Monthly Archives: July 2012

The End of an Era and the Tooth Fairy

I’m concerned that we’re running out of cool things that we can lie to our kids about.  There used to be all kinds of things we could lie to our kids about.

For example:

“The stork delivered you… in a sheet… that he carries in his mouth.”

“Daddy and Mommy were just wrestling… on the bed… naked.”  Just kidding, I’ve thankfully never had to pull that from the repertoire.

And of course the MOTHER OF ALL LIES…

“Santa Claus brought you all that stuff… in a giant sack… that he carries in a sleigh… with flying reindeer.”

This all came crashing down the other night when my son lost a tooth. Now, granted we had already put on the “life schedule” that this would be the year that we tell the 11 year old son that there really aren’t any fat people in red suits or giant rabbits or leprechauns or fairies or anything of the sort that break into your house and leave you stuff in the middle of the night. In fact, we wanted to be perfectly clear that any people coming into the house in the middle of the night, whether that be through a chimney or a broken window or a busted down door, were likely sordid characters that were much more apt to be taking stuff from the house rather than leaving anything of value.

So our son loses a tooth on Friday evening… and Kim and I are lying in bed and she is doing the usual routine of cutting out a tooth shape from a sheet of paper, signing it in the tooth fairy handwriting (which I have to say looks very similar to the Santa Claus handwriting) and putting it and a couple bucks into a plastic baggie.

ME: And why are we still doing this?

HER: I’ll talk to him this weekend.

I have to say, Mom’s rule the roost when it comes to stuff like this, at least in my family, although I suspect it’s that way in most families. Sometimes I wonder, if I had been a single Dad would my kids have had all the experiences with holidays and birthdays and special events that they’ve had with Mom around doing the vast majority of the work. Or would I have said “look son, I know you’re only three years old, but this whole Santa Claus thing… it’s a ruse, how about you go out and get a job to help pay for all this stuff.”  I guess I probably would have stepped up but it likely wouldn’t have been quite as magical!

Saturday morning arrives and son is a couple bucks richer. Mom pulls him aside… it went something like this.

MOM: Can I talk to you about something?

SON: (probably thinking he’s in trouble): Sure?

MOM: Do you know who the tooth fairy is?

SON: You?

MOM: Yes, do you know who else I am?

SON: Santa Claus… and the Easter Bunny… and the Leprechauns… and…

And that was it. No shock and awe. No tears. No traumatic lifelong psychiatric issues. How long had he really known? When our daughter was told a few years ago at about the same age, there was lots of crying involved… even though, you know what? At a certain age, they know. In the backs of their incredibly intelligent little minds, they know… or at least they suspect. They’re just not ready to doubt anything their parents say… and in the long run, that’s a good trait to have.

As emotional as it can be for parents to move beyond those precious years of childhood innocence, I have to say, we’re ready to take the next step. Actually we’ve already taken the next step… we’re there. Sometimes it feels like taking a step off a cliff, but that’s what a family is all about, finding our way through life’s challenges as a team. I love where my kids are right now, they’re so talented and interesting and independent and funny as they dive deep into adolescence and teenager-hood.  Our daughter will be starting High School in the Fall, our son will be starting Middle School. It’s a big transition year and I am completely confident in their continued ability to stand out and shine.

So, now we’re running out of cool things to lie to our kids about.

My daughter will be learning to drive sometime during the next year or so…

… perhaps I can lie to her about that.

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Hobo’s Lullaby

Just doin’ a little croonin’…

These days I don’t seem to pick up the guitar as much as I used to.

I used to like this song a lot, hadn’t heard it in years and tripped over it today on youtube. It was written by a guy names Goebel Reeves, but the most well known version is probably the very somber Arlo  Guthrie rendition off of his album of the same name.  I like the dark, graininess of the video too… fits the song well. Its a simple three chord song and when you have my limited skills, those are the best kind!

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What books are you reading?

Men across the globe are praising the Fifty Shades of Grey series of books for the increase in their sex lives the books have provided as these sensual stories have been devoured by female readers.  If you are not familiar with the Fifty Shades of Grey books, well, apparently the two main characters have sex… ALL. THE. TIME! In any case, nothing like a little literary fantasy to get people revved up.

