Dirty Hands and Cool Old Dudes

We had to have our boiler serviced yesterday and today. One of the pumps that pushes the hot water through our radiators had failed and was blowing a fuse and shutting down the burner. We were without heat Monday night but it was thankfully a mild evening and we fired up our wood stove and kept cozy. A new pump and five hundred plus dollars later and we are all fixed up, hopefully until next year’s annual service call.

Larry, our service guy is an old-timer, sixty-eight years old with white hair and beard and a thin, wiry build. I honestly can’t say whether he has a full head of hair, for as long as I can remember, he has always worn a baseball hat, khaki with little structure or style and decorated with some unmemorable logo. His worn and wrinkled hands are permanently stained with black and the pungent smell of oil on his clothes wafts through the air when he moves. He has driven the same white van, trimmed in rust and unadorned with any advertising, for the twenty years he has been working with us and probably longer. On cold days he wears a khaki barn-style jacket, old and dirty and frayed around the seams and pockets. He doesn’t own a cell phone and still uses his land line phone to contact his accounts.

But he is a skilled serviceman from an era when more men knew how to fix shit. An era when more men knew how to work with their hands and understood machinery and weren’t afraid to bust up their knuckles cranking a fused nut off a rusty old bolt. As a guy who has become only moderately skilled at these kinds of tasks, primarily because I’m too cheap to hire most repairs out, I envy the talents of guys who can fix shit.

Larry told me at the most recent annual service call a few months back, that he had semi-retired but was keeping a small number of accounts that he enjoyed working and that he would continue to service our boiler as long as he could. He moves slower than he used to and his handwritten invoices, sloppy and difficult to read twenty years ago, have become even more and more illegible. My guess is, his decision to continue servicing our house has more to do with the fact that most heating and cooling equipment these days probably requires a Ph.D. in Computer Science, and that ours is still a piece of machinery he understands.

Someday Larry will have to retire completely but until then, he is honest and trustworthy and reliable and friendly and quite frankly just a cool old dude. I’ll call on someone like that any day of the week.

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A close friend of ours passed away somewhat suddenly last week. Another shining light in this world that for whatever reason, had to burn out too soon.

Mike was not someone we saw regularly, just several times a year and certainly not enough, but we’ve known he and his wife for close to eighteen years, ever since our two daughters had ended up at the same day care center back when we were all brand new parents struggling along without an instruction manual. He was an honorable man, genuine and friendly and loving and very funny and the most wonderful husband and father a family could ask for.

He could tell a story and make people laugh like nobody’s business.

And he could fix shit.

Mike had made his living as a highly skilled Ford auto mechanic until debilitating back pain, likely from years of lifting and bending over car engines, took its toll and he had to stop working full time. In the years after, he continued repairing cars and other small engine machines in his home-garage, as the pain permitted and he often did work for us on our cars when repairs were necessary. His invoices were handwritten on grease coated scraps of note paper with more detail than any modern day auto shop would ever provide.

As our kids grew into teenagers, for both of our families, schedules became more and more hectic and those repair visits became some of the few times each year that we would see each other. Yet, as close friends are able to do, when we would get together even after a long span of time, conversations happened, jokes were told, stories were shared, time was spent, as if it had only been days since our last visit. Those are memories that my wife Kim and I will hang onto and cherish.

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As I spoke to Larry today, I thought about how similar he and Mike were, old-school guys, educated not at some prissy, rich-kid liberal-arts college like myself, but at the school of hard-knocks, where the admission requirements were a commitment to learn your craft, work hard and live a productive, honest and meaningful life. Where baseball hats and flannel shirts, worn leather work boots and black-stained hands took the place of preppy sweaters and letter jackets and polo shirts. That’s a school that’s just as hard to get accepted into and an education as equally relevant as any.

If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that Mike is no longer dealing with the devastating pain that plagued his life for the last several years and with that, his close friends and family, including Kim and I, are able to find some solace. But as when anyone close to you passes away, its hard not to dwell on what the future would have held for him; to be able to watch an incredibly bright and talented daughter going off to college, perhaps some grandchildren, peaceful days in rocking chairs with his wife on their front porch… and that quite frankly he would have been just a cool old dude.

As the clichés say, “the world works in mysterious ways” and “only the good die young.” As difficult as these days are for so many, life will keep moving forward, though just a little less brightly than it was several days ago. Like an old Ford driving down a dark highway with one headlamp burned out.

