December 16th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Uncategorized

As I sit here and start typing this post I am enjoying a cup of Cuban coffee. It is one of the coffees in last batch of coffees I ordered. It is not bad but there are others I got in that order that I like better. They have so many coffees I have to keep a list of what I like and don’t like so I don’t re-order one I don’t like. I should have had a decaf but it is early enough in the day I will be able to sleep after drinking this. At least it’s not a double espresso, but I do need to order a few tubes of those and single espresso. It’s a great jolt first thing in the morning and the flavors are intense but delicious.

It’s a cold, blustery day here today and the wind has picked up this afternoon. Glad it is the exception and not the rule or I would not be hanging around here. That means today is one of those stay-in-the-house days, but I have things on the computer I am trying to do. It also means getting out for walks is only out of necessity and they are quick trips out and back in.

I am trying to organize and clean up files on my devices and on my cloud service, which I should have been doing all along but didn’t. I am also trying to get Word and Excel documents converted to their Apple counterparts. I purchased a year of Microsoft Office in August and I am really disappointed with Outlook, the main reason I spent money on the program. Microsoft just cannot make Office work on a Mac like it does on a PC. I am tired of fighting it and going back & forth between different programs so I am gonna simplify it. I don’t really need Word or Excel bad enough to pay for it and I can use the web version if I need to, but my Apple programs will open those documents and spreadsheets with decent compatibility. And I don’t need to spend money since Apple’s programs are “free” (there is that premium price on Apple products though…).

My gripe with Apple’s native programs has been that they would build a basic program and then let third-party developers do the real work on apps that you then have to buy those to get the cool features. Apple has apparently heard the complaints and is putting out some pretty decent apps for their products. Since they are doing that I find myself embedded deeper into Apple’s “walled garden” and I am fine with that. Not an Apple Fanboy; I just like technology that works; I don’t like it well enough to camp out in a line for a week in front of the Apple Store.

Other than organizing that stuff most of the day I went to town and got the new airbox for my truck. I hope this fixes it but I will still have the dealer check it Friday in case it is something else. I hate chasing problems like this with my wallet as it gets expensive fast and you may end up spending money on changing parts that were not bad. The lid on my airbox was cracked so it needed replaced anyway. I cannot really check it to see if it runs better at idle until the engine cools down. At least it is in there.

I ate the rest of my Lou Malnati’s pizza for lunch. It is odd to have room for so much food that I cooked ahead plus things like the pizza. It is convenient but cooking is SOMETHING to do during a day and on a day like today it would be a break. I took some of that chicken/broth base in the freezer and cooked up some chicken and dumplings. It is a great day for something warm and rib-sticking and it hit the spot. Another thing to make with dumplings is a recipe my mom made only once for some reason when I was a kid. Blackberry dumplings. Make the dumplings the same and drop spoonfuls into some boiling blackberries. It is sooo good and filling as well.

I don’t remember if I posted anything about my microwave or not; it is a convection oven/microwave. I bought one of these for the trailer – I had too many other things on my mind to figure it out so I never used it. When I made the Malnati’s pizza I did it in the convection mode. I am very impressed by the utility of this appliance. Two handy appliances in one! I will have to experiment with mine since it is in a tight space in the trailer so I don’t know if it will get too hot or pull too many amps. If it won’t work I have used the microwave part; next time I move into someplace I can use it for baking too.

One more eye appointment tomorrow and I think I am done with follow-ups for that. It is amazing that after 35 years of wearing glasses (and a brief couple of stints trying contacts) I no longer need glasses except to read. It is so fantastic. Everything is so clear and better looking than through glasses. I need to get laundry done tomorrow some time since I have the truck service on Friday and I also really need to wash clothes. Apparently I am back in my old habit of waking up in the mornings around 6 so I can hit the ground running to get it done and have some downtime before I have to leave.