In the past, other series of books haven’t worked out so well…

Prior to the Fifty shades of Grey series, the Hunger Games books were topping the charts. Now granted, I read the first one and I thought it was a very good book. But in all honesty, horrible, desolute poverty and kids killing each other just doesn’t put people in the mood. I mean, the average guy could spend hours out in the woods collecting and preparing stuff for a romantic dinner of stale bread, roots dug out of the ground, nuts and berries, mice and squirrel meat and porridge, his hands dirty and bloody from digging in the soil and tearing meat from bone… only to have his wife crush all his dreams when she walks in the door with a pizza and six cartons of Chinese food. It would be enough to want to fire an arrow through her heart. Not very romantic.

Before the Hunger Games, most women were, of course reading the Twilight series of books and men were thinking, “this is it, a sexy vampire story, I am so in, I just need to spend a lot of time down in my basement so I can get that pale white skin!” Plus, the average, grunt-speaking man had to learn to talk in short, breathy sentences while staring off into space and saying things like “you are utterly indecent — no one should look so tempting, it’s not fair” and “yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin.”  Of course, if a guy was able to master those things, he had to attempt to move through rooms at light speed while shirtless and wearing tight pants.  This of course came with the high risk of knocking himself out while tripping over the unused exercise machine and flying head first into her nightstand.

Then, who can forget the Harry Potter years, when women wrapped their vivid imaginations around wizards and magic. It seemed like those years went on forever, but most men thought, “what could be sexier than a guy in a wizard costume with a pointy hat?” Sales of those little circular glasses went through the roof and men interacted with their wives by saying things like “woulducus likto havicus sexicus” and “engorgio erecto, can you takus carathis” while simultaneously opening up the black cloak that they were wearing as a bathrobe.  Apparently women didn’t find any of this arousing in the least.

So, now that the Fifty Shades of Grey books will slowly fade from the best seller list, men around the globe are concerned about what books will become the next craze. As most men don’t follow the best seller list and/or know what’s popular maybe you female readers can help us figure out what we can look forward to next!

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A Cease and Desist Letter to McDonald’s from my Attorneys

July 11, 2012

Ronald McDonald
McDonald’s Corporation
2111 McDonald’s Dr
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Dear Mr. McDonald:

It has come to our attention (The Attention) that you have been marketing (The Marketing) your McDonald’s franchises (The Franchises) as a source of healthy food (The Food), via a television commercial, using a likeness (The Likeness) of a goat named Heath (The Goat) that is owned by our client, Mr. Steve Warner (The Client), who is the author (The Author) of a blog entitled The Brown Road Chronicles (The Blog).

Our client, “The Client”, owns the Copyright, Trademark, Registration, Licenses and Rights to any and all usages of “The Likeness” of “The Goat” in any forms of media, including television, radio, internet websites, cereal boxes, Twinkie advertisements, etc. As permission was neither asked for nor granted to use “The Likeness” of “The Goat” we declare that your using “The Likeness” of “The Goat” constitutes infringement of the rights of “The Client” and “The Goat”.

“The Client” finds this infringement a despicable violation of the key principles of Copyright, Trademark, Registration, Licenses and Rights and as evidence of the infringement of  the rights of “The Client” we are providing as part of this letter, the following photographic documentation:

Exhibit A: Showing clearly and unquestionably the resemblance between “The Goat” owned by “The Client” and “The Other Goat” used in the McDonald’s commercials.

In terms of the Copyright, Trademark, Registration, Licenses and Rights Statutes, “The Client” is entitled to an injunction against your continued infringement, as well as to recover damages from you for the loss “The Client” has suffered as a result of your infringing conduct.

In the circumstances, we demand that you immediately:

1. remove all infringing content from your TV commercials and notify us in writing that you have done so;
2. pay a licensing fee in the amount of $5,000. (Five Thousand Dollars);
3. immediately cease the use of “The Clients” copyrighted images;
4. undertake in writing to desist from using any of “The Client’s” copyrighted images in the future without prior written authority from “The Client”;
5. immediately begin supplying “The Client” with one year’s worth of free French Fries and Big Macs as well as supplying “The Goat” with one year’s worth of free Twinkies.

We trust that you will regard this letter with all due seriousness and respond accordingly. We await to hear from you by no later than the 1st of August Two Thousand and Twelve.

This is written without prejudice to our rights, all of which are hereby expressly reserved.

Yours faithfully,

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The Greatest Song Ever Written

What is the greatest song ever written?

That’s a discussion that has gone on for decades, if not centuries, and will continue to go on for an eternity. Radio stations have Top 100 song marathons on holiday weekends. Websites abound categorizing music fan’s varied choices. Music pundits are always available to share their expert opinions based on sales and stats and song rankings and weeks stuck atop the music charts.

