Tag Archives: brown road

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.

29 Comments

Filed under family, Uncategorized, writing

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:

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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!

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

64 fl. oz. Miracle Bubbles

The weather in Michigan this weekend was spectacular, warm but not too hot, cool but not too cold. I spent as much time outside as I could, doing manly things that involved an array of outdoor tools; shovels and rakes and brooms and axes, all the while sporting several days of unshaven stubble, old dirty jeans and a t-shirt, broken down leather work boots and gloves. A heavy flannel shirt was added in the evenings when the newly found Spring temperatures gave way to pleasant cool air that felt more like Fall. The peepers and other critters in the swamp behind our property sang spiritedly the whole weekend.

Part of Saturday’s workload, was cleaning out one of my barns, the one filled mostly with lawn equipment and outdoor tools and a diverse assortment of everything else you could imagine that needs a place to be stored. It was dirty work and over the recent long, cold Michigan winter, it had become a disorganized mess of shit piled everywhere that I could barely walk through without risking a certain trip to the emergency room.

It felt good to clean it out, to make space, to put tools back where they belonged, to throw stuff away. That’s probably the closest place I have to a man-cave, although there’s no television, no couch, no sports memorabilia, no cooler full of beer. But it is a place where I can go and tinker around and have a little solitude. The extent of the decorations dressing up the few rustic timbers that aren’t covered with tools hanging from rusty, bent nails; a dirty, old, yet still proud American flag that once flew from our house, a wall of our old Michigan and Massachusetts license plates, a stop sign that I picked up some time ago, and a KIMBERLY TERRACE street sign that my wife was given back when she was a teenager… acquired, I’m sure legally, of course!

I worked through the clutter, throwing away old spark plug packages, empty oil containers, cans of dried paint, pieces and parts of stuff that I didn’t recognize and figured if I have no idea what it is or where it came from, it must not be that important. Tools were sorted into tool boxes, screws and nails and bolts and nuts and washers were relegated to a recycled coffee can to be reused at another time. I learned long ago to never toss away a perfectly good fastener. The floor was swept of dirt and grime and oil and hay. I pulled a couple of old mowers out, stripped of their parts like abandoned cars on an urban freeway, and dragged them to the road along with a FREE FOR PARTS OR SCRAP sign, handwritten in black marker on a scrap piece of board.

Then I came across this:

bubblesIt was dirty and covered in spider webs and had been sitting in this same spot for who knows how many years. I picked the jug up secretly hoping it was empty so I could quickly toss it into the ever-growing trash bag. It felt full and I unscrewed the cap and looked inside to see about 2/3 of the container was still filled with the soapy bubble mixture that has given kids endless delight for decades. Without giving it a second thought, I started carrying the jug to the far back part of our property where I could dump out its contents, then dispose of the packaging in the trash.

But as I walked, I felt this profound pang of a loss of innocence… and frankly, more than a little sadness. Shovels and axes and several days of unshaven stubble and old dirty jeans and a t-shirt and broken down leather work boots and gloves… had been instantly trumped by a container of dish soap disguised as MIRACLE BUBBLES!

I thought of my two kids, surely who we had purchased this giant 64 fl. oz. jug of MIRACLE BUBBLES for many years ago. Neither of whom, I surmised, now grown up, knew or cared that it existed anymore. My daughter will be a senior in high school next year, and my son a freshman, the first time since elementary school that they’ll be in the same school again. I stopped for a minute, unscrewed the cap again, pulled out the MIRACLE WAND and watched as the warm spring breeze sent oily, rainbow tinted bubbles flying through the air. I dipped the wand three of four more times and watched as more bubbles soared through the air only to disappear in the blink of an eye the moment they landed on the grass or a log pile or the branch of a tree.

I questioned my decision to dump out the container.

Then it occurred to me that experts often recommend using dish soap if you are trying to get a new tire to seal to a rim while filling it with air. I dropped the wand back into the container, screwed the cap back on and turned around and headed back towards the barn where I set the jug back down where I had found it, still covered in dirt and grime and spider webs.

Because I learned long ago to always be prepared and who knows the next time I’ll need to seal a new tire to the rim of my mower or lawn tractor.

That’s why I kept the bubbles…

Really…

Okay, maybe not…

16 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Slicing bananas like a Fucking Ninja

My grandmother could slice up a banana over a bowl of cereal like a fucking ninja!

As kids, my two older brothers and I would be sitting at her large dining room table. The same table that now sits in my dining room. We’d pour the Rice Krispies from the box. We’d pour the milk from an old ceramic pitcher.

SNAP, CRACKLE, POP, CRACKLE, SNAP, POP, SNAP, POP, CRACKLE, POP…

Then my grandmother would walk in dressed in a 1960’s house-dress, uncomfortable shoes, panty-hose rolled down to just under her knees, a helmet full of bobbie-pins, a razor-sharp knife in one hand and a bunch of bananas in the other.

