A Look Back at 2017

Been a year worth many Smiles! Smile Gas in Madison Heights, VA

I have to admit that my life is rich and joyful. This past year has been one very interesting and challenging year. There have been more ups and downs then a roller coaster ride in Kings Island.  But I made it through the year with a smile on my face!!

The year started off on a high note as we were in Maryland finishing up a Christmas vacation and I saw a beautiful sunrise. We had some nice travel and then I started a new contract job for PrecisionHawk, a company that manufactures drone software. I was very excited, though it was a contractor position, I was able to work from home which made it very nice. My contract was supposed to be for one year but later on in the year the company transitioned management and many decisions were made, including one to eliminate all positions outside of North Carolina, which included me. That was totally unexpected, but, those kinds of things happen in this economy nowadays so one has to just roll with the punches.

Sunrise as seen from Ocean City, MD on New Year’s Day 2017…that’s the Atlantic Ocean.

Visiting PrecisionHawk HQ in NC in early January 2017

In February my daughter Marissa and I made a trip to Houston to drop off a trailer to my son Seth and his wife Holly.  We took Missy’s kids and had some fun stops along the way there (in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) and back (in Texas, Arkansas and Missouri).  Road trips are always a blast, but are even more fun with Grandikidz!

Visiting Alabama with Landen, Lyla and Joselyn

The giant Saturn Rocket on display at the Welcome Center near Huntsville, AL

Lunch at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS (see Roadside America Post abt Mammy’s Cupboard)

Stopover in Louisiana

Holding a baby gator at the Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA

They do get much bigger!!

Being Chunky in Chunky, MS

Having Fun with the Grandkidz at the Magnolia Market Silos in Waco, TX

Time in Houston was fun as well.  Found a great quirky burger joint that we all went to.  Pretty unique…

The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, TX – a load of fun!!

After visiting the family we returned home, first with a stopover in Uncertain, Texas to see the swamps.  Though uncertain about things, we met Aaron Applebaum (Mystique Tours) who took us on a boat tour through the swamp.  Didn’t see gators, but this February morning was a nice ride.  The kids even go to drive the boats.

Uncertain, Texas

Joselyn and Grampz on the boat somewhere in the swamp of Caddo Lake, near Uncertain

Aaron Applebaum let’s Landen drive the boat in the swamp

from the swamps of Texas/Louisiana, we headed north through central Arkansas and Missouri — a route that brought both planned and unplanned adventures.  In the middle of Arkansas, we came across a massive flock of migrating Snow Geese as we crested a hill.  What an amazing sight!!  We went through Missouri and then had a super time in Metropolis, IL.

Thousands of snow geese take to flight in central Arkansas

Hitting Missouri with the grandkidz

Having a super time with Superman in Metropolis

Later in the month my wife and daughter had a trip to Indianapolis to attend Time Out For Women. Wanting a road trip, I went along for the weekend ride.  We went out of our way to visit Story, IN and the Story Inn for lunch.  While they were at their conference, I visited some places in Indy.  Always seeking adventure!

Story, Indiana

The Historic Story Inn offered some amazing food!

Nashville, Indiana

Welcome to Indianapolis!

Hanging with Anthony Snape after his fabulous show at the Lexington Opera House.

We didn’t travel in March at all, but I was thrilled to attend an amazing concert in Lexington, where I got to meet up with my old Australian musician pal Anthony Snape, who performed with the amazing Tommy Emmanuel.  I took Marissa and she had a blast!

Later in the year I also got to attend a couple of other concerts, which I’ll note below.

 

Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter 2017

Julianne’s sister had a time share reservation in Virginia and so they set up a three night stay over Easter Weekend. As always, I wanted to drive.  I would take Julianne up there and then drive back on Easter morning.  I had a spectacular Easter morning visiting Shenandoah National Park and celebrating my own Easter Sunrise Service.  Had a spectacular moon (and even got a photo of Venus!!!) and took a really nice shot of a deer.

Easter Moon (taken with a Nikon D5200 and Tamron 200mm-600mm lens)

Caught this deer at sunrise off the side of the road. It stayed long enough for a quick shot.

Easter sunrise from atop the Shenandoah Mountains

By July I was out of “full time“ work and was striving to make it on the two or three small contracts that I had for a number of years with Vype magazine. That made things very difficult.

A composite of me with all of my grandchildren in 2012 and then again, same pose in 2017 (minus the youngest)

Hanging with the Grandkidz at the Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY. Yes, we stayed there!

That said, it was probably fortuitous that my position was eliminated because in July one of the highlights of the year came along and that was being able to be with my entire family for the first time in five years. All of my children and all my grandchildren were gathered together here in Kentucky and we had in some cases up to two weeks of reunion with family members.