I decided to get my guitar out and try to get back into playing now that I have room to stretch out. Having a hard time with dexterity in my hands so I don’t know how this is going to work out and for how long. I had to struggle a little working on the truck because of arthritis in my left hand and some possible nerve stuff in my right hand after tearing up my shoulder in 2019 – I kept dropping the bolts. However, a few years ago I kinda saw where my hands were headed. I thought I would play around with the keyboards and the textures and things I can do with my limited knowledge of digital music creation. I think I have come up with some interesting things for my tastes but it doesn’t mean that I would do some things a bit different here and there (I still could at some point).

As usual I loosened up a little and it was a little frustrating doing so fumbling along. I did come up with two ideas in about 30 seconds so I recorded those. Then I started some music on the computer to play along with before I started to really work on a few ideas old and new. The next song up I have talked about before. It is an instrumental by Camel (*and that is NOT Frampton’s Camel or Sopwith Camel), and the song is called “Ice”. A beautiful, emotional, heavy/melodic guitar-oriented beautifully-constructed song with a keyboard solo. I used to be able to play along with the guitar parts fairly well but I could not do it tonight. I will not go quietly into the night. I am not giving up. Then some Metallica came on and the mellow mood got moshed. It was an old one called “Escape” off of “Ride the Lightning”. Certainly picked up the mood.

Wow. Talk about some great memories. A song that John and I wrote – actually, it is the very first one we did together probably somewhere around 2006-2008 – just popped up in the shuffle on my computer. He had written the music before we met. I threw the lyrics together in about 20 minutes as I remember and then we recorded it. Those were such great times. Some good stories from those years! Hahaha.

That’s it for tonight. Be safe!

*obscure musical group references from the 60s & 70s

August 25th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Uncategorized

This post is about doing some good things in the world along with an update. It’s not going to be preachy -0 just some interesting things I have come across.

Today I came across a short interview with Chef José Andrés that I found very interesting. He is doing some great work to help feed people and keep restaurants in business in disaster areas all over the world with his incredible organization World Central Kitchen.

I first saw him on the travel shows hosted by my favorite travel host Anthony Bourdain. Chef Andrés is so passionate about food – good, simple food – that he makes you want to try it all. WCK helps out so not just people in disaster areas can eat, but he outsources much of the cooking to local restaurants to help keep their doors open and keep their staff employed. It is a pretty impressive organization.

In the last paragraph of the article the interviewer asks “Talk to me about the power of travel to open hearts and minds.

Chef Andrés: “It is important for us to travel, to meet people who seem different from us. You realize that they aren’t that different. We are all together on this planet, and we need to be working together more. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we have an amazing opportunity to get to know who we are and where we live. To look at things through another lens and appreciate the beauty of the planet we have.”

This takes what I have previously said about travel and elevates it to a whole other level…an important level. A level we need to think about more.

Be sure to read the whole article I linked to and check out the link to WCK as well; it is a short article and will only take a few minutes. There are opportunities all over; one opportunity is they are looking for volunteers to help feed firefighters battling the wildfires in California. Of course you can donate money as well as time.

I really didn’t go to a lot of concerts in the days before the T-virus (last one was Riverside in Seattle in June 2019) but I know how important it is for bands to tour to make money and that is not happening right now. The music I listen to is not very commercially popular as opposed to mainstream radio-play music so these bands live hand-to-mouth constantly, and some even have regular jobs to supplement their incomes to just be able to play and create their music. This means that all but the biggest acts are struggling along with the venues they play in – from Irish pubs to your local bar and theater.

I have been trying to support some of my favorite bands by buying CDs and DVDs directly from them (and not through Apple Music, Amazon, etc.). I want the bands I enjoy listening to to get as much of the money as possible from my purchases. I have received CDs and DVDs from bands in England (IQ, Marillion) and Norway (Green Carnation) so far and plan to do more to support them and other acts I enjoy listening to. And, since I cannot see them live (which I do buy tickets to these tours when possible) having a concert DVD gives me a chance to see them “live”. Many of the bands I listen to never even make it here to the US so it’s either a DVD or I schedule my next Europe trip to see them…we almost did on our first trip over!