She’d walk up and stand next to you, pull out a banana… you didn’t have a fucking choice… you didn’t want a banana on your cereal? TOUGH SHIT… you were getting a banana on your cereal.

Then all you saw were flashes of silver blade and flying disks of perfectly sliced bananas and within a few bananoseconds you had a bowl full of Rice Krispies covered in bananas.

This story doesn’t really have anything to do with bananas.

Or Ninjas.

But it does have to do with peeling potatoes.

The other night I walked into the kitchen and my wife was peeling potatoes to make mashed potatoes for dinner. I watched carefully as she held the potato, her thumb on the top side, then she’d… GASP… DRAW THE BLADE TOWARDS HER BODY!!

scream

Granted she was using a vegetable peeler with a large rubber safety grip handle and covered by a few dozen OSHA regulations… but you can never be too cautious.

I quickly programmed 911 into my speed dial and waited for that catastrophic moment when she might slip and slice open her entire forearm or possibly slice off her hand or accidentally slip and jam the potato peeler into her heart.

I questioned her methodology of drawing the blade toward her body rather than away from herself as I had learned from all my hunter-gatherer friends that had trained me in my limited outdoor skills and blade-wielding techniques. While I pontificated, she continued peeling the potatoes. Rather eloquently I might add, with each piece of peel landing in a nice little organized pile in the sink.

I asked my daughter, who was standing nearby, how she peeled potatoes. “Do you pull the blade toward you or push it away from you?”

“I usually pull it towards me” she said, “but I do it both ways, I guess.”

Whoa…….

I’ve peeled more potatoes in my life than a boot-camp marine. But I peel potatoes like an elementary school age Cub Scout on the first day of summer camp, who has just earned his right to carry a pocket knife. Give that kid a knife and within an hour or two of slicing and dicing and little shards of flying wood, he will have carved a few dozen sticks into pencil shapes and a few logs into spears.

With any luck you’ll have only gone through a few band aids and no trips to the emergency room.

That’s how I peel a potato… like a Cub Scout on the first day of summer camp!

Pick up the potato, hold it out in front of you, and start swiping the peeler AWAY FROM YOU. Hunks of peel fly off the potato in all directions, similar to when you are cutting your fingernails in a hotel room.

Gross… I don’t really do that.

But that’s how I peel a potato. I’d never think of drawing the blade TOWARD ME.

That must be how the pros do it. Or how women do it. Or how professional chefs do it. Or how Ninjas do it.

Come to think it of it, that’s how my grandmother used to slice the bananas.

Like a fucking ninja!

Maybe this post really was about bananas.

33 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

What kind of Sexual are you?

Disclaimer: This is not a post about SEX. If you arrived here looking for a post about SEX, I’m sorry you’ll have to look elsewhere. But please be sure you subscribe to my blog first.

*****************

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of sexual I am. I’m not talking Heterosexual or Homosexual or Bisexual or even Asexual. I’m talking about these vague terms that describe the way we men-folk look and dress. Have you noticed, more and more frequently, there seems to be popping up (pun intended), lots of ways to describe men as “________sexual”.

Terms like Metrosexual and Ubersexual.

So I set out to do some research on what kind of sexual I am. I’ve often joked on this site about being a little bit Metrosexual. My nickname amongst my group of friends is “Metro” so I guess maybe I show some signs of fitting that bill. In small town Michigan I probably am a little bit Metrosexual. Put me in Manhattan and I’d probably be labeled frumpy.

metrosexual

Exhibit A: Metrosexual

According to Dictionary.com Metrosexual is defined as:

A heterosexual, usually urban male who pays much attention to his personal appearance and cultivates an upscale lifestyle.

Okay, that sort of works. I am heterosexual and I do often pay attention to my personal appearance as evidenced by the amount of hair product I go through every year. But I’m not really an urban male although I was for a little while many years ago. I guess sometimes I try to cultivate an upscale lifestyle although mostly I prefer my simple small-town lifestyle.

Maybe I’m more of a displaced Metrosexual, more of a Pastoralsexual.

I went looking for other possibilities and came across the category of men-folk classified as Ubersexual.

According to Dictionary.com Ubersexual is defined as:

A man who exhibits traditional masculine qualities as well as the caring nature of the New Man.

Huh?!? What does that even mean?!? I moved on.

Upon further research I discovered that a few months ago the category of men-folk classified as Lumbersexual started to become part of the vernacular. Now granted, how the terms “lumber” and “sexual” fit together is a stretch to most of us unless you want to make lots of jokes about hardwood. But I checked it out and it’s such a new concept that the term does not yet appear in any Dictionary.

But I found this tidbit on Gawker.com

To facilitate an easy discussion, it might help you to think of a Lumbersexual as a foil to the Metrosexual, the alleged nadir of masculinity from last decade. So, instead of slim-legged pants, envision pants with a little extra leg room (see: “regular cut”). Rather than be clean-shaven, the Lumbersexual has an unkempt beard. The Metrosexual is clean and pretty and well-groomed; the Lumbersexual spends the same amount of money, but looks filthy. Sartorially speaking, a Lumbersexual is a delicate tri-blend of L.L. Bean, Timberlake, and Sears.