With the family reunion came some additional fun as we traveled with parts of the family to a number of diverse areas including Mammoth Cave National Park, New York to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant and along the way a couple of beautiful state parks with amazing waterfalls, then on to Cleveland where we had another huge family gathering with my Laurienzo family and most of my family that was with us on the trip.

With Grandkidz at Mammoth Cave NP

Mammoth Cave

At the amazing waterfall in Letchworth State Park in New York

One of dozens of waterfalls in the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park in New York

With my wife’s sister Laura and her husband Richard in the depths of the gorge at Watkin’s Glen

Got to see my good friend Corey White, who was performing in the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

Visiting King’s Island as a family – what fun!

Making a splash with my granddaughter Autumn

All of us enjoyed the view from atop Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh, PA

Cleveland!

With my sisters Nicole and Tina and brother Joe in Cleveland

My sister Sherry came up from Texas with her husband Brian and daughter Savannah to join us for a couple of days.  Had a thrill going with them to see the band Chicago perform in Cincinnati.  I hadn’t seen them since 1975!!

Traveling to Cincinnati with Sherry and Brian to go see Chicago

Chicago Live in 2017!

One of the many roller coasters at King’s Island

The two weeks in July was an amazing time and one which most of us will not forget too soon.  We even got some family pics, including this goofy one at Waveland State Historic Park near Lexington.  I was contracted by the park to do their official photography for websites and other materials.  It has been fun to do this throughout the year.

The whole family in prime form – July 2017!

The year also brought sadness for me as one of my very good friends, Joseph Higginbotham, got ill and eventually passed away. Joseph was a good man and he had no family, very few friends and really nobody there for him, so I made numerous trips to West Virginia while he was in intensive care, a nursing home and ultimately in hospice. I was with Joseph at his bedside when he passed away.

Remembering my good friend Joseph Higginbotham, who passed away in June 2017

I also had a dear sweet cousin pass away. Donna Shoemaker, a cousin of mine through my Laurienzo family, passed away this year. She was one of the sweetest and kindest souls I’d ever met. Knowing her added luster to my life!

With my cousin Donna in 2016.

Visiting with Charles Snow

During 2017 I was also able to visit in North Carolina with one of my very close friends from college days who had also worked with me at Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ. Charles Snow has been a friend of mine for well over 36 years, and I was thrilled to visit with him in North Carolina. He too has had some major illnesses and it breaks my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out for him daily as he suffers and struggles from a rare disease and from congestive heart failure. This kind of thing brings sadness to my heart. Besides him, I have a few other friends who are struggling.

Happy Happy Happy

But, where there are downs, there are also upsides. And the year brought many wonderful and exciting things for me, some of which were lifetime thrills!

When you speak of the highlights of your life, it often centers around children being born, getting married or some big events like that. I have had many of those in my life, but this year I had three big “Once in a lifetime” type of rare events happen.

The first of these occurred in January when I had heard about the possibility of seeing the migration of sandhill cranes as they come through Kentucky. In mid-January ventured south to Barren River Lake to check it out during their sandhill crane event. I was excited as I saw 200 or 300 Sandhill Cranes far out in a field. I couldn’t ever get very close.

Got to be amazed by Sandhill Cranes in January…1000s of them.

But, I had also heard that there might be some near Cecilia, Kentucky, which is near Elizabethtown. So that morning I drove up I-65 to Cecilia and drove around a little bit. Soon I came across a flock of these tall, beautiful sandhill cranes. To my astonishment, I soon saw that there were thousands of them! They surrounded me in every direction. The eerie sound they make echoed in my ears while I saw the beautiful grace of these birds taking off and landing in massive numbers while many others stayed on the ground feeding on the leftover corn in the farmland that they were in.

Love the Sandhill Cranes!

I hung around for nearly 5 hours watching this beautiful event, all the way until sunset. It will always remain a highlight of my life, though I plan to visit and revisit again in future years, including this upcoming January (2018).  Ironically, in December of this year we went to Barren River Lake State Resort Park and stayed three nights.  I once again saw hundreds of this birds!

Sandhill Cranes in December 2017 near Barren River Lake State Resort Park

Viewing the Solar Eclipse near Hopkinsville, KY

Another event happened, also in Kentucky. The middle of the year there was the famed great solar eclipse of 2017. It was a full eclipse which is very rare. In my 61 years of life, I had never seen one. So I took the day off and I booked it down to Hopkinsville, Kentucky where it was supposedly the epicenter and perhaps the best place in the world for viewing the eclipse. Thousands and thousands of people gathered from all around the world to witness this natural event. I was one of them.