Another way to support your favorite acts is on the Bandcamp website. The website was giving up their revenue share portion on Fridays so it would go straight to the artists (not sure if they are still doing that or not). That’s a fantastic gesture to help support indie artists and I have taken advantage of that to help even more. Stop by and check it out and you might discover some new music by some new artists. I have seen free music, music for set prices, and even name your own price on some artist pages as well as some great deals buying collections (Porcupine Tree, Silent Island, Black Hill, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster). Just support them directly however you can! And yes…I know you may not have heard of any of these bands or probably think they have weird names.

I have seen articles where many of the museums around the world are in trouble and many may close or never reopen. That is so sad to hear as our history is so important for future generations to see where we have been. I purchased an annual museum pass to help out museums in Ireland. I will be going back soon (hopefully) so I can use it to get in to places, plus it supports my ancestral castle as well.

My Interagency Pass – some mistakenly call it the National Parks Pass – is a great deal and it supports all Federal Lands. If you want to support a particular National Wildlife Refuge, National Park or National Forest then purchase one at that particular place they get to keep 80% of the money on that Refuge, Park or Forest! Pick your favorite place and buy it there and not at an outdoor retailer (not to mention any names); that money all goes into a general fund.

Free admission to all Federal lands for a year…not a bad deal at all. And a Senior Pass is $80 for a lifetime card with 50% discounts for campgrounds on top of free entry with the card if you are over 62. A little hint – buy it early in the month and it expires at the end of the same month the following year; it’s basically a free month! Just remember the pass has to stay with the owner – you loan it you can lose it.

There are so many small things we can do that help. You don’t have to be a philanthropist to donate (I’m certainly not wealthy) but even just a few dollars here and there to support something near and dear to you makes a difference!

I get bronchitis just looking at this sunrise…

Earlier I mentioned wildfires but some relief is here!

Rain!!! We are finally getting some rain as I type this post. It has been months since we had any real rain here and this will do wonders to clear the air up some and help put out some of the fires in the area. Before the rains we had some hellacious winds – probably 50+ mph – and I am sure those did not help firefighter efforts, but there is rain falling and that will. I had to park my truck next to my trailer to keep the trailer from getting blown over and the wind ripped the top of the chicken coop off. Then Auntie Em flew by…

I’m thinking that, along with helping get some of the fires under control, this rain might help open up some other possibilities for my upcoming adventure. I guess I need to look at some fire info to see what is open and closed before I decide to go someplace and even see if I can get anywhere. I have been checking the pandemic outbreak maps and some places I wanted to go I will certainly be avoiding.

I started working on a new song for my ongoing opus called The Neverending Suite (which is currently just shy of 19 minutes long). I got the lyrics completed a few days ago (well, for now as far as I know). I have had a lot on my mind and it came flying out through my fingertips; most of it in about 30 minutes, and I decided to add another verse two days later when it wandered into my thoughts. Next step is to take a few music ideas I have and put the two together. It’s never an easy task as I tend to want to add a lot of layers for texturing, but I am getting a little more disciplined about doing that. It’s been a while since I have put a song together but when it’s time to write it just happens, not to mention there has been a lot of time to think about a lot of things.

Earlier this year I started reworking the last section I recorded last year but got sidetracked with life, Europe, a pandemic, and moving. It’s not like I have not had the time; I just have not been in the songwriting frame of mind lately. The reworking ended up being a bit more complicated than I thought it would be but I will probably be getting back on it soon so I can get this new part of the song to tie in after it. It’s good therapy too.

It’s been some time since I have heard the song so I think I will have a listen to it and close out this post.