Well, I’m here to set the record straight.  The greatest song is not Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. It’s not Don Maclean’s American Pie. It’s not a song by the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or Nirvana or Elvis Presley or Woody Guthrie. It’s not even a song by my all time favorite musician, Jackson Browne, whose music has had a more profound effect on my life than any other. It’s not a song written during the 20th or 21st centuries when what we all know as traditional Rock and Roll music became the backdrop to our every living moments.

The greatest song ever… well, it’s not really a “song” per se. Let’s see, what’s the proper word… it’s a Piece, it’s a Movement. In fact, it’s the 10th movement of the cantata Herz und Mund Tat und Leben, BWV 147.

Huh?

Don’t worry, if you don’t recognize the formal name, you’ve heard it, believe me. I don’t have scientifically garnered evidence of this but I’d venture to guess that no piece of music has been covered by as many musicians, arranged more often into so many distinct versions, played by so many different musical instruments. It’s been performed on church organs, pianos, and classical guitars. It’s been performed by full symphonic orchestras and small chamber groups. It’s been performed with vocals and without. It’s been played on kids xylophones and recorders and toy pianos. Check out youtube… there are classical versions, pop versions, heavy metal versions. There’s even a guy who plays it by rubbing his hands over a table full of water filled wine glasses! Very cool!

Here’s a particularly stunning rendition of it in my opinion. Although not originally written for guitar, I find classical guitar versions the most powerful and moving. Take a listen.

Yes… you’ve heard it.

I grew up playing the cello. I started in fifth grade and stopped when I graduated from High School. I took personal lessons and played in the school orchestra. I participated in contests and festivals.  I got pretty good at it, although not as good as I could have been if I had really put the effort in. When I went away to college the music department wanted me to continue playing but I was tired of it. I wanted to drink and chase girls and screw around… oh, and of course, study. These days I realize that I will always regret not continuing but it was one of those decisions that you make as a teenager that sounds right at the time. Although I still own the instrument, these days I can barely bang out Mary Had a Little Lamb.

What it taught me though, was a love… okay, maybe love is too strong a word… how about a deep respect for classical music. Colby College, where my wife Kim and I went to school, offers what is called a Jan Plan, a month-long class you can take during January when the school is mostly closed down and most of the students have gone home. One year Kim and I took a Chamber Music class taught by a four piece, string chamber group, who would basically sit in the front of the lecture hall and play for us, while teaching us the musical structure and history of chamber music.  It was one of the few classes in college where I somehow managed to pull off an A grade.  But Kim and I would walk to class together and walk back to the dorms together. We would eat together in the cafeterias. We would sit through the class in the mornings and when it was over, the days were free with no other classes or homework to be concerned about. It was a part of me that I was able to share with the girl I was falling in love with and although many of the details are lost to my aging memory, it was a month that I will remember always.

I still listen to classical music occasionally. It’s very soothing and grounding to me. I often like to have it playing in the background if I am working at home or washing dishes or writing. It puts me into a place and a frame of mind that is very difficult to obtain in this hectic and stressful world we live in. When it comes to composers, Johann Sebastian Bach was the fucking rock star of his day, in my opinion the greatest to ever compose music. In a very simplistic viewpoint, without over analyzing every note, his melodies are happier and more upbeat than any other composer, less dissonant and grating than many of his counterparts. I won’t claim to be an expert on any of this but I know what sounds good to me.

And his greatest piece of music… Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Now don’t go thinking I’ve gone all religious and spiritual on y’all. I have not! But if there is a piece of music that can put someone, even a hell-bound, heathen like me… in a spiritual place, this is it! I don’t really consider it a wedding song, like I consider the classic Pachelbel Canon which was played at my wedding, although I understand it has become a wedding staple.  I don’t really consider it a Christmas song either, although it gets a lot of play time in its many versions during the holidays.

For me it’s a piece of music that transcends all of that. If you’re happy it can make you happier. If you’re sad it can make you sadder. It makes me cry… yes… cry, pretty much every time I hear it. I can’t help it… I’m listening to it as I type this… can you see the tears falling on my keyboard? It’s the one melody that I think, if I had to hear over and over for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t tire of hearing. It’s a melody that reminds me of my Mom who is no longer with us. It’s the background music to a life of love and friendship and family and happiness and sadness. It’s classical music that has become mainstream and will stand the test of time longer than any other piece of music. And in my opinion, it’s the greatest song ever written.

It turns out the underlying melody that has become so recognizable to the world was not written by Bach himself, but by composer and violinist Johann Schop. I never knew that until reading some Wikipedia notes. That’s okay, just like today’s musicians who don’t write all their own songs, if it’s your face on the album cover, you get all the credit.