Many cars had things on them like this one to go see the Total Eclipse

Thousands were in chairs to see the eclipse

This kid was focused!

For a couple of hours I drove around witnessing the “circus“ atmosphere in Hopkinsville. People were dressed in eclipse T-shirts and many had their Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon“ T-shirts on. Of course, everyone had their solar sunglasses!

As the event got near, I sought to find a place away from many people. I eventually found a small church that had parking for $10 and I paid them and I went and parked and sat and watched the event with amazement. I tried desperately to find a good filter for my camera in the previous weeks, but was not able to, so I had to wait until the actual event occurred to get some photos, which are shown below. Talk about a wonderful highlight!

Total Eclipse as seen through my Nikon

I got the Diamond!!

The last shot with my camera before the sun came out. Didn’t have a filter.

The third big exciting event of my life happened just a few weeks ago as I published my first book. I plan on publishing another 11 in the series, but my first book, titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” is a book that took thousands of miles of travel and a lot of visits to out of the way places. I had written many blog posts and taken hundreds of photographs to finally create enough content for this book and those that will follow.

Published my First Book in December. Available on Amazon…sold over 100 copies and over 150 Kindle downloads in first month

Another highlight and good note for me for the year was being hired as a full-time employee by the website ComicBook.com in October. This was my first hired position in over five years and I have to say that I was filled with joy and gratitude for the opportunity. I am currently managing their database, which is massive and includes movies, television shows, anime and many other things. It’s a great opportunity for me and it’s a blast to work with superheroes all day!

My Happy Place

My Happy Place

This year I spent many hours visiting the nearby Jacobson Lake in Lexington, taking photographs of sunrises, sunsets, nature scenes and lots of birds. It has become my “happy place” where I can seek solace and enjoy the wonderful variety of God’s creations.

I got my first good photographs of eagles in 2017. There are two bald eagles that are hanging around the lake and I was able to photograph them and experience that wonder.

Heron with breakfast

One of my many bald eagle shots

Not only did I get to see eagles, some of them close up as the photo below shows, but I also was able to witness a massive flock of Snow Geese in Arkansas as I traveled with my grandchildren, I was able to watch Osprey dive in the water and grab fish, I watched with amazement as a Baltimore oriole wove its nest in a sycamore tree over a number of days. This year became my bird watching year and it was wonderful.

 

Took this Bald Eagle shot near Cave Run Lake

My happy duckling

I am amazed at nature and the variety that it offers. It’s been wondrous to watch cormorants swimming in groups in the lake as they “herd“ fish into a corner and then feed voraciously! It has been interesting to see the unusual and curious looking merganser ducks swim in flocks together. It is always peaceful to watch the graceful flight of a great blue heron or a great white egret. Both of which I’ve been able to experience this year. (I’ll be doing a subsequent post on my best bird shots of 2017 — so watch for it.)

A Red-winged blackbird

This goldfinch apparently had a bad day

Great White Egret in Flight

An amazing bird – the Osprey

Then there are others….

Flying squirrel

Blue Heron with Breakfast

Despite the negative political climate that has evolved in America, the terrible hurricanes and earthquakes and fires that are devastated much of America, I have been very blessed to be in a lovely place and not be directly impacted by any of these things. I have been able to enjoy life to its fullest this year. I’ve been able to see God’s creations. Through my photography I have made many new friends. I am fortunate to get to see many of them at the lake. I’ve been able to have joy with my 10 grandchildren, my five children and my lovely wife throughout the year.

Some of my photographer friends….thanks to them for making 2017 a good year

Hanging with Eddie Flinchum at the lake

Jerome Keeler

Charles Gough

Hallie Faurest

The gang at an eagle shoot meetup at Taylorsville Lake

Finally, we finished off the year on a high note.  Earlier in the year I had been contracted to do the photography for Waveland State Historic Park in Lexington. Through them we coordinated an agreement with the Barren River Lake State Resort Park. We spent three days in a unit down there (read Staycation) between Christmas and New Years.  Saw some splendid sunrises and sunsets and got to revisit the Sandhill Cranes. There were thousands of them all over the sky.

Winter evening sky at Barren River Lake

Sandhill Cranes fly across the sky

Daughter Chelsea takes after her Dad, catching the sunset

Found Paradise Point nearby — what a kick (there will be a separate blog post about this)

Brilliant Sky over Barren River Lake

When I look back on the year 2017, it will be with joy and happiness and many many many fond memories.

Choose Happy

So, as 2017 comes to an end, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy and I look forward to a splendid 2018!

End of 2017 — sunrise near Barren River Lake

The Impact of Earworms: The iPod in My Head

ipod head

iPod Stuck in my head

Lately it seems that my nights (and sometimes afternoons) are being interrupted by earworms….