August 21st, 2020

Just things, Music, Uncategorized

My first taste of Scotch was in the early 1980s when I was a stagehand at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

The Uptown was (and still is as far as I know) a beautiful old theatre. It was built in the 1920s and opened in 1928. It is adorned with balconies, columns, and a black ceiling with “stars” (lights) to emulate an outdoor nighttime setting. It was a movie house in the grand tradition and had a proscenium stage with big maroon velvet curtains. It was like many other theaters back then; some, like the many Fox Theatre venues still left in the country, were owned by the studios. It is a special place and holds a spot in my heart.

Back in those days the Uptown was a very busy place and was staging several shows a week. I had started there without any experience after losing my job in 1980 (given a job out of compassion by a big burly guy named Jimbo). I had earned my place as a regular on the crew through hard work and perseverance and worked many shows through both of my stints there (second run was in the late 80s in charge of the lighting rig and as house electrician).

The shows ran the spectrum – Toots and the Maytals, Johnny Rivers, Men at Work, A Flock of Seagulls, Nick Lowe, Steppenwolf, Jean Luc Ponty…and so many, many more. It was also the place I met and hung out briefly with Robin Williams. It was a great, intimate venue for a show.

One show in particular in the early 80s I got to have a conversation with a guy in one of the bands that came through. He was one of the nicest people I ever met when I was doing stage work. Between the years that have passed and, well, it WAS the 80s, I cannot remember the date or the two or maybe three acts that night; I narrowed it down to these bands: it could have been Dokken, Streets (Steve Walsh’s band after he left the band Kansas), or Strange Daze (a great Doors tribute band who I was asked to tour with in Europe but the tour unfortunately fell through), but I am thinking that it was Dio on his first solo tour after leaving Black Sabbath. Thinking back a little more in depth I think the other bands I mentioned were all together on another show there.

At sound check, the drummer for the opening act came up to me as I was standing off stage left near the monitor console and we started talking. Not like rock star talking, but as two guys just talking about topics now long forgotten (again, the 80s). I know from being around this type of work for several years and being on the road it’s nice to just have a conversation without the star struck condescension, and that’s what this was. Human interaction.

As a stagehand you pretty much know to be a wallflower. It’s unprofessional to be star struck; your job is to make the show happen and stay in the shadows. You would get a “how’s it going?” or an unsaid “thanks” sometimes via a nod or smile, but you don’t approach people. To have someone come up to you and strike up a conversation was very out of the norm. If you think about it they are surrounded by fame, drugs and people kissing their asses constantly – all leeches and posers. I would think just having a normal conversation with someone was not very common and something longed for those in the entertainment lifestyle.

He went onstage to do his sound check and came back by. We chatted a bit more and he asked me if I liked Chivas Regal. I said I don’t even know what that is. He said to me “It’s Scotch and when I come back for the show I’ll bring a bottle and we’ll have a toast!”. I said “Okay”, thinking it was “rock star talk”.

The doors open for the show and we are all putting on the final touches dressing the stage. I get back in position by the monitor console again, ready to run onstage during the concert to fix something if need be (as I had to do about 90 minutes later in the middle of the Dio show and during other shows).

The guy I was talking with earlier walks up to me, and sure as hell he had an unopened bottle of Chivas in hand. He cracks the seal and hands it to me. I give him a toast and a nod and take a big hit off of it. I hand it back to him. He gives me a toast and a nod and takes a big hit off of it, we smile and shake hands and he hits the stage with that bottle. They were on fire that night and had the crowd in their palms. They left and we passed each other, nodded and smiled and I told him “Great show!”. Since I was getting the stage ready for Dio I did not have time to talk.

The band was Quiet Riot. The guy’s name was Frankie Banali.

I write this story because Frankie lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. I had read articles lately about him being sick and it made me think about that special moment all those years ago.

I have read many tributes to him and everyone says he was such a nice guy. He really was a nice guy that night to some lowly stagehand.

Rest peacefully, Frankie, and thanks for the Chivas and the memory.

April 29th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

While doing the various things one does when getting ready to move a lot goes on in your mind – that constantly-changing mental checklist of things like shutting off your utilities, thinking about the logistics of getting from A to B, and changing insurance agents just to name a few. And then there are the other things like the insomnia. Most of you have moved at one point or another in your lives so you probably understand. I don’t stress about it much these days; this will be my 15th address change since 2012. It’s just another move to me.