Even 300+ years later!

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It’s Hotter than a Snake’s Ass in a Wagon Rut!

Photo: Jeff McNeill/Flickr

It’s hot!

Okay, it’s not just hot, it’s really hot!

Okay, it’s not just really hot, it’s like really, totally hot!

Okay, it’s not just like really, totally hot, it’s like really, totally, oppressively hot!

Okay it’s not just like really, totally, oppressively hot… “it’s hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut!”

Yeah, I don’t know what that means, but Robin Williams said it in “Good Morning Vietnam”, so it’s got to mean something.

I looked up a few “It’s Hotter…” quotes. Here’s some highlights:

“It’s hotter than a billy-goat with a blow torch!” I don’t know what this means either but I can only imagine if my two goats, Naughty and Heath were donning blow torches, things would be getting pretty hot.

“It’s hotter than a two-peckered goat!” Pretty self-explanatory, I suppose.  How about a two-peckered goat with a blow torch?

“It’s hotter than a pussy in a pepper patch!” Must have something to do with cats.

“It’s hotter than shit sauce!” I don’t know, I’ve never tried shit sauce.

Anyway, the Midwest, like a lot of the country is in the midst of a record-setting heat wave, with temps in the 100’s. It hasn’t rained in God knows how long and everything is brown and dead.  Seems like in years past we would sit outside two to three evenings a week in the summertime, watching thunderstorms roll in. My 120+ year old house doesn’t have air conditioning, so we put those window units in a bunch of our windows and spend a lot of time sitting around in our underwear. On days like these they seem to be doing not much other than blowing the hot air around.

I have to admit though, hot summer days sort of have this romantic, sexual appeal. It makes me think of Hemingway sitting at a primitive wooden table, in a rustic shelter in Africa with a cold glass of whiskey and a Royal Deluxe typewriter. It makes me think of beaches and cold drinks and salty, burnt skin.

In fact, just yesterday…

I was out doing some work around my property, digging some holes to repair some of the rotted fence posts around our pastures.  I was wearing a pair of Levi’s, heavy work boots and a white, fitted, cotton v-neck t-shirt, worn almost transparent from many years in the washer and dryer. My ripped arms burst out of the sleeves with every shovel full of dry, dusty dirt. Within minutes, hot, searing sweat was dripping down my body, glistening over my pecs and abs and soaking my now see-through shirt. As I worked, the hot sun beat down on my skin, burning and tanning it, deepening the distinguished creases and wrinkles that decorate my face and neck. My hair, coaxed back with salty sweat, styled better than any hair gel could ever provide. Shovel full after shovel full of dirt, my muscles ached with burning pain, rest and cool air the only thing that could ease their desperate misery. My lips, parched and sunburned, craved water, cool and sensual and life-giving.

After a few hours, my wife returned from work and drove into the driveway in a red 1964 Mustang. “Where’s the blue mini-van”, I wondered? As I approached the car, ready to query where it had come from, my thoughts quickly changed as she stepped out, wearing a tight pair of denim, daisy-duke shorts and a plaid, country-girl blouse, tied up in the front.

“Wow, they let you dress like that at work?” I asked.

“Casual Friday,” she replied in a sultry, sexy voice.

“You look good,” I stammered.

“You too” she replied, “you’ve been working?”

“Yeah, for a few hours.”

“Can I get you a glass of ice water?” she offered

“Yeah, that would be great.”

A few minutes later she returned from the house with a large glass of water filled to the brim with ice and with cool, wet condensation running down her arms.

“Tip your head back,” she said.

As I tipped my head back, I could feel her wrap her free arm around me as she pulled her hot, sexy body close to mine. Our burning, luminous sweat mixed as she poured the cold water down my throat and over my chin and chest. As our bodies merged together, her lips touched my ear and she whispered in her steamy, sultry voice….

“Steve, wake up, it’s 8:00 o’clock, Madeline has softball practice at 9:00.”

 “Yeah, I know baby, that’s so hot!”

“Hot, what are you talking about? Wake up, it’s 8:00 o’clock, we have to get Madeline to softball practice by 9:00.”

“What… huh…? Oh, yeah, softball practice… alright, alright, I’m awake… I was just dreaming… I think the heat is getting to me…”

So, it is hot where you are?  Feel free to share your “hotter than…” quotes.  And please… this was purely fictional… my wife doesn’t drive a red 1964 Mustang.

What’s not fictional? It’s definitely “hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut.” I hear it’s supposed to cool off next week!

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