Earworm1An earworm, a term derived from the German “ohrwurm,” is defined as  “the inability to dislodge a song and prevent it from repeating itself in one’s head.” Apparently this phenomenon has recently become a burgeoning area of neurological study.  These earworms are like parasites – – they get lodged in your head and cause a sort of “cognitive itch” or “brain itch” — a need for the brain to fill in the gaps in a song’s rhythm.

EarwormThese are not an uncommon phenomena….indeed, some have even made a business out of them. See THIS Cafe Press Store.

earworm-1According to some research at Dartmouth University (yes indeed, there is a research arm on this subject at BOTH Dartmouth and at the University of Cincinnati) When we listen to a song, it triggers a part of the brain called the auditory cortex. “The researchers at Dartmouth University found that when they played part of a familiar song to research subjects, the participants’ auditory cortex automatically filled in the rest — in other words, their brains kept “singing” long after the song had ended. The only way to “scratch” brain itch is to repeat the song over and over in your mind. Unfortunately, like with mosquito bites, the more you scratch the more you itch, and so on until you’re stuck in an unending song cycle.” (If you really are into SCIENTIFIC STUDIES, check this out. They even a website called earwormery.com)

The Earwormery at earwormery.com

The Earwormery at earwormery.com

Dr. James Kellaris -- aka Dr. Earworm

Dr. James Kellaris — aka Dr. Earworm

A professor at the University of Cincinnati named James Kellaris has been dubbed Dr. Earworm due to his studies on the subject. His research indicates that 98% of us are affected by earworms, and while men and women are affected equally, they tend to last longer for women. The average length is between 15 and 30 seconds.

In a 2009 study by the British Psychological Society (BPS), it was found that people who judge music to be important are more likely to get a song stuck in their head–but having musical expertise does not make getting an earworm more likely. They also found that, contrary to popular belief, earworms aren’t always unwanted; only about a third of the earworms were described by study participants as unpleasant or undesired.

Hmmm…funny. According to a survey conducted by Dr. Earworm a few years ago, the following are apparently the “Top 10 most common earworm songs.”  Mine are definitely in the “Other” category.

Other (meaning, everyone has a particular song that they can’t get out of their head)
Chili’s (Baby Back Ribs)
Who Let the Dogs Out?
We Will Rock You
Kit-Kat bar jingle
Mission Impossible Theme
YMCA
Whoomp, There It Is!
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
It’s a Small World After All

MusicFor me, these earworms are like an iPod on shuffle in my head.  Songs just pop in at random at all times of the day, but more at night when I am asleep and my mind is on idle. I will wake up at odd hours and these random songs are already playing.  They don’t go away until I wake up the next time with an entirely different song in my head…..perhaps I am just a living iPod….

If Sheep Were Rock Stars

IMG_0868.JPG

So, I wake up at 4 AM with rock star sheep on my mind…so random!!!

Rolling Sheep – Tattoo Ewe

The Baahtles – Let it Baaah

The Black Sheepe – Haahd to Handle

REO Sheepwagon – Keep on Loving Ewe

Sam the Ram and the Pharaohs – Wooly Bully

Christmas Music – Some of My Favorites

Antsy McClain Christmas

Antsy McClain Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year.  We think of others and give gifts.  The colors of Christmas are everywhere.  And then there is all that Christmas music playing everywhere…from the bouncy notes of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” to the heavenly sounds of Handel’s “Messiah,” there is the old. Turn on the radio and some stations are playing Christmas music 24/7.   Such is the case in Lexington, with TWO stations dedicated to all Christmas all the time in December. WGKS (KISS FM 96.9) and their 12 Days of KISSMas along with WMXL (Mix 94.5) and their MixMas both play the classics and a few more recent tunes.

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

MixMas

Mix 94.5 Mix-Mas

Though I love the classic Christmas songs I grew up with, such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Johnny Mathis’s rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” and a couple dozen others, I get tired of hearing the same versions on BOTH stations, with little variety between the two. I am refreshed by listening to our Public Station WUKY-FM, which is an Americana format when NPR is not on the air. During the Christmas season they mingle in many fun renditions of Christmas tunes not typically heard on the pop stations such as a recent version of “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” by Aimee Mann.

But, I have my own “eclectic” mix of Christmas favorites (mingled with some of the classics I hear on the 24/7 stations). I have a 1 TB Hard Drive dedicated to my MP3 collection (nearly 100,000 mp3s) and, within that is my collection of over 4000 Christmas songs ranging from the 1940s to the 2010s. Following are some of my favorite albums and tunes from over the years….