However, one thing currently stands out well above the rest while getting ready to leave – the inability to see family and the friends I have made here the last 7 ½ years in person before I leave. And that’s the part that really sucks. With the ‘rona quarantine there will be no hugs, handshakes or tears; the tears will still be there, but it’s more out of frustration than from leaving. We all know that once we are able to do so we will be seeing each other again. I still plan on traveling as much as I can when I can and when it is safe to do so. With the internet it is easy to keep in touch several different ways so we will still keep in contact with each other.

Sometimes it is not easy to move away no matter how badly you want (or need) to leave, and other times it’s no big deal. I was numb and emotionless leaving Colorado that cool, dark, rainy morning. Heading off into a new life had me preoccupied and I was not thinking about leaving a place that made me fall in love with the outdoors and the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains.

There is the excitement and “that new car smell” of going to a new place with new people and experiences, be it for work or just because you want a change in your life. Some people deal with the uncertainties, and even embrace them. There are the others who dread it and decide to stay in their safe place and that is fine. Me, personally, I thrive on that unknown. I want and crave those new experiences and it is only one reason why I love travel so much.

I have certainly had more new, different and amazing experiences than I ever dreamed I would have in my life living in the Midwest, and I have had even more after moving to Colorado and then Washington. I won’t list them here as they are already written about, starting with the first blog entry I posted in 2012 (so by all means go back to Day 1 and have a look!). And the stories in these posts are just since 2012…there are countless other stories from a lot of other experiences before that and some of those are probably best left on a dusty shelf.

Some may look at these experiences and say “Boy, you’re so lucky”, while others say “WTF are you doing? I couldn’t do that.”. It’s not about luck. It’s about what YOU choose to do with your life. And if you say “I couldn’t do that” then no…you couldn’t handle it but it is because you don’t WANT it bad enough and prefer to play the game of life safe. That is all well and good since we all get to live the life we choose. I choose differently.

The lifestyle I have had since moving to WA is certainly not for everyone, and I could safely say it not for most people. It is not an easy lifestyle and there have been tough times without a doubt – a few extremely tough times. In the 80s I did some freelance stagelighting gigs getting work wherever and whenever I could find it. Just as it was then, it is sure not about getting rich…working in the outdoors is more about the freedom and experiences and a true passion for your job. You give up a “home” and security but the amount of freedom is amazing and worth the trade-off.

At one of the outdoor jobs I have had the last few years I heard someone say “we get paid in sunsets” and to me that is how it should be. It’s not about the money but unfortunately  it is what matters in the world. When you make a decision to get into this type of career you should fully understand the sacrifices you have to make to do what you love and be flexible enough to make it happen. For me it was not that difficult to “roll with it” since I had already lost my job and my house. I chose a new path, got rid of pretty much everything I owned, and hit the road for a new adventure. I didn’t let it get me down and I still don’t. Life marches onward whether you want to play or not so make it what YOU want.

It is exciting to think about this move and potentially ending up back in the place I love most (well, second to Ireland) – Colorado. With some variables to ponder in the future that may be later rather than sooner…but I will get back there. It is not that I dislike Washington, but I have never really felt that “magic” like I do in Colorado. I like the forests in the Rockies better because of the openness and not feeling “closed-in” when I go for a hike in the woods.

So now is the time to not look back at the latest fork in the trail but to instead look forward and head for the Rockies.

February 12th, 2020 – Day 4: Dublin, Ireland

Adventure, food, Just things, Music, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. The bench on the lower left is actually a sculpture of Jesus as a homeless person sleeping on a bench, complete with crucifixion holes in his feet.

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Close-up of sculpture at Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland

When we dropped the car last night we got a bus pass for a RT from the airport and a 48-hour Hop On/Hop Off bus tour around the city. Basically the buses (which operate in many cities around the world) circle in a loop and hit a stop about every 15 minutes. Just as the title says, you can hop on and hop off anywhere along the route for 48 hours after the first use.