But as Mike would want it, with the dawn of a bright, sunny new day just over the horizon.

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Happy Anniversary Old House

house

We recently passed the twenty-year anniversary of living in our old house on Brown Road. My wife and I moved into this house around mid-December 1995, young and just a few years married and child-free with the world at our fingertips. One of our very first adventures as new, first-time home owners was to take a drive to the Christmas tree farm a few country blocks away and buy an overpriced Frasier fir tree that we promptly set up amongst our few pieces of furniture and still unpacked boxes, and decorated with twinkling white lights and a smattering of ornaments we had accumulated.

There were no celebratory parties, champagne toasts or blessings made on this twentieth anniversary. The day… I don’t even remember the exact date… just passed by in the hectic rush towards another Christmas holiday and the beginning of another year with its resolutions and promises to “change this” and “improve that.” A house doesn’t get that kind of recognition, no participation trophies just for showing up. It just does its job faithfully, day after day, year after year, stoically providing shelter and heat and comfort to its residents with no motivation but the occasional reward of a fresh coat of paint or a new roof or to be filled with the laughter of family and friends.

Our house was built in the early 1890’s and has been the home to countless families over the years, all caretakers of a special place that has now been the idyllic backdrop to my family memories for two decades. Throughout 120 plus years, children have been born, people have died, birthdays have been celebrated, jobs have changed, family meetings have been convened, renovations and repairs have been tackled, history has been lived. A man named Ralph Brown and his wife owned the property for a long time and like many of the families in this area got the road named after him. He and his wife are buried and share a gravestone in the small cemetery about a half mile up the road along with several other previous residents. Now we are the caretakers of this place and it’s a job we accept proudly.

A couple nights ago my daughter and I were eating a late-night dinner at the small counter-top island that juts out into the center of our kitchen. It was a bitter cold night as winter’s wrath had finally begun to strengthen its grip on the Midwest and we sat bundled in warm clothes and wool socks. The old oil furnace in the basement would cough and choke, like a three pack-a-day smoker, every ten or fifteen minutes as it fired up its burner to heat more water. The industrial water pumps attached to it like appendages on a modern-day Transformer, would hum as they forced hot water upwards through cast-iron radiators. It’s an epic battle that the old soldier fights every winter against its nemesis; leaky windows and old house cracks and crevices.

This kitchen island is not a place we will typically sit and eat but on this night it seemed right. As we chatted, I had a Pandora radio station of old-time Irish and acoustic roots music playing in the background and my daughter doodled with colored pencils on a scrap piece of printer paper. It occurred to me that even when my kids were bossy little pre-teens, they never commented on or were critical of my sometimes eclectic tastes in music. So we sat and enjoyed each other’s company and it was a rare moment, unencumbered by the usual hectic schedules and electronic devices that often control our lives.

Like conversations do, ours evolved in slow Darwinian fashion from discussion of college next year, to family and school, to her job at the movie theater, to our old house and some of its history and age. She joked at one point and asked if she were to help contribute some money, would we be willing to turn the heat up and I resisted the urge to pull out a recent oil delivery bill or suggest putting a heavy jacket over the sweatshirt she already had on. But that’s old house living, cold winters wrapped in sweaters and blankets and hot summers with nothing but the night breeze and a cheap window fan to cool off the rooms.

Next fall my daughter will be off to college and my son will be in tenth grade and whereas when I was their ages, I had already lived in several homes, they have always lived in this old house on Brown Road. As I look back on being a kid, I never really thought too much about where I lived or what my house was like. I grew up mostly in suburban neighborhoods and modern homes, places with not much character but with doors that closed properly, windows that sealed up tightly, heating and cooling that kept the climate at whatever precise temperature the thermostat was set. And admittedly, fond memories.

But I’ll keep my old house with its quirks and drafts.

My kids probably don’t really think about what their house is like either… it just is what it is… and as a kid you have more important things to worry about, like school and sports, boyfriends and girlfriends, clothes and cars and what’s happening on social media. And just plain old growing up. But somewhere inside them the seeds have been planted and the roots are growing deeper and someday whether they live around the corner or across the country, they will talk with pride about this place as their childhood home.

Unless something drastic changes, my wife and I will hopefully still be here, caretakers of our old house on Brown Road.  Anniversary or not, that’s something worth celebrating.