SOME OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS ALBUMS (in no particular order)

AntsyMcClainAntsy McClain – Merry Christmas from the Trailer Park

Antsy’s Christmas album has a refreshing twist of redneck humor mingled with some sentimental tunes and Christmas favorites.

 

HoeyGary Hoey – Ho Ho Hoey Christmas (4 different CDs)

Gary Hoey is a fine rock guitarist. His remakes of some classic rock songs are fabulous, but his rocking versions of Christmas classics became so popular that he now has four albums. Definitely worth a long listen on a snowy winter night!

TSOCoverTrans-Siberian Orchestra

Founded by rock producer, composer and lyricist Paul O’Neill (who has managed and produced bands such as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Joan Jett and the Scorpions) in 1996, he, along with members of the rock band Savatage created a music spectacle of classical music melded with rock music and then a stage show that beats ALL stage shows (and I have seen them perform). The band has a Christmas trilogy and all three of their Christmas albums are classics!

SetzerBrian Setzer

Brian Setzer was the brains behind the new wave rockabilly group The Stray Cats. He broke out on his own with the swing band Brian Setzer Orchestra and has three rockin’ Christmas CDs that’ll surely get you up and dancing!

 

ChicagoChicago

Chicago has been one of my favorite groups since its beginnings in the early 1970s. In 2005 they released their first Christmas CD and a second one was released In 2011. These CDs offer the fresh sounds of Christmas with the bands famed horns and alluring vocal arrangements. Great music for a hot chocolate and nice fire in a snowy December evening.

PTXPentatonix

The A Capella group Pentatonix took the Pop world by storm after winning the TV show “The Sing Off.” This group of five has made A Capella an “in” thing with unique videos of renditions of favorites from three decades. Their Christmas CD is amazing and their videos are too.

MannheimMannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller was the creation of composer/record producer Chip Davis (who was also the creator of the famous 70’s era song “Convoy” by a made up artist named C.W. McCall. After a few albums albums that contained a blend of baroque classical music, light jazz, and rock, he forged ahead in 1984 with his first Christmas album called a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. The band has since produced a number of Christmas albums and, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, they tour the country during the holiday season with live shows.

HerbAlpertHerb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Christmas

Herb Alpert was an iconic name in the 1960s with his Latin-flared mariachi-style music.  He had a string of hits and later made it possible for him to create the record label A & M (the A was for Alpert and M for partner Jerry Moss).  A & M signed groups such as the Carpenters.  His Christmas album from 1968 remains a classic in my books!

dr dimento christmas vol vi335Dr. Demento’s “The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time” Christmas

I have always loved Dr. Demento (and I even have an autographed photo and a personalized iPod greeting from Dr. Demento!!) Having grown up a big fan of Dr. Demento in the 1970s, I have grown to love these “classics,” which I am noting below

SOME OF MY FAVORITE NOVELTY CHRISTMAS SONGS (in no particular order)

I am such a big fan of novelty Christmas songs that I am including some below.  Yes, I still love many of the classic songs, but these Christmas Novelty classics are always fun!!

Single_Elmo_&_Patsy-Grandma_Got_Run_Over_by_a_Reindeer_coverGrandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsie

Written by Randy Brooks, the song was originally performed by the husband-and-wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979. In the lyrics, a family matriarch gets drunk from drinking too much eggnog and, having forgotten to take her medicine and despite warnings from her family, staggers outside into a snowstorm. On her walk, she is trampled and killed by Santa Claus and his reindeer.  Always a fun laugh.

GaylaPeevey_HippopotamusI Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is a Christmas novelty song written by John Rox (1902–1957) and performed by Gayla Peevey (10 years old at the time) in 1953. Peevey was a child star from Ponca City, Oklahoma (and yes, I have been there!!). When released nationally by Columbia Records, the song shot to the top of the charts and the city zoo acquired a baby hippo named Matilda. It is a Dr. Demento Christmas staple, and is currently available on Dr. Demento’s The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time Vol. 6: Christmas.

spike-jones-all-i-want-for-christmas-is-my-two-front-teeth-rca-victor-78

All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones & His City Slickers Band

This song was written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner (1913-2004) while teaching music at public schools in Smithtown, New York. He asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed that almost all of the students had at least one front tooth missing as they answered in a lisp. Gardner wrote the song in 30 minutes. The song was originally recorded by Spike Jones & His City Slickers on December 6, 1947, with lead vocal by George Rock and was released on a 78 RPM recording. 

12-DAYS-FEATUREThe Twelve Gifts of Christmas by Allan Sherman

Allan Sherman was an American comedy writer and television producer who became famous as a song parodist in the early 1960s. His first album, My Son, the Folk Singer (1962), became the fastest-selling record album up to that time. His biggest hit single was “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh“, a comic novelty in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences to the tune of Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.  His Twelve Gifts of Christmas was released in 1964 and skyrocketed up the charts. Sherman, who was Jewish, made it really fun!