We woke up this morning at 10:00 and there was a giant orange ball in the azure blue sky. Finally a good day! I guess we were still a bit jet lagged somewhat but part of the trouble falling asleep may be the excitement. We got ready and hit the bus for a drive around Ireland.

The first part of the tour was recorded. We got on it near our hotel an d went all over the city and saw various sites. It is a great value to get on one of these buses with the access you have to points of interest all over the city.

The big park in Dublin is called Phoenix Park and it is beautiful. It is FIVE times the size of Central Park in NYC. It’s over 1700 acres! It has a polo field, the President’s House and other state buildings, a zoo, hospital and other buildings. It supports 50% of the mammal species in Ireland as well as 40% of the bird species.

We pulled up in front of the bus office and a new driver took the wheel. He did a live narration as he drove us around and it was fun and entertaining. The Spire of Dublin is a huge spire on O’Connell Street – the main street through the city. The tour driver said locals have given it some wonderful names, such as “the Stiffey on the Liffey” (The River Liffey runs through Dublin), “the Stilletto in the Ghetto” and “the Erection at the Intersecrtion”. Apparently some don’t like it.

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Spire of Dublin

We hopped off the bus near the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum and walked across the street to see the Irish Famine Memorial. Very haunting statues commemorating the Potato Famine, which killed about half of Ireland’s population and it didn’t get back to the same level for many many years.

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EPIC – the Irish Emigration Museum – Dublin, Ireland

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The Famine Memorial – Dublin, Ireland

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The Famine Memorial – Dublin, Ireland

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Sailing ship museum on the River Liffey – Dublin Ireland

We headed back toward Temple Bar area and went into The Temple Bar for a pint and picked up a few souvenirs. Temple Bar area is where many famous Irish musicians honed their craft and earning their place in Irish music history.

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Chelsea and Angie at The Temple Bar in the Temple Bar area – Dublin, Ireland

When we came out of the bar a guy was coming around the corner up the sidewalk and instead of colliding we hugged and swung around each other. Then the guy behind him, about 6’4″ tall, yells out “I want a hug!” So I said “come on over here!” and we hugged it out and he started jumping up and down like a pogo stick and we were hugging so I did too, my feet off the ground!. We had a great laugh and went on our way. One of those awesome travel memories!

We walked around a little more and I got to see the Rory Gallagher Corner memorial, which was on my list of things to see.

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A tribute to a guitar legend – Temple Bar area, Dubin, Ireland

Rory was a legend; an amazing blues guitarist who unfortunately died in 1995. I was lucky enough to see him open for Rush back in the 80s though. Someone once asked Jimi Hendrix what it was like to be the world’s greatest guitar player. He responded “I don’t know…go ask Rory Gallagher.”. That says quite a lot about the man. I like the album “Top Priority” – check it out.

We then went back to our hotel to heat up some of that delicious leftover dinner from last night. We had wanted to go to visit a historic church a few blocks away but didn’t make it in time.

After some dinner Angie and I went out for a walk and Chelsea stayed in to kick back a bit. We wanted to burn off a little energy to hopefully sleep earlier and also grab a few things for breakfast at the local market. Dublin is quite alive at night and is so much fun. So many interesting people to see and things to eat.

While we were out we also walked over to the Phil Lynott statue. Phil was another legendary Irish musician who founded Thin Lizzy. He died in 1986 but in his short time he influenced many musicians. “Emerald” and “The Cowboy Song” are my favorite Thin Lizzy songs.

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Phil Lynott statue – Dublin, Ireland

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Urban artwork in Dublin, Ireland alley

We grabbed some dinner for Angie and some breakfast groceries then went back to our rental. Tomorrow we move to a different place so we are doing up some laundry and trying to get a little more rest while we can.

More adventures tomorrow! Be here!