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When Goats Eat Remotes

A little song I’ve been working on. This is from a poem that some of you long-timers may remember that I wrote WAY BACK in 2011. You can see the original here if you want: When Goats Eat Remotes. Frankly the song is much better! Even includes poop and fart jokes which are a staple around here!

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My New Year’s Resolution

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My New Years Resolution is to no longer try to be a morning person.

It’s not that I haven’t given it the old college try… well, not actually while in college… but I have as an adult.

Nor is it that I don’t particularly like morning people. It’s just that they are way too morning-y for me and they are always doing things in the morning… like talking to me.

My wife is a morning person and I really like her. Except she’s always trying to talk to me early in the morning when we’re both awake. It will be 6:00 am and I’ll be desperately tightening down the tourniquet on my arm for the coffee drip, and she’ll expect me to be able to process difficult and complicated questions like “do you think we should remortgage the house to help pay for college next year, especially since interest rates are hovering in the low single digits?” or “Good morning, how are you?”

I’m not sure she chooses to be a morning person, she just has to get up really early, but somehow once she’s up, she becomes a morning person. There’s probably some kind of complicated common-core math formula that explains how morning people end up marrying non-morning people.

Me, on the other hand, I’ve been trying to be a morning person ever since I can remember having to get up early to the sound of a blaring alarm clock. I don’t typically wake up before about 8:00 am when I let natural sleep take its course. But most weekdays I try to get up between around 6:00-6:30 am. So, if my common core math is right, that’s about two and seven-twelfths to three and four-fifths hours of totally unnatural awake time.

But there’s something glamorous and romantic about the idea of being a morning person, effortlessly getting up at the crack of dawn to work out, or sipping coffee in quiet solitude while you blog or catch up on emails or meditate while the rest of the lowly, unproductive world slumbers away.

Plus, there’s all those articles that pop-up into our Facebook feeds proclaiming how very successful people get up early and get lots accomplished before the sun comes up. People like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and even Ben Franklin and probably lots of successful authors… all morning people.

6:00 am: June 15, 1752

Ben Franklin (to his wife): “Good morning, how are you? Boy, you look electric this morning!”

Deborah Read Franklin: “Ugh, go fly a kite!”

For years, I’ve had it in my mind that someday I would evolve naturally into a morning person. My mother, when she was alive, was a morning person. She’d get up at crazy hours… mostly because she couldn’t sleep… and accomplish all kinds of stuff with a great attitude and a big bright smile on her face. I probably shouldn’t hope for an insomnia problem, but I always envied that ability in her and figured maybe there would be some kind of genetic factor that would eventually kick in.

But alas, at 48 years old, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s likely just not going to happen.

So, starting in 2016 I will no longer try to be a morning person.

My only concern is, I’m not really a late night person either. I like to be in bed around 10:00 pm. I guess I’m more of a middle of the day person, that’s when I tend to be most productive. But that’s okay because if my common-core math is right that adds up to just about the perfect amount of medically recommended sleep.

And we all know how important getting nine and seven-sixths hours of sleep is each night.

How about you? Morning, noon or night?

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How I Changed My Health in 2015!

Are you tired of being out of shape, tired of huffing and puffing it up a set of stairs, tired of feeling lethargic and lazy, tired of not fitting into your favorite clothes? Well it’s that time of year folks, it’s the Eve of 2016! That means its time to pull out those old, tired New Year’s Resolutions that no one ever seems to keep.

Well, do we have an opportunity for you!

10%final

Welcome to the 10% CLUB, the hottest trend in fitness today! Forget all those bullshit gym memberships, Cross-Fit workouts, “Get Fit in 30 days” marketing gimmicks! Who needs ’em? At the 10% CLUB we sure don’t… because we’re not a gym, we’re not a workout routine, we’re not a gimmick. We’re just a movement! And by movement, we mean… well… we move! We walk, we run, we bend and stretch and get our hearts pumping… and we lift heavy shit! And we GUARANTEE RESULTS!

OUR HISTORY:

One night in March of 2015, after drinking at least several gallons of wine with his uncle and other family members, our founder, the legendary blogger STEVE WARNER, who had recently begun dabbling in a new exercise routine after no longer fitting into his favorite pair of jeans and beginning to look like a Weeble-Wobble standing on a set of toothpicks, made the now infamous and somewhat regrettable statement “let’s get to 10% BODY FAT!” (10% body fat being roughly the holy grail of MEN’s fitness when you start to look totally shredded and ripped.)

Now granted, it was clearly the gallons of wine talking, but the challenge had been thrown out there and frankly there was no going back!

This was followed by a terse and sarcastic reply from his son, another founding member of the 10% CLUB, “Dad you’ll never get to 10% BODY FAT!”

Not one to shy away from a challenge, it was on… IT WAS ON!!

Thus began the 10% CLUB.

OUR EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES:

THEEQUIPMENT

At the 10% CLUB we’re proud to brag about our facilities and equipment. Housed in an old barn, we boast that hot summer days will be HOT with a faint hint of manure smell, cold winter days will be COLD and uncomfortable and every day will be DIRTY with the occasional mice, spiders and other wild animals running on by. We go for FUNCTION, not FINESSE and we’ve compiled some of the FINEST LOW-QUALITY equipment you’ll ever find in the modern fitness world!

From our LAZY BOY DEADLIFT AND PUSHUP STATION, exquisitely fashioned from the bottom of an old Lazy Boy Chair that our founders children had promptly destroyed soon after purchase, our RUBBERMAID STEP-UPS & BEER STATION, an oldie but sturdy cooler, which if you plan ahead, could easily keep a six-pack of beer icy cold for some post workout carb replenishment, to our LOTS-O-SQUATS and PULL-UP AND STEP-UPS STATIONS, built from recycled landscaping timbers, we’ve got it all covered!

Or who can beat our good, old BUCKETS-O-BRICKS, which are basically just… well… heavy buckets full of bricks. Carry around some heavy buckets full of bricks and we guarantee you’ll burn a shit-ton of calories if you don’t first blow out your shoulders or elbows! And our newest addition, PUSHIN’ THE SLED, a one time working treadmill, scored FREE on Craigslist, but which recently broke down and now can only be used by manually moving the belt with your feet like pushing a heavy sled… which frankly provides an infinitely better aerobic workout!

OUR DIET PLAN:

Food-Pyramid

This looks about right…

Eat better. Yep, that’s it, you know what that means. Out of the ground is better than out of a box. Oh yeah, and cut back on the sugar and the booze. Like way back. But not completely. Yeah, definitely not completely!

At 10% CLUB we don’t have “One Cheat Meal” or “One Cheat Day” a week… fuck that shit! We have “Set Back Days.” There are going to be days where you eat four donuts and six brownies and wash down a whole pizza with two bottles of wine like an industrial strength garbage disposal.

Those are SETBACK DAYS, try to limit them.

OUR CALORIE BURNING PLAYLIST:

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“You know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby! You’re gonna diiiiiieeeeeeeeeee!”

 

  1. Boston: More Than A Feeling
  2. Boston: Feeling Satisfied
  3. AC/DC: You Shook Me All Night Long
  4. Motley Crew: Looks That Kill
  5. Guns N’ Roses: Welcome to the Jungle
  6. Sweet: Ballroom Blitz
  7. Elton John: Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
  8. KISS: Rock and Roll All Night
  9. Survivor: Eye of the Tiger
  10. Rocky Soundtrack: Gonna Fly Now
  11. Rocky Soundtrack: Going the Distance and the Final Bell

This playlist has been thoroughly studied and proven to burn calories when played painfully loud during a workout or even when listening in your car and is guaranteed to provide a “PAVLOVIAN STYLE” urge-to-exercise-response whenever any of these songs are heard outside of the 10% CLUB environment!

FRANCHISING OPPORTUNITIES:
SAM

So you’re still reading… well we really like you, and it sounds like you are ready to jump head first into the 10% CLUB movement. We’re happy to have you on board!

We’ve spent some time developing a franchising program that for little to no cost, you… YES YOU… can own and operate your very own 10% CLUB.

Here’s how you can get started!

  1. Find a place to locate your new 10% CLUB FRANCHISE. Could be a basement, garage, attic, living room, barn. Anywhere you can find some extra space.
  2. Score some of the finest, low quality fitness equipment you can find. Revive that old Stair Stepper, Weight Bench, Abdominizer, Total Gym, Total Abdominizer, Schwinn Aero-Dyne, Ellipitical, Fitness Flyer, whatever… that you bought ten years ago after watching a 3:00 am infomercial. Look under large piles of laundry and old boxes, you may find an old treadmill or weight bench underneath that you’ve long forgotten about. Check the FREE sections of your local Craiglist, folks are always giving away stuff.
  3. Create a CALORIE BURNING PLAYLIST. We recommend the official 10% CLUB PLAYLIST but understand that our franchisees may have different tastes in music. Just find about an hours worth of music that’s motivating and that will provide you that PAVLOVIAN STYLE urge-to-exercise-response! Listen to it ALL-THE-TIME!
  4. Commit to joining the movement! Put your sneakers on and get ready to start walking, running, bending and stretching and get your heart pumping… and lift some heavy shit!

WELCOME ABOARD!

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Obviously this is in jest and not to be taken as serious fitness advice. As always, consult your doctor… blah, blah, blah… before beginning any exercise program (even though no one really does that!) But my point… I’ve dropped in the neighborhood of 20 lbs. over about a nine month span working out in my barn on a bunch of half-ass equipment and watching what I eat (some of the time). I’ve dropped my cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which have always been historically high, significantly, although they are still too high. I haven’t spent any money on gym memberships, diet plans or other infomercial BS. I still drink wine, I still snack sometimes and I certainly don’t eat like a rabbit.

I just did it… something clicked and I did it… or maybe it’s better said “I’m doing it,” because it ain’t over and believe me, I’m far from your typical go-getter, Type A personality.

At the time, I felt LIKE SHIT most days, tired and cranky and lethargic and depressed. I was drinking too much and eating like crap. I feel a lot better now, healthier, happier, energized and in better shape. The “10% CLUB” was just a joke at the time, but has now become a silly little catch phrase that my whole family references and that keeps me motivated. Hey, whatever works, right? Find what works for you!

It hasn’t been easy, I devote about an hour or more, 4-6 days a week to exercising but I enjoy it and look forward to it and I’ve learned not to expect instant results.

You can do it too, IF YOU REALLY WANT IT. You DO have the time, that’s the biggest load of shit excuse we all make for everything – me included! But you have to want it, that’s the absolute first step… and you have to make it fun. It has nothing to do with gyms and trainers and exercise classes, although those can no doubt be helpful if that’s what works for you. Find what works for you!

And the same thing applies to any of your “resolutions” if you choose to make them, whether it be health and fitness, career and financial, writing goals, family and relationships. Plus if you can find success and stick to it in one area of life, at least in my opinion, it drives the motivation to work harder in other areas.

Wishing you all a fabulous NEW YEAR! The next few days will surely be “SETBACK DAYS.” After that, if you choose to join, welcome to the 10% CLUB. See you in 2016!

Steve

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White Christmas

A little song we did…

Christmas here in Michigan, as with many traditionally cold places in the U.S. this time of year, was unseasonably warm and FAR from white. But we still enjoyed good food and some family time at home.

Hope you all (who celebrate) had a Merry Christmas and wishing you all a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year!

Perhaps we’ll see you all more in 2016!

Here’s the “professional” version that I recorded for my Soundcloud page:

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A Brown Road Campfire

Hi gang, sorry I haven’t been around much the last couple months. I’ve been busy displaying my awesomeness in ways other than being a world-famous blogger. I promise there are some things in the works and that I will be back soon. Until then, in the spirit of Summer which is finally here and warm campfires on crisp, clear, starry nights, here’s a pretty epic old post from Summer of 2011 when this blog was a younger version of itself and which many of you have probably never had the privilege of experiencing.

So that you can vicariously enjoy the whole Brown Road experience and since I can’t think of anything to write about, here’s me singing a campfire song, including all of the outside bird and peeper sounds from the swamp behind us! One of the critters got so loud towards the end, I think maybe it was sitting right underneath me. Maybe it was singing along. I laughed because I thought it sounded like one of those combination music and nature sounds CD’s you can buy.

Sweet Baby James is one of my favorite songs.  My Mom sang it to me to help me fall asleep when I was a baby. I don’t really remember that, but I imagine that’s where it all started. My parents had a copy of the James Taylor album that this song was originally recorded on and I would listen to it all the time.

If you’d like, here’s a video I found on youtube of a crackling campfire, that you can look at as well!

You should play them both at the same time to really get the full effect! You may have to adjust the volume settings on the videos to watch them together, the crackling fire is pretty loud.

Have fun at the Brown Road campfire!

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