WhirlingDervishesYou’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch by the Whirling Dervishes

I started off with a cover of the Grinch and am gonna finish with the same.  I love the song and the Whirling Dervishes do it great! They were an alt-rock band from Westfield, NJ, that was big locally through the late 80s-early 90s.

I am closing with their song….

40 Years Ago this year: I Didn’t See This Coming

A little over 40 years ago this year I completed my last semester of high school in 1974 at Murray High School in Murray, Utah. In many respects, it seems like just yesterday, but then there are other pieces that make it seem like it was ages ago. I am amazed at how quickly 40 years has passed!

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

The year 1974 marked a new direction for me and my life as I took many avenues towards the location where I am now, 40 years later. I had no idea in 1974 what the next five years of my life would bring me and how that five years of my life would have a profound impact on the direction and course that the rest of my life has taken me.

20140217-193207.jpg

David Kravetz 1974 shortly before graduation

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Within a year of my graduation I had gotten a new full-time job and I was traveling quite a bit for Alta Distributing, which was a record and tape rack jobber. This began to fulfill my wanderlust of being able to travel on the road while at the same time fulfilling my joy in music.

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

During my senior year of high school I had begun learning about the Mormon church. Most of my friends during my senior year were LDS members and all lived in my general neighborhood. They were amazing examples to me and treated me like a brother which was a defining note in terms of my eventually joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in January 1975.

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school (Brett Davies & Scott Brown)

My graduation in May 1974 marked an unusual event for me as it was the only time in all of my school years that both my stepmother Marjorie and my stepfather Joe attended a school event of mine together. One or the other had, on occasion, been to one of my band concerts or other events, but never had both of them shown up together at any of my events until my graduation. The fact that they attended my graduation is absolutely a fond memory for me. I can even remember the steakhouse that they took me out to after graduation that night for my graduation dinner.

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge - ca. 1978

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge – ca. 1978

Within a year of my graduation I was kicked out of the house for my following the teachings of the Mormon church. Over the years my relationship with my step parents had bounced up and down.  Though never terrible, there was never that real close feeling of being part of a truly connected family. I can’t blame either Marjorie or Joe, as they had many troubles in their lives. They had troubles between each other and then they had the challenges of trying to raise a pretty much dysfunctional family.

Another rare photo - the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan - ca. 1978

Another rare photo – the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan – ca. 1978

The year 1974 also created memories in relationship to the music that was popular back then as well as some of the movies during that period. There was a great hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive called “Taking Care of Business” which had become popular in 1974 and has remained one of my theme songs throughout my life. Disco began making its moves in 1974 as well and I was (and continue to be) fond of that music genre to this day.

The Hobbit - I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

The Hobbit – I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

It was during the spring of 1974 that I had my first dabbling into J.R.R. Tolkien works. I had to read “The Hobbit” in my English class that spring and I don’t believe that I had ever become so engrossed in a book as I did with “The Hobbit” in 1974. Soon thereafter, and also during that semester in school, I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Needless to say, I was enthralled by the Lord of the Rings and by J.R.R. Tolkien’s other writings. Even back then, despite the great advances in movie technology, I had to wait over 30 years for the first real Lord of the Rings movie to appear. Interestingly enough, at that time the musical group Chicago had released their sixth album and one of the songs on the album was “Wishing You Were Here“. I listened to that album many many times in 1974 and many of them were down in my deep dark bedroom that had no windows as I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Even today when I hear that song, as I did back then, it makes me think of Bilbo Baggins wishing Gandalf were there in the lonely cave as he was being chased by Gollum.

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City – Neil Diamond

I had my first ventures into arena rock concerts in 1974, attending shows such as Loggins and Messina, the Doobie Brothers, America and Billy Joel. That year Elton John released his album Yellow Brick Road and had a tour associated with it, including one stop at the University of Utah’s arena. I was able to attend that show, and it turned out to be one of my most memorable concerts of all time. It was also in 1974 that I saw a group called Steppenwolf perform in Salt Lake City. At that time the lead guitarist was named Bobby Cochran. Little did I know back then that 35 years later I would be friends with that same Bobby Cochran and would be traveling with him as he performed with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. I am grateful to be friends with Bobby, who is a guy and an amazing guitarist.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the time that I have spent with him in our travels.

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

As my schooling in 1974 came to an end, I had become a fairly accomplished saxophone player on both the tenor and baritone saxophones. I was taking lessons from a  well-known jazz musician at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. I actually had dreams of joining a band very similar to Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears, and practiced my heart out to do so.