Okay I thought, that sounds pretty good. Kind of a more rugged and manly metrosexual, an LL Bean type, who is allowed at times to be filthy. That sounded like it might be right up my alley, so I tried it out for a bit.

Lumbersexual

Exhibit B: Lumbersexual

It was all going great, I was feeling manly and filthy and lumbery.

Then one day a couple of weeks ago, I read about a new kind of man-folk called a Spornosexual, another exciting breed of masculinity sprung from the roots of the Metrosexual, and named from a combination of the words “sports” and “porno” and “sexual”.

Esquire Magazine described a Spornosexual as this, while referencing Brad Pitt’s appearance in the movie Fight Club:

The spornosexual is a more extreme breed of man than his metro forebear. He is just as plucked, tanned and moisturised, but leaner, buffer, more jacked and obsessed not just with “looking good” in the abstract, but with the actual physical proportions of his frame: the striation of his abs, the vascularity of his biceps, the definition of his calves.

WOW! That sounded exciting. Lean, buff, jacked, and looking good with striated abs and vascular biceps, whatever that stuff means. So I ripped off the heavy flannel shirt, took three showers to clean off all the accumulated filth, shaved the beard and started working out, three, four, sometimes five times a day. I’d finally found my calling. I was gonna be a “Spornosexual”.

Spornosexual

Exhibit C: Spornosexual

I had done it, I had found the kind of man-folk I wanted to be. I felt good, like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

But then it all came crashing down. I was burnt out from trying to be something I wasn’t. I just wanted to just be a regular guy again, a husband, a Dad, a friend and a blogger. I wasn’t a Spornosexual or a Lumbersexual or a Ubersexual or even a Metrosexual.

I just wanted to be a regular guy. Because who needs labels anyway?

So, that’s what I did.

And you have to admit, there’s something sexy about that!

41 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Weathered Barns and Corn Fields

I’ll take you to the city:

We’ll walk around cobbled sidewalks while pretending not to glance into the street level Brownstown apartments. We’ll stroll down busy streets and stare at the bright lights and neon signs. We’ll dress up in nice clothes, like we belong there, then we’ll go out to fancy restaurants and eat sophisticated, delectable food and drink martinis and expensive wine. We’ll visit museums and ride the elevators in skyscraper buildings and buy overpriced cups of coffee. We’ll go listen to the symphony or watch Broadway level theater productions or maybe see an opera.

I’ll take you to the mountains:

We’ll lace up our hiking boots over our thick wool socks and we’ll hike through beautiful wilderness and canoe on rapidly flowing rivers. We’ll swim in lakes and shower under flowing waterfalls. We’ll pitch a tent and sleep with the crickets and the coyotes and the bears, or maybe we’ll sleep underneath the stars if the weather permits. We’ll take photographs of bald eagles and rows of pine trees and epic rock formations. We’ll visit rustic buildings built from hand hewn logs. In the winter we’ll ski down crisp white slopes, or snowshoe through deep snow. We’ll take full breaths of the cleanest, most refreshing air and feel as if we’ve experienced the fountain of youth.

I’ll take you to the tropics:

We’ll stand under palm trees with their thick coconuts ready to be harvested. We’ll sit on sandy beaches and bathe in the warmth of the sun. We’ll let our skin turn from pale white to dark red to an appealing brown. We’ll float in the ocean surf for so long that when we lie in bed we’ll still feel that motion of the moving waves. We’ll eat tropical fruits and drink margaritas in front of a roaring beach bonfire. We’ll wade through the ocean surf in our bare feet with our khaki pants rolled up to our knees like the Kennedy’s. We’ll collect shells and beach glass and bring them home as souvenirs. We’ll watch evening sunsets and morning sunrises and not worry about whether we’re getting enough sleep.

Then when it’s time to come home.

When it’s time to leave the city or the mountains or the tropics.

I’ll take you back to weathered barns and corn fields.

We’ll walk out our door and stare across the dirt road at the latest crop that we’ve been given the honor and privilege to watch grow through another robust, Midwest summer. We’ll drive down a rural road and pull to the side and admire an old abandoned barn, long past its usefulness, with its damaged, weathered wood. We’ll imagine the many amazing lives of people just trying to survive, that have passed through those barn doors. We’ll roll down the car windows on a late summer day and listen to the soothing sound of rustling corn stalks as a warm breeze blows. We’ll hear the tsk, tsk, tsk sound of an irrigation system pumping water as it slowly creeps around a field of crops. We’ll smell the precious smell of manure spread as fertilizer on a growing field.

Because that’s what really soothes my soul.

And that’s where you and I are supposed to be.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized