scuffed across walkways of large gravel, making it sound somewhat like metal baseball cleats crunching on that gravel

- the wind in my ears as I rode my bike everywhere at a fast pace

- a warm, soft rain, gentle and peaceful, with a calming effect best noticed if you were in a glider on the front porch

- a loud thunderstorm that shook the house

- the "thwack" of a wiffle ball against a wiffle bat

- the "thonk" of a rubber ball slamming off the front steps, the steps of the church next door, or the side wall of the apartment building behind us as I played countless games of baseball in my head

- the solid crack of a bat smashing into a hard-thrown baseball

- the trumpet sounding "Charge!" to spur on the Columbus Jets against their foes. I recall Richmond, Rochester (thought it was "ROD-chester"), Syracuse, Buffalo the most

- kids "popping" an empty, upside down plastic-coated paper Coke cup on concrete at the ballpark

- fireworks on Independence Day

- Sainted Mother ringing the dinner bell to call us home

These are the sounds that first spring to mind when I recall my childhood summers. I know there are hundreds more "sound memories" just waiting to bubble up to my conscious thoughts. I wish I could recapture them all.

Friday, September 7, 2012

City streets

Although I lived in two homes growing up the majority of my childhood years were at one place. It is the one I think about when I discuss home with friends and family. Even though I own my own home it is different from where I was reared.

I currently am a suburbanite living just outside a major Midwestern city. I suppose urban dwellers may even call it the country as just down the road their are farm fields and just about every neighborhood around used to be those fields. It is a peaceful place where not much happens. It is a growing area but it is anything but a vibrant or dynamic street.

Contrast that to my work environment. It is in my nearby city and though it is not in the 'downtown' area, the streets are indeed a thriving urban environment. The lanes are busy with autos and buses, bicycles and pedestrians. There is a definite hustle and bustle to the area. The main thoroughfare houses shops and restaurants, banks and schools.

 I never forgot these sounds of the city from when I was a little boy. I heard them again the other day as I traveled through this neighborhood. But then I heard a set of notes that harkened back to those times, a sound I don't hear in my world. I heard church bells. I miss their sound and their meaning. They are a lovely noise in a busy world.

It was a good day.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My first trilogy

Years ago when I started down the writing pathway, I bought a small computer from Radio Shack and had-at-it. The memory of that little unit wouldn't hold a single chapter at the time. I had to save everything on 3.5 inch floppies. At long last, this first work will see the light of day.

Originally titled "The Crystal Point", it has now been adapted to a trilogy. "The Dream Valley" is the first book in the series titled 'The Crystal Point Legacy". As I have grown as a writer I have gone back over this work several times to polish it and give the reader the experience I had hoped I could when I first sat down to the keyboard.

I hope all who decide to read this enjoy the story and appreciate the effort involved. It is available as an ebook through and Smashwords. The other two books in the series will appear in a few months as covers are developed and final edits are made.