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

But, at that time, little did I know, that my life would change dramatically upon being baptized into the LDS (Mormon) Church. My dreams of becoming a professional rock musician faded away. Within a year from my baptism in January 1975, I was called on a mission and went to serve the church in Nagoya, Japan.

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

That two years of my life in Japan ultimately changed the entire direction of my life. After serving from 1976 to 1978, and upon my return to the states, I have spent a good part of the last 35 years involved in full-time work with Japanese-related businesses and even returned to Japan for four years with my family in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan.  Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan. Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

Indeed, Japan is an integral part of my life now and something that did not even occur to me as a senior in high school 40 years ago.

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life.  I have the Samurai spirit!

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life. I have the Samurai spirit!

Upon my return from Japan, I initially attended Brigham Young University and it was there that my met my eternal sweetheart Julianne Bateman. Just a little over five years after my graduation from high school I was married to her and my life once again took a whole new wonderful direction for me as I began a family of my own. In about one month (as I write this) I will celebrate my 35th anniversary with this wonderful woman!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979.  Notice...no moustache!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979. Notice…no mustache!

Our Wedding Photo 1979 - we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

Our Wedding Photo 1979 – we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

I Married Up!!

I Married Up!!

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY.  I love this photo

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY. I love this photo

As a senior in high school I had not even had a girlfriend. In fact, I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was already graduated in the summer of 1974. There is no doubt that I had hidden crushes on a couple of cute girls in high school, but between my insecurity in dealing with girls and the fact that I was not a member the Mormon church, I had a few hurdles in front of me that kept me from getting anywhere with any of them. I certainly was not a shy person. I never have been. But I was really scared to death to ask any girls out on a date because I was afraid of rejection. Ironically, in my later years, probably about five years ago, I had occasion to visit Salt Lake City.  During that visit I was able to drop by and see one of the girls that I had a crush on and had become friends with through church. She has had a difficult life as she has struggled through a couple of marriages, but is still the sweet girl that I knew back in the mid-1970s. I told her at the time of my visit that I had a crush on her in high school. She told me that she knew that, and wondered why I had never asked her out on a date. She told me that she would have most certainly gone out with me on a date back then. Oh well, we both went our directions and I am very happily married to my wonderful sweetheart and she too seems to be happy in her current situation.

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo.  I did not even know of him until 1974.  I saw this in 1975

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo. I did not even know of him until 1974. I saw this in 1975

Another major discovery from 1974 was my finding out who my birth father was. That too was a life-changing experience for me. I had been disenfranchised from my natural mother for many years, and as an 18-year-old I had decided that it was time for me to reach out to her. Fortunately for me, in 1975 I was able to contact my real father and speak to him on the phone, which I did a couple of times. I am grateful for that experience as I never got to meet him. When we moved to Kentucky in 1992, I was finally close enough to Cleveland to try, but by the time I had an opportunity, he had already passed away…in fact, it had only been two weeks prior to my plans to go up there. Nonetheless, over the last few years I have grown very close to my Laurienzo sisters and brother in Cleveland as a result. I have also visited my father’s grave.

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

Visiting my natural father's grave in Cleveland, OH

Visiting my natural father’s grave in Cleveland, OH

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Finally, as I think back on this 40 years since 1974,  I must openly say that I have been very, very blessed. I still have friendships from 40 years ago that mean a great deal to me. During that 40 years I have ventured overseas numerous times, I have had wonderful experiences with jobs, I have met people from all over the world, I have been married and had five wonderful children and now nine grandchildren.

My wife and children in 2009

My wife and children in 2009

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

I have been blessed to be able to develop a number of skills that I never imagined I would have back then (indeed, some of them, such as internet work and web design were completely unimaginable since they didn’t yet exist!!).  Some of the skills I have acquired over the years include the ability to write, photography, travel, singing and music, the ability to make friends wherever I go. And yes, I have become friends with rock stars and have actually toured with a band (Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours).  I still am associated with that band, so even my high school dream of being in a band partially came true.

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines 2006

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

It is amazing how one’s life can take so many turns and go in a direction that one could never dream of as an 18-year-old graduate of high school.

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting NYC in 1990

Visiting NYC in 1990

Life is truly awesome! But it’s only getting better!

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

 

My Rock and Roll Fantasy Trip

Rock n Roll FantasyJourneyLast night I had a vision of a Rock and Roll Fantasy Trip.  I would Head East on a Journey across America. I consulted with my friends the Doobie Brothers and the Pointer Sisters as to what I should use to take the trip. After they told me the Cars were not the best choice, I was determined not to go on Blind Faith and ride some Government Mule. Instead, I hopped into my REO Speedwagon and made my way to Kansas. It was like a magic carpet ride when I rolled down the highway with my Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Unfortunately I was pulled over by the Police who thought I was driving like I was on a Highway to Hell.  They thought I had some Outlaws with me.

On the Highway to Hell

On the Highway to Hell

KansasREO_4878Along the way I saw all sorts of Animals and Buggles, which the Pure Prairie League advised me to watch for. Indeed, I saw Eagles, a Camel, a few Yardbirds, some Beatles, Scorpions, a Whitesnake, Byrds, and even saw some Zombies, but the best thing was being able to see the Monkees.  I was really shocked when a Def Leppard ran by chasing a Steppenwolf!!!

The_animalschicago-logoI headed through Black Oak Arkansas and then, after passing through St. Louis, where I saw the Archies, who let me drive their Rose Royce, I headed north in the fast lane to Chicago with a quick roll by Bay City in Michigan. I had to avoid Kentucky because I was afraid of the Kentucky Headhunters.

Driving the Rose Royce

Driving the Rose Royce like a Bay City Roller

Black Oak Arkansas - High on the HogRose_Royce_IIBayCity Roller

On the way I stopped by Alice’s Restaurant to have a bite to eat. I ordered a Sugarloaf of Bread with some Pearl Jam that was made with Cranberries and Raspberries. I was then given my Aha moment when they served me some Vanilla Fudge on a dish of Moby Grape and Electric Prunes. After a cup of Vanilla Ice my Strawberry Alarm Clock let me know it was time to be movin’ on.

SugarloafBreadI continued to Boston in a Fabulous Thunderbird so I could see Paul Revere and the Raiders. Instead, I saw the Damn Yankees using Styx to shoot down a Led Zeppelin and a Jefferson Starship. Being a Sunday, it truly seemed like a Black Sabbath.

Fabulous ThunderbirdsBostonI didn’t want to Rush, but I decided it might be better to take a trip to Europe or Asia. But first, Guess Who I saw in Boston? Yes, it was the Electric Light Orchestra and I got to see them at the Culture Club. And then, someone told me, but I don’t remember Who, that when I am in Asia I should see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  That was a definite Yes!! He then said OK Go!

OKGO_LOGO_tallAsiaI joined my friends the Traveling Wilburys and we caught a ride on the Wings of a Jefferson Airplane, which was built by Mike and the Mechanics at the Aerosmith factory. We made our way across the Deep Purple skies to Asia. The flight had an amazing meal with some Meatloaf, Korn, Black-Eyed Peas and a side of Hot Tuna covered with Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The dessert was yummy too.  We had some Cake covered in Cream, Peaches & Herb and then had a small Humble Pie. When we finally landed we saw people Smashing Pumpkins on the Rare Earth.  Then I saw an Insane Clown Posse being chased by some Fine Young Cannibals. But it was the 10,000 Maniacs that made me realize I had to get out and begin running down a dream in Europe.

MeatLoafKorneurope-logoUnfortunately I had a Foreigner and some Bad Company on this leg of the trip and apparently they were going to join a Blue Oyster Cult and attend the Creedence Clearwater Revival which was headed up by the Pink Floyd himself!!

Pink%20Floyd-Badges-bQueen-LogoAll I wanted to do in Europe was visit the Queen, but someone misunderstood and they sent me to see the Queens of the Stone Age as well as Queensryche….but King Crimson introduced me to the Kings of Leon and their son Prince.  The Royal Guardsman were snooping around the whole day and made me feel like a bunch of Rolling Stones with Simple Minds. I am sure U2 would feel this way!!  I was out of it like a Tired Pony and decided to look for some Motels, but all I saw were Faces involved in a Quiet Riot and I really did feel the noise. I had to get out of that place but was warned that there were Village People there and They Might Be Giants.  Fortunately, all I saw was a Gentle Giant.

Gentle GiantI had to get back to the USA and so I found the B-52s for the trip, but they didn’t give me a ticket to ride. After my Rage Against the Machine to protect against the Imagine Dragons, we headed for the Beautiful South where I could meet the Beach Boys, though one of them had a Badfinger that left them in Dire Straits.

Beautiful Southvelvet-underground-logo-designWhen I finally got back to where I once belonged,  I got a chance to ride on the Velvet Underground to meet the big shots of the Tijuana Brass.  As a Flock of Seagulls flew by, I turned on the Tubes to see the Talking Heads.  They talked of my trip and said it took a lot of Spirit and noted that I really had a Heart. And thus, my Dashboard Confession is that this truly ended up being a Green Day for it became my Rock and Roll Fantasy….and I won’t get fooled again.

Image converted using ifftoanySpirit